Estimated reading time: 15 minutes
Hey there Hunter, it’s time for another round of hunting! After the success of Monster Hunter World, we now get to experience Monster Hunter Rise on the Nintendo Switch. Is it better, is it worse, how does it stack up against World or previous titles? Well, now you’ll have a chance to find out.
Following in the same vein as World, we get a storyline in this title, although it’s still rather lacking if compared to major title games. You are a new and aspiring hunter for Kamura village, and your job is to fend off the monsters that are congregating the same as the event 50 years ago that is “The Rampage”. But what is the reason behind the rampage? Can you, a fresh new hunter, do what the last hunters could not? Only time will tell!
For those of you well versed in Monster Hunter gameplay, this next bit is more so a recap of what you know. As a hunter, it is your job to take requests from the local guild representative, and go out and complete them. Technically this could involve gathering certain materials, or killing smaller monsters, but the bulk will focus on hunting the large monsters that inhabit the world, and are teeming right outside the village walls. So it falls to you to take up one of the many available weapons, all with different playstyles, and head out with your dog and cat friends to beat the creatures into submission. Each weapon has its own strengths and weaknesses, and finding the right one to fit your playstyle can be just as challenging as fighting some of the monsters.
You get some really nice tutorial quests that explain exactly what you need to know in-game, as well as a training area that shows you combos for your weapon of choice and indicates damage levels. As a quick summary of how hunting works, you have a large map to explore, now with enhanced vertical options, and must go find the monster you’re tracking. You have an HP and stamina gauge, which can be restored through item use or environmental aspects, and all fights are “live”. Different actions will deplete the stamina gauge, such as running and dodging, and losing all your health will cause you to faint, or “cart” as we in the community call it. Generally speaking, 3 carts or running out of time and you fail the quest. There are also free expeditions you can go on that are unlimited time and faints.
So what’s new from World or older titles? Well, a lot. Like, a lot a lot. First up, the clutch claw from world is gone and replaced with a wirebug. These little fellas carry two charges and allow you to use a sort of “dash” to move around. But wait, there’s more! They can also be used when climbing mountains, riding monsters, and using powerful moves! Yes, climbing mountains. You can now climb virtually anything in-bounds on the map, something so removed from standard monster hunter titles I was floored by the fact I was saying “there’s so much to explore in this Monster Hunter”.
Your hunter is basically a ninja, being able to run along walls and throw an infinite amount of kunai held in some pocket dimension. Wall running depletes stamina fast, but can be useful for mounting arial attacks, running from monsters, or just getting over a wall separating you and your prey. The wirebugs also allow you to mount monsters when they’ve built up enough mounting damage, and you can ride and control them like puppets. Clunky puppets yes, but I’d like to see you do better when moving something 20 times your size using only six wires. You can attack with the monster, ram them into other monsters or walls, and if you land enough hits, you can unleash a powerful finisher move.
Also new to Rise are elemental blight attacks. You say those have always been a thing? For the hunters yes, but now you can inflict monsters with blights as well! There are also new status, such as hellfire blight, and old status inflictions may have different effects than you are used to. You’ll see many returning monsters from World and previous titles, such as the Tobi-kodachi, Rathalos, and Mizitsune, just to name a few, as well as new introductions, such as the Magnamalo or Boss Harag. I’m pleased to note that enemy hitboxes have been refined even more than they were in World, and there were a lot less instances of me yelling at my screen that I shouldn’t have been hit. Another neat little feature added is the Petalace, a sort of necklace thing that will collect energy from Spiribirds you find while out on a quest to confer you permanent buffs for the duration of the quest, up to a certain point. Each petalace has a different focus and stat cap, so check them out.
Now, let’s give some love to your friends and mine: Palicoes and Palamutes, or the Felynes and Canynes. Essentially, like in World, you can bring a cat partner into battle with you. Now, in Rise, you can also bring along a doggo! And hoo boy, let me just say, this dog is great. The doggo is essentially a free taxi service that will also climb walls, allow you to sharpen your weapon/drink potions on, is faster than normal running, won’t run out of stamina, and can drift like you’re playing freaking Mario Kart. A buddy of mine and I literally laid out different “circuits” in each of the five areas quests usually occur in, and we had races around the map.
