Review by TarElessar
One of the best games I have played so far
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is the latest western release of the Monster Hunter series. It has been released in February 2015 and has had an active and supportive userbase ever since. I have started the series with Monster Hunter Tri, MH4U is my third Monster Hunter game. In my opinion it is an amazing game, I will now briefly summarize important aspects of this game.
You start as the hunter of a small caravan which slowly grows during the course of the story. While you just travel through different towns in the beginning, you soon are confronted with the mysterious Frenzy virus that infects monsters and makes them even more dangerous. Of course you have to fight the wild beasts and find out the origins of the virus. After the first part of the story, you travel to a town far away and build up its defenses again while being attacked by several creatures.
To be honest, the story of Monster Hunter has always been just an excuse to fight monsters. Although it starts with giving you helpful tutorials and simple harvest missions, after a while you have to slay every species in the game one after another. The lack of originality in the story is definitely one of the weak points of Monster Hunter. However, the story has never been the focus of the series and will probably never be as a large part of the game is online based.
Graphics and Music and Cutscenes:
The landscapes and designs of Monster Hunter look wonderful in my opinion. They are certainly not comparable with a high-end gaming PC, but fully use the resources of the 3DS. When the 3D effect is turned off, they might appear a bit blurry sometimes, but when it is activated the areas and monsters look amazing and give the game a feeling of depth. The effect also helps to anticipate the monster's movement and distances between the hunters.
In my opinion, the music is not an important aspect of Monster Hunter. Every town you can visit as well as the gathering halls have nice music, but when you are on a quest, there is no background music at all. However, most fights against large monsters are supported by a theme. Some monsters share the same music which gets boring after a few fights, especially in the beginning of the game, but if you advance further, you will meet many monsters with their own theme, especially end game monsters have amazing compositions. Some pieces increase the atmosphere of the hunt drastically, Deviljho is the most popular example for this.
Several monsters are introduced by short video clips which tell you about its behavior. They don't last long, but are a nice bonus and look neat. Some cutscenes help you to understand the monsters movements and provide you with basic knowledge you need to survive when you first encounter a new species.
Monster Hunter consists of a series of quests in which you can fight various monsters. Most quests unlock after the completion of another quest and give you access to more monster parts. For several months, Capcom added free DLC to the game which includes new quests, armors, weapons and more. Now, while this helped to keep the game alive for a long time, it is also one of the major flaws of it as Capcom decided to lock some monsters behind DLC. One version of a monster could not be fought for several months although its materials were required for several weapons. Of course they did not lock many monsters, but it was very frustrating at times. I consider this to be the biggest flaw in the series although all DLC is published and can be accessed nowadays.
As I already wrote, the game mainly consists of a quest system. You can choose one quest at a time and take a new one after completion. Before you leave for the hunt, you can eat to buff your stats and prepare the items you will bring along. The quests itself have a time limit which is almost never reached unless you decide to solo advanced online quests.
The game itself is split in two parts, an offline and an online part. The offline part consists of the story and you can take two cats with you on the hunt that provide basic support and draw the monster's aggro. As you progress in the story, you unlock additional features like jewels for your armor. The online part is similar to the offline part and can be played solo too. However, all monsters have a larger amount of health and are designed for three players to fight. Online quests can unlock offline quests and vice versa, so it is useful to progress in both parts. You can create or search for halls online to find a hunting group that wants to hunt the exact same monster like you and try the quests together with a maximum of three other hunters.
The tier system of Monster Hunter can be a bit confusing at first. There are three main ranks, Low Rank, High Rank and G Rank with increasing difficulty. You rise in your rank after completing a certain number of key quests and get access to new armors, weapons and items. The monsters you will face in the upper ranks can have different moves, different elements or can be a complete new species.
While I like the quest system of Monster Hunter, there are some flaws that influence the way people play the game. There is a large number of gathering quests in the lower ranks which don't have to be completed as only a few key quests are required to reach a new rank. As a consequence, most new hunters rush through the ranks, not caring about understanding the game, but only wanting to reach G Rank. In my opinion, High Rank and Low Rank should serve as a tutorial for end game, but this concept is not properly realized.
Expeditions and Guild Quests:
Additional to the main quests which are set in stone, there exists a mostly unrelated system consisting of expeditions and guild quests. You can leave on expeditions offline and face random monsters in a randomly generated area. After slaying them, you get so-called guild quests as a reward. Each guild quest has a level that can be raised by completing it repeatedly. They drop new weapons and armors called relics which are sometimes even better than those you can normally obtain. After the level reaches a certain threshold, the requirements to join the quest and difficulty of the monster rise.
