Monster Hunter has always been a game with a strong understanding of its identity. Each game has improved on its predecessor while maintaining its signature gameplay experience. The promise of a charming world, hundreds of hours of content and an immensely satisfying gameplay loop have kept fans loyal to the series for years. Monster Hunter: World was my first Monster Hunter, and 400 hours went by in a flash. The love for the game suddenly clicked for me, and as I visited earlier titles, this sentiment only grew. Naturally, my expectations for Capcom’s latest instalment, Monster Hunter: Rise set the bar high.
True to its name, Rise takes Monster Hunter to an epic new altitude. Rise improves on nearly every dimension of the formula; it has challenged previous obstacles while still delivering on the signature gameplay experience fans know and love.
“Each of the fourteen weapons your hunter can use plays drastically different, with something for everyone.”
Monster Hunter Rise takes place in the Ninja inspired land of Kamura Village. Tranquil and famed for its Tatara Steel, its inhabitants are compassionate and hardworking people. Their way of life is put under threat by the rampage, an ancient calamity that sees a large horde of monsters attacking the village in a frenzied rage.
Kamura has fallen victim to this event many times, almost wiping out the entire village 50 years ago. The cause of the calamity is yet unknown, and it is your job as a newly promoted hunter to find the source of the rampage. Erratic monster behaviour, environmental changes, and compromised resources form the basis of your quests. As you fight and capture monsters in a variety of living and breathing biomes, the sinister source of the calamity starts to unfold.
Monster Hunter, as you might have guessed, is a game about hunting monsters. Prepare for a hunt with appropriate items and gear, capture or slay the monster, and use the rewards to craft and upgrade an arsenal of Weapons and Armour. Hunters prepare in the village that contains various facilities essential to success, such as the smithy.
The gameplay loop is simple but has a tremendous amount of depth. Each of the fourteen weapons your hunter can use plays drastically different, with something for everyone. Ghosts of Tsushima fans may enjoy the tight timing required to pull off devastating counters with the longsword. Demon’s Souls players can find familiarity in the Sword and Shield’s balance and use of items with a weapon drawn. If you prefer the support role, use the Hunting Horn’s combos to play melodies that heal and buff your team. Each weapon plays completely different.
“Not only does each weapon itself feel unique, but there are multiple playstyles within every weapon, thanks to a few new additions in Monster Hunter Rise.”
During my playthrough, I opted to use the Longsword, a Katana-like weapon. I also used the Charge Blade, a sword and shield that can transform into an axe to deal out devastating damage. The Charge Blade allowed me to block attacks with relative consistency and wait for an opening in a monster’s moves before countering. In contrast, the Longsword cannot block attacks, being a completely offensive based weapon that requires you to precisely time counters to evade damage.
While it took a while to adjust, I found the new playstyle incredibly rewarding as it completely transforms the tempo of a hunt. The Charge Blade was versatile, at the cost of mobility. The Longsword’s faster transitions felt liberating in a sense, with mastery of the timing, I was effectively intangible. Here, patience is key for beginners. It must be stated that there is a considerable learning curve to each of the weapons. If you can stick it out during this adjustment phase, mastery of the timing and weight of attacks has a distinctive feedback that feels extremely satisfying. Not only does each weapon itself feel unique, but there are multiple playstyles within every weapon, thanks to a few new additions in Monster Hunter Rise.
“With the press of a button, you can effortlessly scale any terrain in your way.”
Rise introduces Wirebugs to the series. They are insects endemic to Kamura that allow the Hunter to cast Iron Silk, transforming various aspects of gameplay. One notable aspect is Wire Dashing. This allows you to cast a thread into thin air which you can use to traverse the environment. Chaining wire dashes together sees you seamlessly slinging through the air in a series of frenetic acrobatics.
With the press of a button, you can effortlessly scale any terrain in your way. Juggling Wirebugs mimics a mini rhythm game, incorporating a platforming element that helps to fill in some of the downtime in the gameplay loop. I constantly felt engaged, even when I was not fighting a Monster. Straying off the beaten path often rewarded me with precious buffs and rare resources. The canine companion, known as the Palamute, allows you to drift and dash across the map much like an Arcade Racer. Climbing up a cliff face felt like an archaeological adventure game as I used a Wirebug to avoid a steep descent .
This is what makes Monster Hunter Rise so great. The constant use of input-based mechanics produces an artfully crafted immersion. I was always engaged in a series of mini-games that created a constant flow, only further developed with new Wirebug mix-ups in combat.
“Most locales give you room to use these tools, but there were a couple of battlegrounds, I wish were a little bigger.”
Without a doubt Rise’s shining beacon is combat. Monster Hunter is focused on Boss-Like encounters that require you to monitor a monster’s status and anticipate each attack. Every encounter feels distinct, but some Monsters may share similar skeletons such as the Rathian and Rathalos Dragon Archetypes.
