First of all, let me preface this review by saying that this is my first ever Monster Hunter game. Therefore, if you are reading this hoping to find some sort of comparison to Monster Hunter World, then I’m afraid to say that you won’t find that here. Nevertheless, if you’re a fan of the franchise, maybe you can come up with your own conclusions by learning how a newcomer feels about the latest entry of this beloved series.
If you’re like me and never played a Monster Hunter game before, or if it’s the first time you’re hearing about it, then all I’ll say is that the name really does the game justice. To nobody’s surprise, Monster Hunter Rise is a game about hunting monsters. However, I must admit that I was surprised by the fact that, when you start a new hunt, the game tells you exactly where the monsters are located on the map. This feels a bit contradictory, since you’d assume that tracking down the location of monsters would be part of hunting as an activity, but I’ll discuss how this actually works in a few moments.
Despite having played this on a PC with all the graphics options turned up to the maximum, it’s clear that Rise was built with the hardware of the Nintendo Switch in mind. Even at max settings, Monster Hunter Rise still pales in comparison to World. With that being said, I think that the series’ characteristic art style still remains in place, albeit at a lower visual fidelity. Don’t get me wrong though, I don’t think the game looks bad, it’s just that it can look dated in a few areas, namely when it comes to vegetation density and just the amount of detail that’s present in the world, or lack thereof in this case.
Now, when I said that Rise was made with the Nintendo Switch in mind, I’m not only talking about the way it looks. The whole game feels like it was made so that every area wouldn’t be bigger than it needed to be, with the village hub area even being divided into smaller rooms that you have to enter if you want to interact with certain NPCs. Everything feels strictly streamlined, but while I couldn’t stop wondering how the game might have suffered from this in my first few hours, the more I played it the more I realized that the flow of the game actually benefited a lot from this.
The core gameplay loop is simple, you go on hunts and kill monsters, you get materials from said monsters, and then you return to the village and use said materials to upgrade or craft new weapons and armour. Rinse and repeat. While I can see how some people might find it repetitive, and I have to admit that I felt the same way when people would describe Monster Hunter to me, now that I’ve played it, I found it to be extremely addicting.
Loading times are pretty much non-existent, and the game as a whole is extremely fast-paced, which undoubtedly helps in feeding its addictive nature. When you’re in the village, all you have to do is talk to an NPC and then you can press a button to instantly go to your next hunt. As I’ve mentioned previously, once you load into one of the game’s hunting grounds, the game tells you exactly where all the large monsters are. But why would it do that?
The only thing that comes to mind when I wonder what could have made Capcom make the game this way, is that they just wanted to make the game faster and less time-consuming. However, I found that having this information beforehand, allowed me to plan a route that could be used to gather resources and stat boosts along the way. Yes, because hunting monsters isn’t all you do, you also have to feed your hunger for materials and resources that will allow you to grow even more powerful.
Each mission, or hunt, in Monster Hunter Rise, takes place in a self-contained area. There’s no huge open-world to explore or anything of the sort. Nonetheless, exploration is heavily encouraged. The hunting grounds are brimming with resources that you can farm. These can mostly be used to craft potions, food, and other consumables on the go, but there are also these small birds called spiribirds that grant you stat boosts when you pick them up.
It’s with this kind of exploration in mind that I think that revealing the monster’s location from the very beginning is an excellent idea. This way, you can plan your route through the map to maximize the amount of stuff that you can pick up while making your way towards the monster. This whole preparation phase isn’t really required to kill the main monster you’re after, but it’s definitely an advantage since you can configure the game so that you’ll automatically craft certain items once you acquired the required materials. You definitely don’t want to commit to a fight empty-handed.
The novelty of exploring a new area is rather brief though, as you’ll be revisiting the same areas a lot, and even more so if you really get into the game and want to do and unlock everything in it. I assume that this shouldn’t be a surprise to fans of the series, but for a newcomer such as myself, I have to admit that I wish there was more to see and explore. However, I’d be lying if I said that I’d consider this aspect to be a deal-breaker for me. At the end of the day, gameplay is king, and if there’s one aspect in which Monster Hunter Rise excels, then that’s most definitely its combat.
It’s honestly quite unlike anything that I’ve ever played before, and despite struggling for the first few hours, I can now see the appeal of it. The combat in Monster Hunter almost feels like an exhilarating kind of ballet, with the player chaining together a series of over the top animations that unleash a flurry of blows on whatever is on their way. There are 14 different types of weapons, each with its own unique set of combos and special attacks, and playing with a new weapon requires you to pretty much learn a whole new game. Each weapon feels exceptional and behaves in a completely different way, so changing your weapon while you’re still a rookie can definitely feel like a huge challenge.
