In March of 2021, we fell into the world of Kamura to take on the challenge of facing off with towering terrors. From learning the ins and outs of an intricate Wirebug system, to befriending adorable pooches to aid us in battle, and meeting some of the most intimidating critters the franchise has presented yet, Monster Hunter Rise had me glued to my TV for weeks at a time.
Sure, we had our gripes when we first swung into action. It had been a while since weapons were dusted off, and frankly the world we knew made Kamura seem insignificant almost. However, once the adrenaline of facing a Magnamalo set in we were more than happy to sing the game’s praises. As someone who had previously experienced the Monster Hunter franchise through backseat gaming, taking the reigns within this title reinforced a love for all things MH without the intimidation from the sheer size of the game.
But, alongside a lot of fans, the release seemed reliant on future updates rather than being a finished title packaged up and ready to go. So when Monster Hunter Rise’s expansion ‘Sunbreak,’ was announced, my heart sang, and I was ready to spend more hours than I like to admit sitting in front of my TV again.
If you’re like me, and you took a break from Monster Hunter Rise once you’d completed the main quest, then expect to re-learn a lot of what you thought you knew. Picking up my controller to dash back into Sunbreak felt like I never knew how to play the game in the first place. Which I think was the case for a lot of players. Luckily, the expansion introduced a new technical element called ‘Skill Swap’.
A spotlight on Skill Swap
During combat, a few far-from-invasive buttons appear at the bottom of the screen. These guide you through a couple of attacks and movements which are hugely beneficial to gameplay. This feature saved my hunter on numerous occasions, be it with a tactical dodge or a well-timed heavy hit, which I would’ve easily forgotten about when running for my life. Additionally, the ‘Swap’ element to the new ability allows you to switch out which moves you incorporate into battle. It’s a fantastic addition, but it’s introduced very quickly and is easy to forget when you’re mid-battle.
Additionally, with a realm of new skills comes a whole roster of things to learn. Your Palicos and Palamutes have new skills to master. There is new armor to forge. And there are new moves for all the weapons which have come as a welcomed change. Although I wouldn’t describe the gameplay of Monster Hunter Rise as stagnant, there is certainly a heavy emphasis on repetition while climbing the ranks. At least now in Sunbreak there is a chance to visualize your hunters’ growth.
New monsters and realms and skills galore
But with a new set of skills comes an increased difficulty, and I fell a victim of being reminded of just how tough Monster Hunter is the hard way. Facing off with the initial terrors’ feels like a walk in the park compared to those which fall into Elgado. The new set of monsters take a while to appear in the expansion, but they are incredibly impressive when they do.
The story of Sunbreak is as simple as the base game. The main monster, the Malzeno, is making the other monsters annoyed, which has put the main port at risk of destruction. You’ve definitely heard that one before. But luckily Sunbreak takes it fairly easy on you at the start. We are quickly introduced to Master Ranks, and as we begin to progress through them, the difficulty is really ramped up. I don’t think you can go into any fight and be prepared enough to not faint at least twice. No amount of dango can save you now.
Additionally, the newly implemented ‘Jungle’ map was fun to explore. I had become painfully familiar with the previous lands that I felt had lost their charms. But exploring the cavernous jungle and jumping from cliff to cliff reignited the excitement I felt for coming across a monster in its natural habitat. You get to experience old foes with new moves in a new place. So while you’re getting to grips with the controls again you’ll feel some familiarity while doing so.
You don’t have to fight alone (and you’ll probably benefit from not)
Aside from being able to join hunt requests from players online, another wonderful feature Sunbreak introduces is battling alongside NPCs. Which can be hugely beneficial for anyone struggling. I love this feature, because not only does it make monsters a crumb easier to face, but it really brings the cast of Sunbreak to life. Fighting alongside them adds to the immersive nature of the game. And like I said – will have you glued to your console.
Inviting NPCs will drive the story in places. But after a few repeated hunts you’ll be so grateful for the assistance. Whether you use the assistance to distract a monster while you heal or you just need some company. I loved feeling like a team of hunters rather than just a solo player. It doesn’t feel as tedious to face the same creature time and time again when there’s a crew behind you.
Additionally these encounters will unlock rewards you might miss should you continue to battle solo. Some of these rewards can help you forge new weapons and armor which will have been overlooked otherwise. So even if you’re a lone wolf, let someone give you a hand once in a while.
As a whole, Sunbreak is a wonderful addition to Monster Hunter Rise. I can’t turn my nose up at the game, and I’ll continue to indulge in future updates without a doubt. Even though I spend more time clenching my controller and gritting my teeth in frustration than I’d expect from a game I enjoy, it all feeds into what makes this franchise so wonderful.
If you’re debating getting back on the hype for Monster Hunter Rise, then the Sunbreak expansion is exactly what will sway your decision. Facing a challenge has never been so enchanting, and I cannot recommend the experience enough.