Monster Hunter Rise is the newest Monster Hunter game out now, and also the first dedicated to the Nintendo Switch from the ground up. This is the total package offering smooth onboarding for new players, depth and complexity if you want it plus potentially hundreds of hours of gameplay.
There are a certain speed and fluidity to Monster Hunter Rise that I haven’t encountered before; running into battle at full speed on the back of your palamute canine buddy, jumping at the right time and swinging your Sword, Axe or Hammer right into a huge monster’s face, landing and then pulling off a seamless combo to finish the hunt. I don’t think I’ve ever actually pulled off the seamless combo bit, but you get my drift.
Monster Hunter Rise is the latest addition to the Monster Hunter family, which exploded in popularity since the release of Monster Hunter World back in 2018. Monster Hunter fans would protest saying this was a hugely popular franchise long before World and Iceborn were even thought of, but Monster Hunter World took it to new levels in the West. Monster Hunter Rise does a great job as a follow-up and now has the added bonus of being able to play it on the go, on the sofa or in bed on Nintendo Switch.
The main gameplay loop of Monster Hunter is the same, although there are so many tweaks and improvements here that mainly focus on the speed of battle. As a newly qualified Hunter, it’s your job to go out there into battle, pick your choice of weapon and buddies and then battle to the bitter end where fights can end in capture or death. I haven’t yet captured a Monster, and I probably should… there’s just something very satisfying in taking down the huge monster and making a new pair of trousers out of their hide.
There are loads of monsters to fight, 14 weapons to learn, palamutes to train and a village to save… there’s potential in here for many, many hours lost in hunts. One big drawback of Monster Hunter games in the past is new players ability to get into the games. There’s so many systems, characters, terminology to learn that it all can be a little overwhelming. The Monster battles aren’t a walk in the park either and sometimes you can be banging your head against a brick wall trying to defeat a monster for 50 minutes, only to fall on your final life and have to do it all over again. Monster Hunter Rise does a good job of adding plenty of quality of life updates, and although the game isn’t quite as stunning as Monster Hunter World, it’s still a very good looking game.
The stars of the show are the monsters themselves. There’s 30+ on the release of Monster Hunter Rise and there are more coming (at the end of April). The range of monsters is very impressive – you have your standard dragon-type monsters, but there’s a lot more variety here in Rise with Bears, Duck-Billed beasts, lizards, Monsters that fly, monsters that live in the water. There’s a lot of variety here, which means battles always tend to throw something new at you (sometimes quite literally).
As well as the large variety of Monsters there’s a good variety of places to fight. You have your swamps, hills and mountains, snow-covered terrain and much more as you progress through the game. The verticality of the levels was something that struck me too, which is all now easier to reach thanks to one of the biggest innovations found in Monster Hunter Rise and that’s the Wirebug.
The Wirebug is a grappling hook of sorts that you can make appear on command allowing you to jump, evade and even help you jump on the back of monsters and ride them around, or force them to attack other monsters for you. The Wirebug really helps out with the overall pace of Monster Hunter Rise. There are still times you’ll be trudging around a monster if you pick a heavy weapon, but the Wirebug gives you the ability to jump into the sky, fling out a grapple and fly towards a monster pulling on a spectacular move before pounding your weapon into their face. Much like many of the mechanics in Monster Hunter games, it does take a little bit of getting used to, but it’s definitely one of the biggest improvements over other Monster Hunter Games.
Monster Hunter Rise gets you going nice and quickly and into the hunts straight away. If you are new to the franchise there’s going to be a lot of tutorials, reading and practice to get to grips with early on. Don’t be afraid to try out the range of weapons on offer, as each weapon helps the game feel fresh each time. Whether you’re an expert with the Dual Blade, Hunting Horn or the Switch Axe there’s variety in there that will keep you coming back time after time.
