Monster Hunter Generations
The lesson comes surprisingly early. The Great Maccao is Monster Hunter Generations’ Jaggi: an underarm serve of an opponent designed to acclimatise new players to the rhythms of combat against larger beasts. We’ve softened it up with a few whacks from our hammer; the Maccao’s speed has allowed it to strike back once or twice, but we’ve got plenty of potions in reserve. Then we make a fatal miscalculation as it rears back and launches itself forward at an alarming velocity, leaving us trapped between monster and tree line. We pick ourselves up, but it’s too late, and with a whip of its tail it flattens us once more. Shamefully, we’ve fainted at the first hurdle. Our vengeance is swift enough, but the embarrassment lingers. As ever in Monster Hunter, there’s no greater adversary than your own complacency.
In our defence, we were using an unfamiliar weapon, and a hunting style we quickly decided wasn’t for us. With no additions to the 14 weapon types in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, Capcom has opted instead to give players more choice in how they wield them. The Striker style we soon ditched offers a simplified moveset, which can be customised with three Hunter Arts, special moves and buffs that can be triggered once their meter has been filled by landing attacks. Guild style will be immediately familiar to anyone who played the previous game, with the addition of two Arts. The aptly named Adept style, meanwhile, gets just the one, and demands a keen eye and responsive digits, with deftly timed evasive manoeuvres letting you launch devastating follow-up attacks. As we discovered, however, it’s best reserved for monsters whose attacks are slower and more clearly signposted – at least until you’ve crafted an armour set that lets you withstand plenty of hits while you learn a creature’s tells. Aerial style proved to be our new mainstay. Here, a tap of B can be used to vault off a monster’s tail, its back, a Felyne companion, or another hunter’s weapon, launching you high into the air. It’s a useful way of setting up attacks from above – and escaping incoming projectiles and tail swipes – but also a much less fiddly way to mount a monster than luring it towards a climbable wall and leaping off onto its back.
Dual Blades, we’ve found, are very useful for more mobile beasts, but it’s the Longsword we’ve come to truly cherish. Once it clicked, we dismantled an Arzuros with such brutal efficiency we surprised even ourselves – though a later, much faster and more aggressive Deviant variant exacted revenge for its fallen cousin.
As the name suggests, Generations is a game that isn’t afraid to look backwards. Three of its four hubs are taken from previous games, while much of its menagerie is familiar. Smartly, it tends to borrow from much earlier in the series, ensuring those who’ve been playing MH4U recently shouldn’t experience too much déjà vu, and its selections are mostly sensible ones – even if we could have happily done without Cephadrome and Nibelsnarf. Of the newcomers, only the elephantine Gammoth disappoints, with the remaining three signature monsters offering something new, and the owlish Malfestio presenting a stern test for a mid-level encounter. The graceful Mizutsune boasts the most distinctive battle theme, while Astalos’ electric attacks provide real visual drama to a fast-paced fight.
Then there’s Glavenus, an awe-inspiring design resembling an Allosaurus with a sword for a tail – which, in a hair-raising flourish, it sharpens between its fangs. Its introduction is a classic: an outwardly straightforward mission to collect fungi is laden with heavy portent, so it’s no real surprise when you’re dumped straight into a moonlit encounter with this fearsome beast without a map. Survive, and the village chief apologises for the inexplicable blunder that left you far from base camp, as the Gal who sent you there pleads innocence before admonishing you for not capturing it. It reminds you just how playful Monster Hunter can be; likewise your initial meeting with Astalos, where you discover to your horror that it’s only slumbering for your first visit to its nest.
With gathering spots yielding more resources and slain creatures leaving more parts behind, this is the most generous, accommodating Monster Hunter to date. Capcom’s desire to make it more approachable is undoubtedly behind the addition of Prowler mode, which lets you play as a Felyne hunter with nine lives, and no kit or stamina meter to worry about. Healing is handled via equippable skills, while difficulties in battle can be temporarily dodged by burrowing underground for respite, giving novices the time and space to ponder a fresh approach. It takes a significant time investment, however, to reach a stage at which a four-legged hunter can match its human counterparts. It’s easy, too, to imagine some players being overwhelmed by an opening that’s all too eager to highlight its abundance of options and information. And for all the hints and instructional text, it’s still not great at communicating the nuances of combat: tutorials amount to little more than ‘here’s what the buttons do; now kill this monster’.
Generations might not be the perfect starting point it threatens to be, then, and nor do the four distinct styles quite amount to the sea change they first appear to be; once you’ve settled on a weapon and a new technique, the game’s rhythms begin to feel familiar. Yet if it fails to reach the larger audience Capcom seeks, veteran hunters are unlikely to resist another call to arms. Monster Hunter still offers some of the most exciting and handsomely staged thirdperson combat you’ll find in any game – and, if only by a small amount, Generations has raised the bar again.
As ever in Monster Hunter, there’s no greater adversary than your own complacency