Monster Hunter Rise Review

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Basarios is venting – that’s pretty suspicious. Time to take him out.

As the first Monster Hunter title to be designed from the ground up for Switch, Monster Hunter Rise is going to have a lot to live up to. It’s the first Monster Hunter Nintendo players have had of the modern variety introduced in 2018 with World, and it was questionable whether such open areas would translate well to the less powerful Switch. But what Capcom have brought forward is the best of the classic Monster Hunters and World, while adding new elements to make things less annoying for both veterans and those about to slay their first Khezu.

After a quick round in the character creator and creation of your pet cat and dog, your new slayer arrives in the small village of Kamura. Kamura was rebuilt a half century ago following a series of monster attacks, and though the monsters occasionally appeared in the following time, your hunter takes up their weapon of choice just as a massive monster “Rampage” is about to begin. The supporting characters are pretty well laid out, with most functions within sight of each other and the ones that may require different areas also available in the hunter’s house. They are also pretty basic, though do have moments of badassery when the Rampage starts kicking off. The main attraction of any Monster Hunter is the monsters, however, and there’s plenty of old favorites along with some new monsters who will likely be around for a while to come, such as the explosive canine Magnamalo. The first time a monster is a sole target, whether in the single player “village” or multiplayer-capable “hub” quests, there is an introduction cutscene with some well-written poetry that sums up what that monster is up to. Rise is also a more musical game, with a blessedly-skippable cutscene each time the hunter eats a meal for buffs on the way out.

AND THIS IS (the monster that became) MY BOOMSTICK!

Once on the hunt, the objectives are displayed on a map always displayed in the lower left corner of the screen: smaller items, such as “hunt ten small monsters” or fetch quests have small circles, while large monster hunts display a representative icon on the map. On the way to the objective, there are a series of small items collectively called “endemic life” that provide stat buffs, healing, or other things to make the hunt easier. The map will usually display additional large monsters to facilitate the new Wyvern Riding system; this allows monsters to be wrapped up with an item called a Wirebug either through unlockable techniques or if two large monsters happen to appear in the same area and want to fight for dominance. Most of the Wyvern Riding I did in the story was because of monster fights, especially since they can force material drops that can be turned into weapons and armor for the hunter. Much like the weapons, it’ll take some practice to determine which attack to use and when to evade, but I found that I picked up most monsters quickly. The big innovation in hunter pet management – aside from no longer being able to hunt as a pet directly – is the addition of “Palamutes” (dogs). They are more aggressive in attacking the monsters than the “Palicoes” (cats) and can be ridden to get to the hunts fast, but I still used a Palico in multiplayer hunts for healing and the ability to identify when a monster is ready for capture to end the hunts faster. Some other changes for Rise include the elimination of the need to use items to adapt to hot or cold environments, and that items auto-craft on maps if the appropriate items are picked up which will make things easier for archers and gunners. Melee weapon users will benefit from the “whetstone” item that restores weapon sharpness always being in the pack, and having unlimited uses.

The maps themselves are quite large, though people looking for the area variety of a “greatest hits” title like Generations Ultimate will be disappointed. There are seven main hunting areas: five monster maps, the Arena for side quests, and the areas where Rampage defenses happen. The areas do offer a lot of reason to explore, with the possibility of finding sub camps that can be used to recover and restock mid-quest and hidden journal entries in the maps that provide world building – there’s about sixty in all, and some of them make Splatoon’s pages look easy to find.

We take the shortest route to the frog and arrive in ill humor.

Rise is thankfully more explicit about what needs to be done in order to advance in the story and multiplayer modes. Coming off Generations Ultimate where I had to look online for guides to determine which quests would need to be done to advance, Rise explicitly calls out which quests constitute “key quests”. Additionally, there are trackers for both single player and the “hub” quests that show how many quests remain. Long time players who want to get to high rank hub quickly can actually use the single player to do it: reaching certain levels in single player without doing anything in the hub will allow for special “exam” hunts that could potentially skip you all the way to the 4 star quests in the hub that constitute “high rank”. I don’t consider myself that good of a hunter and I still managed to finish the single player in roughly 10-15 hours, using armor from a monster that unlocks in the second tier of quests in single player. Getting through the exam quest and the Rampage back to back, however, proved to be quite a challenge.

The Rampage hunts unlock during the course of the story and basically combine classic Monster Hunter with tower defense. There is a prep period where you can lay down ballistas and explosives, then try to fight off waves of monsters and keep them out of Kamura’s gates. The story mode Rampage fight gives one area to defend, but the hub quest ones are clearly designed to be handled by groups online or locally by forcing the defense of two areas simultaneously and the prep time shrinking incredibly quickly. The other villagers can be summoned for defense here, and they’re quite strong even if I let them get overwhelmed a bit in the hub. Every so often a “Counter Horn” will play and allow you to attack the horde; the monsters normally shrug off hunter damage, but while the horn is active the hunter will be powered up. There’s also no limit to the number of times you can run out of health, which can make it easy to cheese if you’re desperate. It’s a nice change of pace, and there’s some good gear locked behind it, but if I replay them it’ll at least be with a partner.

Using a Switch docked on wi-fi about 15 ft / 6 m from the router, the online held up pretty well. Previously online hunts would have one difficulty, or at best two in World (2 players, 4 players). Rise scales the difficulty for 1, 2, 3, or 4 hunters, and now that a hunt can be joined mid-game the difficulty will adjust if a new hunter jumps in or has a power cut mid-fight. All online hunters will have a single pet with them even if playing a 1 player hunt online; this did cause some chaos when on a four person hunt and there were three dogs and a cat in the same vicinity as two monsters duking it out. This may be a connection-dependent factor: for the record, my home connection is 100mb symmetric. There are some new tools for getting hunts, including the ability to set up a profile almost like what would be in a dating app to show what you want.

And yes, you can pet the dog. It’s 2021.

Monster Hunter Rise is the first non-compilation Switch game to run on Capcom’s RE Engine, and if it’s any indication they’ve done a great job with making this engine work on a less powerful platform. Certain elements can cause frame hitches: Miiverse Wanter Man is going to have a conniption with the Flooded Forest area as the areas where water runs can cause a frame hit. There’s also a long initial load after choosing your saved game, and early on this was so long I thought it hard-locked the system; thankfully, it was just a soft lock. The load times actually decreased as I worked my way through, though I didn’t notice any software updates during the review process. There will be a day one patch to unlock some features and perhaps squash some bugs, plus Capcom have already announced additional content updates which may bring bug fixes as well.

I’m impressed that the RE Engine not only got the game to run smoothly on Switch at a seemingly faster framerate, but also got it to look good as well. There is some small pop-in in the extreme distance occasionally, but it didn’t affect gameplay and may have been due to playing portably at the time. The monsters are suitably ugly and have a nice glow, while the stages have some neat background items; I’m not sure why Flooded Forest has a giant ziggurat taking up the entire bottom right corner, but it’s cool to explore. The monster battle themes have new mixes, but even when not in combat the background music reminded me of walking around the worlds of Xenoblade Chronicles X. The hunter vocalizes everything, and I found I couldn’t even find a voice that didn’t drive me crazy at 25% usage: thankfully, a 0% option is also available.

I put about 280 hours into Generations Ultimate and was playing it even up to the time this review goes live, but for mostly lack-of-PC reasons I never got into World. Monster Hunter Rise has enough content that I feel like I’ll be able to go all the way with it, and be able to take on the new hunts as they’re delivered. Even those who are just looking for a good action game, and have no history with the series, should jump in. If nothing else, I could use some help with Rathalos.

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