There are a few key things to learn about Monster Hunter – Understand your weapon, understand the Monster and its attack patterns and also your environment. There’s a decent training mode in the game that will allow you to get to grips with your weapon of choice and learning the environment, in terms of the flowers and things you can pick up to give you an array of buffs throughout the battle, at first it’s all a little much. However, stick with it because it’ll soon become second nature. Monsters themselves may seem large and ferocious at first, but after a few hunts, you’ll understand there’s a set pattern to their attacks. Learn the attack patterns, combine that with some useful combos with your selected weapon and you’ll be golden.
There is a story campaign although it’s fairly light on the actual story and really just a vehicle to get you into the battle, around the village talking to NPCs and then back into battle again. There’s a multiplayer hub where you can team up with other hunters, although you can get through these sections quickly. During the campaign, I tried to split my time evenly in the village quests and the multiplayer quests, but it’s up to you how you tackle these missions.
Another great addition to Monster Hunter Rise is your Palamute, or your dog. We’ve had cats in Monster Hunter for ages, but now we have mounts which once again (like the wirebug) add to the pace of the game making it feel fast and fluid. Jump on the back of your palamute and chase down a monster. This helps in reducing the frustration when a monster decides to run away during the battle – they still do this, but at least you can now chase them down on the back of a speeding canine friend. And yes, you can pet the Palamute in Monster Hunter Rise. Another good thing about Palamute’s is you can perform actions while riding on their backs like sharpening and recovering health and stamina. Palamutes are a great addition to the game, and part of the quality of life package that helps elevate Monster Hunter Rise above other versions of the franchise.
As well as your Palamute, the familiar Palico’s return (your little cat friends). They help out in battles, offering up some damage and other buffs to help you out in battle, meaning when paired with the Palamute you have two buddies in effect helping in battle. There’s also a buddy system where you can find new buddies, train them and even send them out on errands in little submarines where they’ll gather resources and items while you are away in battle.
Rampage events are another new feature in Rise, which are similar to a type of Tower Defence mode where you build defences and mounted guns, trying to take down multiple monsters at the same time and in a small space. I didn’t find this mode as fun at the main gameplay loop, but it’s a nice side attraction.
The package of improvements here in Rise can’t be understated in terms of how they affect gameplay – speed being the main impact. Getting into and out of battle, using the fantastic new wirebug to jump into battle and then mount monsters to use them as weapons, it all adds up to a much more fun experience. I’ve not spent as much time as I would have liked with Monster Hunter World and other games in the franchise, however, Monster Hunter Rise feels instantly better, more satisfying and fun. There’s still hurdles to overcome for newcomers like understanding the nuance of the weapons, learning about armour and crafting plus overcoming the difficulty of the hunts themselves. Capcom appears to have lowered the barriers to entry earlier in the game to get you into the action, then there’s enough detail to keep you around and then hook you to come back for more.
I’ve still got much more to discover in Monster Hunter Rise, but I find myself thinking about it when I am not in the world. I’m looking up weapon guides while I take my daily walks, I’m actively seeking weapon tutorials to understand new combos or how to unleash more powerful attacks. It’s always a great sign if a game gets inside your head and you are thinking about strategies when you’re away from the screen. The simple fact I can now take Monster Hunter with me on my travels is great.
I’m really enjoying my time with Monster Hunter Rise and I’d recommend it to anyone who has a Nintendo Switch. It’s got the potential to be one of the best and biggest Nintendo Switch games out there. The learning curve may be steep, but the rewards are huge if you can push through those small roadblocks. The game is charming, it’ll make you laugh at times, there’s the pain of defeat and the triumph in a successful hunt… it’s really got the whole package. You can get by scratching the surface of a Monster Hunter games, but it’s only going to get you so far. These games are designed with hundreds of hours of play in mind, and I’m finally starting to understand why there’s such a feverous fanbase of the series. I only wish I had discovered this earlier.
Platform: Nintendo Switch (PC in 2022)
Availability: 26th March 2020