The weapons aren’t just everything that makes up the bulk of the combat however, because to be a great hunter, one must also master a constant battle of keeping up the momentum. Players have to manage their stamina, the state of their weapon, making sure their well-fed, while also looking for opportunities to attack monsters when they’re exposed. The thing that I love the most about this though, is the fact that monsters aren’t just enemies with huge health pools. Each monster is unique in the sense that they have their own set of moves and attacks, but they also have body parts that you can damage in order to weaken them.
With Monster Hunter Rise’s rooster of monsters, getting to know each monster is a tremendous task and a huge time commitment, and while this will certainly please a lot of people, others might stay away because of this very same reason. It’s clear that the story isn’t really the focus of the game, and while there’s certainly a campaign, I wouldn’t recommend this game if all you’re looking for is a game with a campaign that you can beat and then be done with it. This is one of those games where most enjoyment comes from investing a ton of time and seeing how you evolve throughout your many hours with it. I’m not just talking about an evolution in terms of much better loot you get, I’m also talking about how you evolve as a player.
In Monster Hunter Rise, part of the player’s evolution can also be seen in how they gradually learn to move around with the use of the Wirebug, a new addition to the franchise. Despite its rather odd name, the Wirebug is just a grappling hook, but one which you can hook into thin air. In essence, it allows you to quickly get out of harm’s way by dashing vertically or horizontally in any direction. The most important thing about it, however, is that it allows you to prevent yourself from being knocked out when you’re hit mid-air.
Just like a lot of things in Monster Hunter, the Wirebug is also a resource that slowly generates its charges, so you can’t just keep dashing away to infinity. Still, it creates a lot of opportunities during combat, especially when you use it to unleash powerful attacks that are unique to each weapon type. Furthermore, it opens up more ways for you to navigate the maps, essentially giving you a lot more vertical reach.
Whether you’re hunting alone or with other players, you’ll always be accompanied by two of your pet companions, a cat and a dog. Palicos is what Monster Hunter calls its cats. These are adorable but fierce cats that will actively support you during hunts. Moreover, there are five different types of support that your Palicos can provide. They can place traps to weaken monsters, they can focus on healing you, or you can just have them specialize in finding high-quality materials. Likewise, Felvines (dogs) are also very reliable companions that not only aid you during combat, but also let you ride on their back, which obviously makes the task of traversing each locale and tracking down monsters a lot easier.
Just like you, they can have their own equipment and they also level up as they get more experienced. You can even hire more of them and send them out in expeditions to find materials for you or send them to train at a dojo. To be honest, Monster Hunter Rise feels rather overwhelming at times. There just seems to be so many systems and menus, and so much stuff to keep track of.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate how much depth Monster Hunter Rise has, but personally, I do wish it was a lot more straightforward. I really dislike having to pay attention and keep in mind dozens of different things when playing through the game. Still, I’m sure that a lot of people love the series for this very same reason, so, at the end of the day, it all comes down to personal preference.
I absolutely love the combat, exploring each area to the fullest, getting new equipment and all that, but there are just so many more things going on and they didn’t feel like they add much to the experience. For instance, your pet companions, sure, they’re cute and useful, but it feels like a chore having to also keep track of their gear, and then recruiting even more companions that you can send out to gather materials for you. Yes, these are all things with a purpose, but they just feel more like padding than anything else.
If you never played a Monster Hunter game because you fear that you’d feel overwhelmed, just like I did before playing it, I can safely say that the game does a pretty good job of onboarding new players. Sure, it can take a while to get used to the movement system, and every time you’ll pick up a new weapon type it will feel like you’re trying to learn to play a whole new game, but it’s most certainly worth the effort you put into it. The game has a lot of cool and memorable moments, like these missions where you have to fight against a series of waves of monsters while building automated turrets and manned defences, or the fact that you can even ride the large monsters that you’re hunting. How did I not even mention this before?!
While in the past I might have just glossed over a new announcement about the Monster Hunter franchise, this will certainly not be the case any longer. I honestly can’t wait for Rise’s expansion, Sunbreak, to arrive later this Summer so that I can put even more hours into it. It might take a while to get there, but once the game clicks with you, Monster Hunter Rise becomes a highly addictive experience that you can’t just put down. It’s an extremely satisfying and engrossing game that can definitely keep you entertained for at least a hundred hours.
Whether it is the right game for you or not, that is up for you to decide. If the idea of hunting down a plethora of monsters in what’s possibly one of the best melee combat systems out there sounds enticing, then definitely give this one a shot. If you’ve played a previous Monster Hunter game and felt like it wasn’t for you, then I doubt that this one will change your opinion. Whatever your case may be, Monster Hunter Rise is one hell of a game, and I can’t even imagine how a sequel might topple it.