The combat can surprise newcomers because you cannot cancel out of weapon combo animations. This has always been a barrier to first-timers because the combat can seem slow and punishing. Animation commitments still exist in Monster Hunter Rise, but the development team have gone a long way to catering to beginners with Wirebugs. If you are knocked down by a monster or fail to land a hit, you can quickly dash out of the way or use a Silk Bind special to cancel into another move.
Furthermore, each set of Armour comes with specific skills to upgrade stats such as attack power, critical damage, or animation speed. You will still need to find windows to attack, but the flow is faster as you spend less time being knocked down or vulnerable. The fights have a frantic pace regardless of weapon choice because Wirebugs grant so much mobility offensively and defensively. Most locales give you room to use these tools, but there were a couple of battlegrounds I wish were a little bigger. Additionally, there were a few Monsters that the camera work did not adapt well to. It was occasionally difficult to reorient my view in time to respond to an attack or reposition as the screen was obscured, even with camera distance maxed out. Fortunately, this was a rare occurrence.
“The mixture of depth, variation and accessibility give Rise an exceptionally long shelf life that boasts top form for Monster Hunter.”
Silk Binds are the offensive version of Wirebugs. You are given 2 regenerating charges that grant you special weapon skills. Monster Hunter: Generations Ultimate players may find these similar to Hunter Arts. The Charge Blade, for instance, is given the Counter Peak Performance Silk Bind, guaranteeing a block against one attack with a devastating counter to follow up. It would traditionally be harder to counter from a block, but this move makes it much easier by providing a generous window.
Customisation and accessibility have also been bolstered by Switch Skills, which allow you to adjust the core move set of a weapon. At one point, I decided to give my Charge Blade a spinning Axe, akin to a Chainsaw. It felt great to dive into combat with new moves to try out. Ultimately, this changed my approach to taking down a monster without alienating me from my previous playstyle. The mixture of depth, variation and accessibility give Rise an exceptionally long shelf life that boasts top form for Monster Hunter.
“Rampage mode is a slam dunk…”
Rampage quests are Rise’s take on a Tower Defence mode where you will need to fight off waves of monsters using siege equipment. The stronghold is a special instance of Kamura where you can place artillery such as Cannons and Ballistae to defend entry to the village. At certain intervals, you can activate a counter signal, incentivising you to unmount the siege equipment and engage in a more traditional hunt. You deal massive weapon damage to targets for a brief period, and if you can fend off the hordes for long enough, you will eventually meet with a powered-up beast called an Apex Monster.
Rampages were a great change of pace from the traditional hunts. Some of my favourite moments playing the game come from the chaos ensued by the counter signal, as my friends and I rushed in to beat down a monster before the gate was breached. Mounting onto the back of a Rathalos with the new Wyvern Riding system to simultaneously tail swipe an Arzuros and Aknosom was like an epic kaiju showdown. This mode is a slam dunk because it seamlessly integrates macro and micro gameplay utilising all of Rise’s new features.
On a macro scale, there is the strategic placing of automatic and manual siege equipment. This can be set up very quickly using Wirebugs to get around. On a micro level, you switch to a more traditional style, personally fighting the monster, making use of wyvern riding for easy damage and knockdowns. Neither style feels mutually exclusive because the transition is so easy thanks to new movement mechanics.
“The blending of all the new mechanics into siege-like gameplay was a breath of fresh air.”
Previous siege modes created a great sense of scale but often felt too slow as you would reload siege equipment or wait for multiple phases before the main battle. Rampages lift the tempo by removing some of the more laborious tasks. You can fight the monsters straight away, and if you do not want to use the siege equipment, simply sound the counter signal. While I do not think this mode is a direct parallel to sieges in other games, it is a great new way to play the game with friends. The blending of all the new mechanics into siege-like gameplay was a breath of fresh air.
On the gathering side of things, several quality-of-life changes have come to the Village, a hub for essential facilities. The Buddy Dojo acts as a central hub for Palicoes and Palamutes, your Feline and Canine battle companions. It is easy enough to get to thanks to fast travel points in the village. Here you can hire buddies with different support types such as Fighting or Healing and level them up through training.
This is similar to the bias types seen in Generations’ pet system but simplified. It is easy enough to set and forget here but players can alter pet behaviour in combat and browse candidate’s skillsets to find the best fit. Palicoes are also your best friend when it comes to gathering resources. You can send out your Palicoes to bargain for important items at the Argosy, and they will return periodically with goods. While you cannot get as great a return as you would the Botanical Harvest in World, it still provides you with a steady income of crafting ingredients critical to success.
“Monster Hunter Rise is the most visually impressive game to release on the Switch.”
Meowcenaries allow you to send out buddies on tours of the different regions to bring back monster materials and other useful components. All these options round out the cycle of hunting and upgrading by adding another dimension of depth and customisation that threads all the way through to the end game. During a hunting hiatus, observing my pets training and seeing them level up was a happy distraction, and no matter which support type I used during a hunt, it was always helpful.
