One of the simplest joys in video games is being let loose against a challenging foe with a weapon and associated moveset that feels satisfying to use, transforming a sequence of button presses and spatial considerations into an exhilarating battle.
As a series, Monster Hunter understands this, and executes on the premise with aplomb, giving players not one, but 14 different weapons to choose from, each one with a nuanced moveset that could support a whole game on its own. The fearsome greatsword is a slow, lumbering weapon that hits with incredible force; bowguns let users pepper monsters from afar with varying ammo types; the insect glaive allows users to hop around in the air whilst slicing at monsters; there’s no end to the creativity on display.
Monster Hunter Rise takes this practice even further, throwing in a whole new combat mechanic in the form of the Wirebug. Each weapon has multiple wirebug moves that can be unlocked, from awesome leaps that let you crash down with force, to lateral dashes that see your hunter yanked along with fearsome kinetic force, as well as variations on stock moves like the Gunlance reload and the Bow dodge, which receive exicint new variants.
As a hunter, you’ll need these new tricks – along with the vital wirebug dodge which yanks you out of your long recovery animations – to keep pace with the new roster. Many series favourites such as Lagombi, Rathain, Rathalos, Nargacuga and Diablos return. Many of these old monsters are given slight reworks too, especially in High Rank. Rathalos and Diablos keep their well-storied repertoire of moves that hunters have grown to love and hate over time, but they also have the ability to shock with new combos and attacks, such as Rathalos’ fearsome lightning fast airborne flamethrower attack. Increased movement via the wirebug takes some of the pressure out of these high intensity encounters, but dodging at the wrong time still means disaster as monsters will juggle you if you get greedy.
Rise‘s dream lineup is further bolstered by a whole host of new Monsters, each of which is brimming with personality derived from the game’s Japanese folklore setting. Newcomer Bishaten is a strange ape/bird hybrid that throws fruit at you with the strange hand at the end of its prehensile tail, whilst Aknosom is a large, heron-like bird with flowing plumage that, when stood on one leg, looks like the famous umbrella styled Kasa-Obake demon. Each of these monsters is introduced with a foreboding Noh theatre style cutscene, where a narrator intones the behaviours of the monster backed by classic Japanese instrumentation.
The confluence of influences is felt most in Rise‘s headliner: the fearsome Magnamalo, a hulking quadruped with bony protrusions, and a trident tail which brings to mind the heavily armoured form of a Samurai with a massive spear. It attacks with clouds of blasting powder generated by glowing purple bugs which look like menacing spirits, and the scrappy battles you’ll have with it are filled with all the tension and explosive releases of violence of a classic Chambara film.
The japanese influence extends beyond the monsters, with environments taking you from a ruined shrine complex in a bamboo forest, to a frozen waste dotted shrines and temples in hard to reach places. The new hub is also set in Kamura village, an idyllic Japanese village nestled next to a waterfall, where twin shrine Maidens give out quests, and a peppy chef cooks delicious dango skewers for you to consume in preparation for a hunt.
Overall this entry is streamlined in quests, and out of quests. Inventory management and resourcing gathering is much slicker, and it’s amazing to look back to entries as recent as 4U and see how much has changed. During hunts traversal is much improved by the inclusion of wallrunning and wire bug grapples, but introduction of a new type of buddy really seals the deal. Palamutes are dogs that are combat specialists, so don’t expect any buffs or heals from them, but they open up your traversals options even further.
Riding your Palamute around the maps (which are contiguous, like previous entry World) is a joy, and you don’t even need to get off to pick up honey, herbs or mine minerals from outcrops. Permabuffers that float around the environment also offer an incentive to explore alternate routes whilst dashing to the monster. These color coded birds carry power nectar which can buff your health, damage, stamina and defense, depending on which Pentalace accessory you are carrying.
All in all, just existing in the world of Monster Hunter is given new life by these additions – there’s scope to explore to find permabuffers, new endemic life which grants effects on use, and mysterious relics that reward you with story notes and trinkets to display in your house.
Whilst the environments are lacking the interactive nature of World, and are slightly less twisty and multi-leveled, the concessions aren’t massive, and if anything the larger spaces allow for some fantastic battles, especially online. Rise might be somewhat of a visual downgrade thanks to the Switch’s lower power, but it is utilising the RE Engine, which somehow allows for incredible multi monster mashups, highlighted by Rise‘s Rampage missions: tower defence style brawls which see you repel hordes of monsters with ballista and cannon emplacements.
With all of the improvements, Rise might be a little overwhelming for newcomers, but the game’s Village story mode features much weaker monsters than previous iterations, which allows players speed up progress, farm gear, and practice with multiple weapons. Unlike World‘s synthesis of Offline and Online content into one storyline, Rise also returns to the traditional split: Hub quests are the meat of the game, and Monsters here are vicious beasts with swollen health pools. High Rank, and additional Switch Skills for each weapon are also hidden behind High Rank Hub quests, but these are all doable solo if you so chose.
I currently have around 60 hours of the game under my belt, evenly split between Multiplayer and I can safely say that Rise is a towering achievement for the series. Every weapon feels viable, and the expanded movesets are excellent to use. Gunlance users can now rocketblast their way into combat before slamming down, and hammer wielders are able to launch themselves great distances without needing to slide around beforehand.
There’s so much to mention that I haven’t even found time to mention Wyvern Riding yet: you can ride monsters with your wirebug and cause them to attack each other, or send them careening into walls – each monster has their own set of moves they can unleash, and if you get enough damage in, you can do a huge finisher, tied to each monster’s signature moves such as Volvidon’s erratic bouncing or Tigrex’s vicious bulrushes.
Every new monster is a huge injection personality, and it’s best that players experience them all for themselves without spoilers, but it’s worth noting the theme of the game allows for a giant sumo wrestling frog to exist alongside a vicious brute that breathes ice onto its claws to create huge frozen scythes, and that in itself is a testament to how varied and inventive the launch lineup is.
As with each entry into the series, the future will hold new hunts, and new story missions, and they will determine whether the back-end of the game holds up into the future, but the new armour sets bodes well for those who like to optimise builds to the best of their ability. From a personal perspective, the weapon designs this time around look more interesting than they did in World, keeping with the fresh and flavourful aesthetic that Capcom have brought to Rise.
‘Monster Hunter Rise’ is now available on Nintendo Switch and PC.
Whichever way you slice it, Rise is Monster Hunter at its best. Whilst World brought the series to a more mainstream audience, it did so at the cost of some of the wider variety that fans of the series were used to in games like 4U and Generations. Rise understands that the weirdness of Monster Hunter‘s varied roster is key to its continued success, and given that the launch roster is already stronger than World, it’s likely that future updates will cause it to blossom into the most comprehensive entry the series has had so far.
Unparalleled movement, inventive weapon changes, gorgeous locals, and a setting inspired by Japanese folklore all blend together to make this a truly wonderful experience whether you play it solo, with friends, or on with random hunting acquaintances. Given that the game will only get better with time, it’s easy to call Rise what it is: The greatest Monster Hunter yet.
- Wirebug and Switch Skills make Monster Hunter‘s already wonderful combat even better
- The new Japanese settings bleeds into everything, including the new monsters
- At launch the Monster Roster is already one of the best ever, and it’s only set to grow over time.
- Streamlining of movement and hub preparations improve overall quality of life significantly
- Online is seamless and without hitches, and overall performance is great considering the amount of action
- Like all Monster Hunter games, it will be overwhelming for newcomers
- At times the game can look a little muddy, due to the Switch’s performance
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