These dogs are one of the three best changes/additions that have been made to the franchise, and I honestly have no idea how I’d survive without them. This isn’t to say the cats don’t have a place at the table. Each cat still has a different roll, and unlike world where you could just change the role, now we are back to hiring different companions like we did in Generations. The cats have role skills and are incredibly useful as partners in hunts. Train a few of these fellas up and watch them drop healing plants for you, steal monster materials, or place traps to help you fight your targets.
Speaking of large monsters, and just monsters in general, let’s set aside a space to talk about the amount of data you are given, both on in-quest maps and in your notes. Let’s start with the maps. You are now able to bring up a detailed map and select different materials/endemic life on the map. While this doesn’t apply itself to the minimap, it is still insanely useful for finding specific ore deposits or endemic life. And why is the endemic life so important? Well, you can now pick them up to bring them with you and use them on monsters. That’s right, endemic life now has a very real and useful application. Except the gust crab. Whichever butthead decided to put those in clearly didn’t think anyone you hunt with would misuse those at all. No way. Either way, the map is now really useful when going on harvesting runs. Couple this with the fact you can now gather/mine/harvest everything while on your dog or in one move or even while running by? Absolutely glorious. One tink of a pickaxe and I have 6 ores? Hawawawawa. But the map isn’t the most detailed item. No no, that honour goes to the Large Monster hunter notes. After beating a large monster, its data is added, allowing you to see full weakness charts and drop tables. You now have a personal in-game wiki for monsters.
New to Rise we are also introduced to “Rampage Quests”. These quests function like tower defence submissions, where you need to protect the gate at the end of a path by setting up installations to help defend against the monsters that come in. You can set up manual, automatic, or special installations to help fend off the horde of monsters. You start with only some basic equipment, but as you fulfill submissions and fend off monsters, your installation level increases, allowing you access to better equipment, as well as mechanisms such as the dragonators scattered around the field. During the rampage quests, you can have a lot of enemies at once on screen, so be prepared to have things get dicey, especially if you get a bunch of the same type.
There are three types: aerial/ranged, targeted, and gate crashers. The targeted type monsters will make it their mission to see you K.O.’d, while the aerial/ranged monsters tend to sit in the back and lob shots at you when you aren’t looking. The gate crashers will completely ignore you and head straight for the gate you’re trying to protect. These should be your primary focus, as you can have lots of enemies at once, meaning if you get a lot of gate crashers rolling in, you’re in for a bad time. Three Khezu at once made me want to cry. Thankfully, you have two ways to win a Rampage: either defend until the timer runs out, or defeat the boss of the horde. Thankfully, you don’t have a faint limit, so you can keep on going until either the gate falls or you win. The installations available for you to personally use start with only ballistae, but you gain more options, as well as upgrade the installations, as the level of your gate increases. The level is per quest, so your level will reset after the quest. I personally found the rampage quests to be most fun as a group with my friends. The more people there was, the more fun I had, so go out there and convince all your friends to play with you.
There are a bunch of quality of life upgrades that have been made, and while I could spend a few hours talking about each and every one, I’ll just list a few here as examples. First off is the ability to fast travel around the village. It’s super speedy, super handy, and if somebody wants to talk to you, it’s indicated on the fast travel menu. This is also available during online mode, which I will get into in a bit. Mining and gathering is now done extremely fast and is super convenient, being able to grab items on the go. Additionally, it feels like the harvesting locations respawn a lot faster now than they used to. Stocking up on select items is also simpler now, as you can buy pretty much anything a standard hunter would need, provided you have the money. I’ve already mentioned the doggo travel system, but let me just emphasize how convenient that is. The food system has also been optimized and it is now much easier to get the effects you are looking for.
In the area of “nice to have but not really impacting gameplay”, Rise clearly separates what is expected from a new hunter to a veteran hunter. Village quests are for the newbie hunters for the most part. The monsters felt really scaled down to what I was expecting, and fight generally lasted between 3 to 7 minutes depending on how much health the thing was and how often it ran away. The hub side of things usually had 10 to 15 minute hunts, which is more in line with my G Rank hunt times from other titles. While I personally found the village quests to be less challenging than I’d like, it certainly is useful to introducing the newer players. On a neat side, the hunters now have voiced lines! They’re a little cliche and campy, but overall not too bad. Having your hunter yell out “Here comes a big attack” or “It’s going after you” is really cool to hear. If you aren’t a fan of the hunter talking, you can adjust it in settings and change the language of the hunter. You can select between English, Japanese, or “Monster Hunter Language”, so you can always swap it if you start cringing too hard. It’s really nice to see the weapon appearance variety in Rise. One of my biggest complaints about World was that most of the weapons all looked similar, just small changes or palette swaps. No longer is this the case, as the weapons are full of unique appearances once more. The crafting system now also feels much easier and better to navigate, and everything is separated nicely.