Kamura must be the most gorgeous village I have ever seen in a Monster Hunter game. While World sports AAA graphics, Monster Hunter Rise is the most visually impressive game to release on the Switch. What it lacks in fidelity, it makes up for with overwhelming charm and personality. Kamura uses a vast palette of colour, and as I walked around, I was caught off guard at just how realistic some of the Non-Playable Character’s mannerisms were. More detail has also been put into the facial expressions in Rise, creating a convincing layer of human likeness. The developers have put in a lot of effort to make Kamura truly feel like a home to the Hunter, and it shows.
“Going back to easily dispatch a Monster I had once struggled with satisfied a power fantasy.”
Crafting in Rise operates much the same as it did in previous games. You are given a generous amount of Weapon and Armour options, each representative of the 61 Monsters offered in the base game. You use the materials you have earned to craft more powerful Weapons and Armour, thus allowing you to take on tougher monsters. This basic cycle is the core mechanic of the game, and there is always an enticing new set of gear and skills. You will eventually learn which pieces have the best skills for your weapon, so carefully consider before you make the tough decision between style and suitability. There is likely to be a layered Armour update coming, so this will not be an ongoing issue.
As you progress, you will be given more options. Crafting offers great potential for customisation, and before long, I had several ideas for new builds. Some materials were harder to obtain than others, incentivising me to go back and fight each monster a few times. There was a deep sense of satisfaction in completing the build I had been working towards. Going back to easily dispatch a Monster I had once struggled with satisfied a power fantasy, furthering my desire to take on tougher foes. There was always another challenge ahead and the return of old monsters reworked as well as new ones offered plenty of variation.
“While well-polished, Monster Hunter Rise has a few shortcomings.”
Good Hunters are always prepared. Before venturing out on a hunt, you will need to eat food to gain bonus Health and Stamina. The canteen in Monster Hunter Rise has been streamlined. Simply pick three flavours of Dango that have the skills you want, and watch the brilliance of Yomogi the Chef and her Palicos acrobatically preparing your dish. As you progress, Yomogi will ask you to find more ingredients to improve her menu, giving you more food skills such as improved sharpening speed or stamina recovery. Each food skill has a chance of activating and you can use a Dango Ticket to guarantee application.
Fans may yearn for a more nuanced system, but I enjoyed not having to spend so much time looking for that one ingredient I need or repeating quests to get meal tickets. Simply ask Yomogi to oven roast some spare ingredients to gain Dango Tickets. Nevertheless, I wish there were a few more food skills to choose from, and this leads me to some of my grievances with the game.
While well-polished, Monster Hunter Rise has a few shortcomings. At the time of launch, it is missing content and is much less of a challenge compared to its predecessors. I had finished the story within the first 30 hours and at the 50 hours mark, I had completed everything the game had to offer, minus some end game activities. This may seem ample content to the unfamiliar, yet I was surprised to see the end credits rolling so soon.
“Monster Hunter Rise does a great job of merging old and new.”
Start to finish World’s story was done in 40 – 50 hours, with about 20 hours of extra content and a Hunter Ranking (HR) system to grind. There is a HR limit of seven in Rise, which will be unlocked in a future update. The game also needs a conclusion to the story which, after working so hard to see, was disappointingly omitted. The next update is only a month away, but it is worth noting that you will be left on a bit of a cliff-hanger, if you pick the game upon launch. Of course, COVID-19 has put a strain on much of the gaming industry, so it is easy to understand why Rise is lacking a little here.
In conjunction with lower difficulty, getting through the bulk of the content is much faster. Wirebugs, and all the new offerings, make fights a lot easier, with powerful new offence options and evasive potential. The developers have tuned the monsters to counter wirebugs. However, I found that in most of my gameplay, this did not amount to much. On occasion, I would get swatted out of the air or stun locked if I tried to move out of the way, but the fights where I would need to use my wirebugs to evade, otherwise inescapable damage, were few and far between.
“Monster Hunter Rise has pushed the franchise forward in almost every dimension, to the point where I would sorely lament the loss of its new features.”
Monster Hunter Rise does a great job of merging old and new so more fights that make you use Wirebugs in the vein of platforming would be a welcome addition. Where they did exist Wirebug management felt more thoughtful and rewarding.
When it comes down to it, Rise is a brilliant merger of old and new Monster Hunter. While World’s popularity soared in Western markets it was not nearly as popular in Japan. The mixture of classic Monster Hunter and the innovation of the New World are sure to satisfy both veterans and newcomers. Monster Hunter Rise has pushed the franchise forward in almost every dimension, to the point where I would sorely lament the loss of its new features. This is the most fun I have ever had with Monster Hunter and with a steady stream of updates coming, Monster Hunter Rise will only further ascend.