Blending old and new in just the right balance, Monster Hunter Rise retains the essence of what makes the franchise fun while continuing to whittle away at all the little annoyances that have often made it tedious and obtuse in the past.
What Is It?
While Monster Hunter: World brought the series to a wider audience and a bigger screen, Rise lives somewhere in between the classic portable style and the newer console style — a fitting place for it as a Nintendo Switch game. All the improvements from World have returned, such as seamless environments and various ease-of-use features, but the structure of the game is a more streamlined version of the older games with separate quests for offline and online play. Capcom has struck a great balance between old and new that should satisfy both solo players and hunting groups.
Why Should I Care?
The star of Monster Hunter is its combat. The last few games have introduced mechanics that significantly change the moment-to-moment feel of the combat, even if the larger goal of most quests remains to whack a monster ’til it keels over. Rise is no different. While there aren’t any new weapons to learn (the same 14 return from World), the new wirebug mechanics add depth, mobility, and customization to every weapon. In a way, it blends the combat tweaks from World with the Hunter Styles from Generations, and the result is a simpler but equally satisfying way to keep the combat fresh even after a hundred hours of whacking monsters ’til they keel over.
Every weapon has two unique wirebug abilities, ranging from quick dodges that give you invincibility to explosive attacks that leave you vulnerable but deal massive damage. As the game progresses, more wirebug abilities become available to swap out, depending on how you want to use any given weapon. In addition to these, some of the standard attacks become swappable further into the game, so the customization options are about as robust as they were in Generations, but they’re much easier to understand in Rise.
For example, changing the Hunter Style in Generations would change several aspects of the weapon’s move set, and it wasn’t easy to keep track of the changes across the various Hunter Styles and weapons. In Rise, you can simply swap out one attack if you’d like, or you can change more, as each weapon has up to three pairs of swappable moves. Depending on the monster you’re set to hunt, changing moves like this is a simple to way to give yourself more of an advantage without having to learn the intricacies of an entirely new move set.
Outside of combat, the wirebugs also let you zip around the map with an ease never seen in Monster Hunter before. The lush, complex maps of World were beautiful, but they could be a pain to get around. This is never the case in Rise. Your personal wirebugs let you vault towards walls to climb them, and special wirebugs are scattered throughout the level that vault you halfway across the map. Closing smaller gaps is easier with the introduction of a dog companion that you can ride, even sharpening your weapon or drinking potions while in motion. And since every monster is displayed on the map at all times, the old, tedious game of trotting slowly through an area trying to find your target is gone. Getting to a monster is always just a few seconds away, even if it’s on the opposite end of the map.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
Monster Hunter is a franchise known for eating up the player’s time, but Rise isn’t guilty of this. New players may disagree because there still isn’t a good tutorial to show them what to do or how to do it efficiently, but for those who can get past that initial wall, almost all of your time will be spent fighting monsters or crafting new gear from their parts. This frees up more time for things like exploring the levels, which is surprisingly fun to do in Rise, or even learning new weapons. Building from the improvements made in World, the weapons have been fine-tuned to not be nearly as complex as they used to be — with far fewer dead-end combos that leave you standing there mashing buttons to no avail — without stripping away the mechanics that make them fun and unique. The mobility options that come with the wirebugs also let you zip out of danger in an instant, so experimenting during combat is easier than ever.
With the sheer number of quests to do and weapons to learn, it’s easy to see how someone can sink hundreds of hours into Rise. I had to write this review well before finishing all the content in the game because it would’ve been another few months before I could see everything. To be clear, I could have mainlined the quests to see the real ending and be deep into the endgame at 70 hours, but I chose instead to savor the experience and take my time, crafting extra armor sets and weapons to take advantage of the next monster, even when it wasn’t strictly necessary. The single player portion can be finished in a dozen hours or so, depending on your skill level, and even more quickly if you rush through it. You don’t need to play for hundreds of hours, but the option is there if you want it.
The best thing I can say about Rise is that it’s already satisfying. In the past, we would have had to wait for the Ultimate version of a game to open up the endgame (and spend full price on it). That’s where the real game would begin, at least to the more hardcore fans. World was lacking this until the Iceborne expansion arrived to add more monsters, more quests, and more combat tweaks. Rise doesn’t feel like it needs a huge expansion to open it up. One may come in the future to expand the game even further, which would be awesome, but it’s already great as it is.
Honestly, I’m most happy about the return of the ability to pause a hunt and return to it later. The always-online nature of World made it difficult to play when I had to dedicate large chunks of time for each hunt. With the suspend feature on the Switch, I might take on a single hunt over the course of two or three days in several sessions of just a few minutes each. This is how I prefer to play Monster Hunter, and while the graphical fidelity has taken a huge hit by being on the Switch, it’s definitely the best place to whack monsters ’til they keel over so far.