A few aspects that I am personally fond of, although probably won’t matter to most, involve the unlocking progression, guild card achievements, intro scenes for monsters and locales, and the photo opportunities. Starting from the top, there is a fairly clear and natural progression order for unlocking aspects of the game. For instance, some aspects, such as decorations, only unlock when you start high rank, which makes sense on two fronts. Most players who are only for Low Rank quests won’t or don’t need to worry about them, and they are only applicable to High Rank armour anyways. For the guild card achievements, as far as I can tell, there are no rewards for crown farming. Any of you who do this know that pain, and I can honestly say that I consider any guild cards complete if they have everything except the crown achievements.
After 126 Jade Barroth from Tri Ultimate and no gold crown small or large, I just got too frustrated. The guild card achievements don’t actually do anything, they’re more of a bragging rights deal. Keeping with the motif of the very Japanese themed village, every time you encounter a new monster or locale, you get an introduction cutscene in a sort of “Japanese style poetry” type deal. Even my friend who isn’t a fan of the Japanese culture motif liked them. The photo opportunities are great as well. You get a pet owl, or Cohoot as it were, that can take pictures while you’re out on an adventure (although you do this manually). Whenever you take out the camera, there’s a little space in the top right that will tell you the name of the creature featured in the shot, if applicable. These pictures can then actually be used in the Hunter’s Notes to replace the existing pictures. My current goal is to fill the Large Monster notes with pictures of the monster, with my friend and I in the picture, cooking steak, and the monster can’t be asleep. We are replacing all existing pictures with these.
Now let’s talk a bit about the online functionality. I am super excited to say that playing online together has never felt easier. It’s faster, smoother, you’re allowed to do more, and it’s altogether a really enjoyable experience. So first up let me preface by saying that only Hub quests can be run in online multiplayer with other people, and they do scale to number of people. Fancy new change, there is no “online specific” area, whoever joins your room visits your village. You can literally run around outside the gathering hub and see your friends, the fast travel on the map still works, and you can still access any shop or function you need to. Quest loading times are loads faster, and you now have a hot command that will let you access quests anywhere.
Essentially, if you are off somewhere and someone posts a quest, you can tap up on the D-Pad on the quest indicator, and join and ready for departure from anywhere. This is super handy and I love it. While the maximum number of hunters per lobby has reduced to 4, this is perfectly fine with me, as you rarely get a large group that’s super cohesive in what is being hunted, and it makes it easier to join in on quests with only four people per lobby. One of the best parts though? Rise will recognize if you have been booted from a quest and rejoin the lobby/quest. I was having some internet trouble while playing with my friends so I got dropped from the lobby. I rejoined and went back out on the quest, and it started me at the base camp with the items I took from the supply box still in my inventory. This is genius, good job developers.
While there is a lot to love about Rise, there are some aspects that could have used a little bit more work. For instance, there is a distinct lack of elder dragons in Rise. The elder dragons have always been some of my favourite fight (except the Kirin), so it was a little disappointing to see so few. It also feels like there is less content than other monster hunter titles. While I realize that a lot of quests in previous titles were “same monster, different location”, when some star levels don’t even have two full pages of quests, it does feel a little…lacking. I know there is free content update, including story content from what I’ve heard, but that feels like something that should’ve been included from the get go. On a more personal note, I’m sad to see there aren’t any Event Quests in Rise, at least not yet. I’d like to see more “Phantom Urugaan” style quests or special reward quests.
Good news for all those fans of the monster hunter soundtracks (myself included), the soundtrack for Rise is exactly what I’ve come to expect from a monster hunter title: awesome orchestral pieces and spicy monster themes. The graphic quality when using the Switch dock is also really good, although the handheld mode is, obviously, quite toned down. Each area you visit: Shrine Ruins, Frozen Islands, Sandy Plains, Flooded Forest, and Lava Caves have soundtracks and visuals to match their location themes, and it really feels like a lot of work was put into planning out the locations in detail.