On the subject of weapons ? in addition to the dozen or so returning options from the previous game ? MH4U
introduces two brand new ones to the series. First is the Charge Blade, a sword and shield that can be combined into a greataxe on command in battle. It?s an interesting weapon that allows you to switch between the sword and shield?s weak but fast and defensive stance to the slow but powerful all-out attack greataxe form. It's therefore very flexible and seems very powerful in the early goings, at least.
The second new weapon is the Insect Glaive and it?s probably the weirdest of the lot. Essentially a staff with decent range on its attacks, it?s the ?insect? part that really makes the weapon unique. The weapon comes with an unusual bonus feature - a giant beetle that lives on your arm. In real life this would be horrifying, but here it?s a useful aid in battle. While you?re fighting you can send your pet out to attack enemies and upon its return you?ll receive whatever energy it might have absorbed from attacked foes, powering up your own attacks.
This isn?t the full extent of its uniqueness, however. While other weapons can be upgraded by the local blacksmith into more powerful forms once the required enemy parts and materials are collected, the Insect Glaive requires you to also improve your beetle?s stats by feeding it nectar you collect in the wild. Different kinds of nectar will promote the beetle?s growth in different ways. All in all it makes for a very different experience than any of the other weapon types and it?s definitely something new to look into if you?ve exhaustively played the series before and grown tired of the more basic weapons.
Another expanded gameplay aspect is the henchmen system. While in MH3U
you had a pair of loyal tribal mask-wearing goblin things working for you, this time round you can build a small army of little cat soldiers called Palicoes. Which is clearly awesome. You?ll start with just one - your primary and most powerful companion ? but soon unlock the ability to recruit further wild Palicoes into your team during hunts. Once enlisted you?ll be able to name them, outfit them with weapons and armour and put them to work in a number of ways. Their primary function is to accompany you on hunts, though you can only have two accompany you at a time. Each one has a class that affects their abilities and role in battle, such as a healer class that focuses on restoring your health or the thief class that can gather crafting materials from monsters while attacking. In a similar system to Capcom?s Dragon?s Dogma
?s pawn system, you can also enlist Palicoes from other players or send some of your own out to be recruited by other players.
While having more than a dozen cats in real life is usually seen as a bit weird, here it?s perfectly sensible as any who aren?t actively accompanying you on hunts can be sent on their own missions to gather the materials needed to forge more powerful equipment for them. They can be put into training to increase their level alone, though this is far slower than having them help you defeat monsters, or allowed to rest up and restore their morale as Palicoes you have taken on many consecutive hunts will grow tired and less effective.
The biggest difference between this and the last game is that MH4U
now offers full online multiplayer, much like the Wii U version of MH3U
had. Joining up with your friends is very straightforward or you can just venture into lobbies at random if you?re not fussy about the company you keep. The end result is you and up to three other players roaming around and beating up monsters as a potentially well-honed fighting unit. Or ? given that hitting other players with your attacks doesn?t actually do damage but still interrupts their own attacks and can knock them down ? a disorganised mob. Either way can be quite fun, and the game definitely feels different when played as a group rather than having to stalk monsters alone.
While these new gameplay elements will probably be most important to returning fans of the series, casual players may find the vastly improved story mode to be more of a selling point. MH3U
didn?t have a story mode so much as a basic premise. You were a hunter looking after a village and going out to hunt monsters. This time round you?re recruited to guard a roaming caravan travelling the world to solve the mystery of a unique relic.
Monster hunts are now more directly tied to the story, and completing certain missions will noticeably affect the people living in the villages you visit until you advance enough to move on to a new area and meet a new group of NPCs. You can revisit old areas at any time through map travel, and there are plenty of sidequest mission chains that can only be followed by talking to certain NPCs in each area. All in all it?s a massive step up from the two unchanging hub areas of MH3U
If it feels like I?ve referred back to how MH3U
did things compared to how MH4U
does things a lot in this review, that really can?t be helped. They are at the core very similar games. But what it all boils down to is that MH4U
does everything its predecessor did but bigger and better, and with a good deal of extra features on top of that. If you loved MH3U
, you?ll love this. If you liked MH3U
, you?ll love this. But if you hated MH3U
then this is more of the same and not likely to change those feelings.
+ Vastly improved storyline.
+ Bigger and better variety of monsters.
+ Online multiplayer works very well.
- Early quests are a bit of a drag.
- If you enjoyed underwater combat, too bad.
- Camera controls not awesome.
SPOnG score: 9/10