Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate has a number of new features. There’s the new focus on verticality that lets you perform jumping attacks. There are the new weapons—the Insect Glaive and the Charge Axe—both of which look very stylish. There’s the Feral Wyvern Virus that can infect monsters as well as players. There’s the fact that the game is much better paced than in the past. None of these, however, are as prominent as the feature that no one’s really talking about—Guild Quests.
If you’ve played Monster Hunter Tri or Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, you’re familiar with the concept of the Free Hunt mode, where you could simply venture out into the wild without taking on any specific quest. You could pluck mushrooms, mine for ore, go fishing, hunt whatever monsters you happened to come across, and generally take it easy. Free Hunt mode was fun because there was no specific goal or time limit—you could just get out there, have some fun, and return to the village once you’d had enough.
The downside was, you got no rewards from Free Hunt mode. However, that is no longer the case in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate.
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate takes a very different approach to Free Hunts. Free Hunts take place in an area called the Unknown Forest whose layout is randomized every single time you enter it. Monsters in this area have a chance of dropping “Guild Quests”. These can be taken on like regular quests in the game, but they’re actually rather different. In both the Unknown Forest and in Guild Quests, you can acquire “Excavated Equipment” with randomized properties (such as attack power or number of slots), similar to more regular loot-based action RPGs like Diablo or Torchlight.
Speaking with Siliconera, Monster Hunter series producer Ryozo Tsujimoto said that the idea behind introducing these Guild Quests and their randomized loot to the game was to reward players for having fun, and to increase replayability as well as interaction between players.
“The big difference is that the standard quests are a little rigid in their structure,” Tsujimoto said. “You get a very specific task, and you go out and do that task—kill that monster and come right back. It feels a little bit like work in that sense.”
“What we wanted to do was have something a little lighter, where you can goof around a little bit. Maybe you don’t fulfil the objective you intended to, and just get some items or whatever and come back. It still feels like you did something. So it’s kind of a lighter affair, and this is where the Guild Quests come into play.”
“There’s an element of randomization to the Guild Quest system, where you’re not entirely sure what kind of map you’re going to get, and what’s going to be out there,” Tsujimoto explained. “Within this randomized system, there are maps we consider to be ‘good’ and maps that are ‘not so good,’ and you can actually exchange these back-and-forth with other players.”
So, what’s a good map as opposed to a bad map? That’s another area where the Guild Quest randomization comes into play, Tsujimoto says.
“The way it works is that you’ve got these pre-determined [map] parts, and all that really changes in the randomization is how they’re connected together, since the Monster Hunter maps are always a big ‘master map’ with smaller ones within,” Tsujimoto explained. “When we talk about the idea of there being good or advantageous maps versus bad ones, the best kind that you’re really after is where, as soon as you leave your camp—boom—there’s a big monster for you to fight. There’s lots of elevation shifts so you can do jump attacks. That sort of thing.”
Randomization adds a lot to Monster Hunter, which up until now has always had a very rigid structure. You’ve always known exactly what monster you would need to hunt for a particular crafting material, and what kind of equipment you would end up with after putting in hours of work. That isn’t the case any more, says Tsujimoto.
“Up until now, you could collect all the weapons in Monster Hunter, and once you’ve collected them all, you say, ‘Okay, now what? I’ve got all there is to get.’ No more. Because now there are randomly-generated parameters, so you will never truly have all of them, and there will always be something for you to get your hands on.”
It bears mentioning that Guild Quests do not replace regular quests in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate—you’ll be able to do both when the game comes our way in early 2015.
Note: A couple things to note: first, terms like “Excavated Equipment” and “Guild Quests” are not official localized names. Capcom are still working on those. Second, this feature originally debuted in Monster Hunter 4, but most western players will only see it beginning with 4 Ultimate.