Mon­ster Hunter Gen­er­a­tions

EDGE - - GAMES -

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

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