This is a great system in my honest opinion, but it has two major flaws. The quality of each weapon is determined by the tier of the monster, as a consequence most only fight the easiest monster of the highest tier. Moreover, the chances of obtaining a good relic are pretty low as the different values of the weapon are determined by over ten RNG clocks. However, guild quests keep the game alive and always provide a challenge for players in end game.
Armor, Weapon and Skill System:
The armor system of Monster Hunter is quite complex. Both armor and weapons can be forged from monster parts or other materials you can find like ores. Each armor has points towards one or more skills and slots for jewels. If the sum of points for a skill reaches ten or a higher number, the skill gets activated. Jewels can be additionally played in the slots to give even more points towards a skill. Now, in Monster Hunter there is no leveling system. The success of a hunt solely depends on your player and armor skills. As the system is not properly explained in the game, most new players do not understand it and encounter difficulties in the game. However, I like the skill system very much as it provides a way to customize and optimize your equipment in end game according to your own needs. Some skills are not well balanced and most are useless, but it is always fun to create different armor sets matching different opponents.
The weapon system is really unbalanced too. There exist several weapon classes, two of them newly introduced in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. Both of them are more powerful than most of the old weapon classes, the Insect Glaive for example can be used to abuse the mounting system of the game. Some of the old weapons are not really as good as other weapons anymore because they lost attacks or characteristics. In spite of this, the different classes provide quite a variety and every new player should find a weapon which suits his or her needs the best. Every weapon has its own attacks and abilities and learning a new weapon can be really satisfying.
On The Hunt:
When you first begin a fight against a large monster, you notice that the game is really different from other games. There is no health bar for your opponent and you can't see which attack he is going to use next. In Monster Hunter, you actually have to watch the monster first to understand its patterns and movements. After you feel familiar with it, you have to search for openings that enable you to unleash powerful attacks. The hunts are really interactive as well. You can break certain parts of the monsters which renders some of their attacks useless. After a while the monster gets exhausted and limps away or enters rage mode and gains new attacks. The key is to watch every single movement and learn from it, only when you feel like you know the monster, you can defeat it easily.
This is probably the greatest aspect of Monster Hunter which makes it such an outstanding title. All of your hunts are skill and knowledge based, even with end game gear you cannot win all fights you start if you lack experience. Although lots of walls are created by the system, it is hugely satisfying to see one of your old enemies limp away after you finally understood how to defeat him. Monster Hunter is one of the most rewarding games I have ever played and it still makes me happy to see a difficult monster fall asleep from exhaustion.
Monster Hunter is one of the most difficult games out there. While Low Rank and High Rank provide a reasonable difficulty or newcomers, G Rank punishes ever single mistake you make. However as your skill increases, even G Rank should become easy after some time. The most challenging part of the game are guild quests. As I already wrote, their level can be raised by completing them, but it does not stop when it reaches G Rank. There are two additional ranks in which the monsters can defeat you with a single attack if you are not careful enough. Some of the monsters even gain an Apex form, meaning that they can only be attacked for a certain time or if you target the right spots. High level guild quests are cruel, but keep the game interesting and challenging. They are one of the best parts of the game in my opinion and are the reason why many are still playing.
Influence of RNG:
Many people complain about the influence of RNG in this game. While it can be hard to get the materials you need, it is in no way as unfair as it seems. Many monsters have rare drops which are hard to come by, the chance of getting one is usually about 4% per hunt. However, this chance can be increased by breaking specific body parts or finishing a shorter subquest. Relic RNG can be cruel sometimes, but keeps the game interesting for a long time. I did not have any problems with RNG yet and think that it is not unfair to fight a monster several times, I do no expect to get everything I need on the very first run.
Changes from Tri:
If you have played Monster Hunter Tri or Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, you will notice a few changes. Firstly, underwater combat is gone and replaced by the new mounting mechanic. The game itself is designed with many ledges and in a more vertical way to support this new aspect. Mounting provides a simple way to render a monster helpless for a long amount of time and is generally appreciated. Secondly, all monsters are faster and therefore more dangerous. The difficulty from Tri to MH4U has drastically increased, so even experienced Tri players may find themselves overwhelmed. Lastly, the monster roster is unfortunately not as colorful and full of variety as the one from MH3U. Lots of monsters from previous generations came back and feel really clumsy and outdated. While the new monsters have a great design, some of the old ones feel like they should never have come back. This is in my opinion one of the major flaws in MH4U and weird hitboxes get really annoying sometimes.
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is a great game and I can only recommend buying it. If you listen carefully to the explanations in the beginning or search for a helpful community, it can be a fun game to play and will give you hundreds of hours of entertainment. It is the best multiplayer game I have ever played and its gameplay makes it unique. My overall rating will be 9/10 as I prefer the monster roster from the previous game, but all other aspects of this game are amazing.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate (EU, 02/13/15)
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