The rampage looms and Magnamalo draws near, but can you survive the hunt and have no fear? Making its debut on the Nintendo Switch, Monster Hunter Rise features new ways to ride, explore and slay beasts with the addition of palamutes, wyvern riding and the wirebug mechanic. With all-new monsters and firm-favourites back in play, Rise continues to deliver hours of fun and bags of challenge in solo play or with friends.
The Monster Hunter franchise has traditionally been a quest in perseverance, especially for newcomers. As new hunters repeatedly wade through mud trying to find a weapon to suit their play style, the phrase, ‘just stick with it’ comes to mind. This love-hate relationship with the series’ mechanics, lack of tutorials and clunky controls can be a major turn-off for those who genuinely lack the time to dedicate to learning the system. Fortunately, the franchise’s development team has learned much from its critically acclaimed, multi-platform title Monster Hunter: World, which was released for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Windows back in 2018. Inspired greatly by World and based on continuous player feedback, Monster Hunter Rise is now the series’ most accessible game to newcomers. Refinements include a much easier to navigate user interface, weapon trees and wishlists, tutorials that explain the basics for hunting, wyvern riding and rampages, alongside the ability to easily track and target large monsters without the use of paintballs. For the first time, Monster Hunter truly feels like a ‘pick up and play’ title – and that’s perfect for the Switch.
According to a recent interview with the game’s director Yasunori Ichinose, Monster Hunter Rise was initially planned to utilise the game’s more traditional zone-loading map system, as reported by The Verge. But since the success of World’s open environments, the development team adopted the same approach for Rise. Consequently, zero loading screens makes for a much faster pace and a seamless hunting experience. And, by using the Capcom RE Engine, Rise presents beautiful landmarks in sharp visuals without losing the quirky anime appeal that’s become the heart and soul of the series for many. This optimisation to enable portable gameplay, while using similar mechanics to World, is perhaps why Monster Hunter Rise just feels so good to play, no matter whether it’s in docked or in handheld mode.
Beginning your adventure in the idyllic Kamura Village, Monster Hunter Rise delivers an intriguing story mode that’s designed around monster slaying and rampage defence quests. In this single-player mode, the monstrosity named Magnamalo has threatened the livelihood of Kamura Village’s inhabitants as it feeds off the strength of the rampage. Your mission, as hunter and protector of the village, is to separate Magnamalo from the horde by slaying monsters through urgent quests and to defend against those hordes in the rampage, a tower-defence quest that’s key to storyline progression.
For newcomers, village quests offer much more intuitive learning experiences than those found in Monster Hunter Generations or Ultimate. Well-paced tutorials in learning the basics of hunting and the 14 weapons available, alongside the game’s new features, such as the wirebug mechanic, wyvern and palamute riding – as mentioned in our first impressions article – help to set the scene. Cumbersome controls certainly dilute the experience, though. For instance, cycling through menus are still locked to the cross-pad – as was the case on the 3DS – instead of the more intuitive and natural feel with the left and right control sticks. The Wirebug mechanic also requires a steep learning curve, as producer Ryōzō Tsujimoto has admitted, and can be fairly finnicky to use both in and outside of combat. Though once learnt, it can be a real game-changer with the level of depth the mechanic brings to monster hunting. Palamute riding on your canyne companion fares much better with fast gathering and the ability to use your whetstone, take a potion and eat a ration while on the move. However, if your palamute is swept up in combat, the ride command is not instantaneous meaning it can take a while for the game’s mechanics to respond. At most, these are minor flaws and won’t stop a seasoned hunter from returning to the fray.
Incidentally, veteran hunters can jump straight into the fun at the Gathering Hub. Available from the beginning, the Gathering Hub is where hunters can take part in quests either on their own or with others in local and online multiplayer. Increasing your Hunter Rank by tackling key quests through slaying or trapping monsters and upgrading your weapons and gear through monster part upgrades is part and parcel of Rise’s core gameplay. While village quests also enable you to improve your gear, you can only increase your Hunter Rank by participating in Gathering Hub key quests. Of course, like with previous Monster Hunter games, there is much repetition in quests. Between hunting the Great Wroggi and Tetranadon in the Shrine Ruins to major threats like Magnamalo in the Lava Caverns, village and gathering hub quests share the same challenges, albeit in slightly different locations. However, the gathering hub offers much wider appeal when played with other hunters online.
Having played approximately six hours in online multiplayer, it’s easy to see why Monster Hunter Rise’s appeal is elevated to new heights when playing with others. Previously monotonous, easy hunts become much more diverse and fun, while automatically scaling in challenge depending on how many players are with you on the quest. Simply join or create a lobby with set parameters (these allow you to choose the Hunter Rank, language and play style) via the Palico Courier in Kamura Village, then head into the Gathering Hub and join others easily by searching the Quest Board. And since there’s a canteen, supply box and smithy all in one area, there’s no reason to leave the hub, saving on time and accelerating the feel of the hunt.
If you’ve enjoyed trapping monsters with others in online multiplayer, you can send them a ‘like’ on quest completion, freely chat with them (via in-game chat menus) and swap guild cards to make it easier to join them on future hunts. Sadly, the game doesn’t utilise the Nintendo Voice Chat app, though this can be rectified through Discord, if you so wish. And while we haven’t experienced the joys of local multiplayer yet, the online multiplayer servers enabled smooth gameplay throughout with no technical hitches or lags. We hope this will continue when the servers officially go live on the game’s launch day.
Monster Hunter Rise also keeps players on their toes with ‘The Rampage’. This tower-defence style minigame offers an interesting diversion from the core gameplay. While tied to story progression, the rampage is also available in multiplayer mode via the Gathering Hub, meaning communication via Discord or other similar apps is crucial. In the rampage, players are tasked with setting up contraptions, such as ballistas, cannons, bamboo bombs and one-time installations like Fugen the Elder, to take down monsters before they break through the village’s main gate. By placing these installations – which are either mountable by the player or used autonomously by villagers – in strategically defensive and advantageous positions, large monsters can be wiped out in a cinch. The challenge, however, dawns on players when several monsters (known as hordes) are attacking at once. This means players must think fast, be light on their feet by traversing the area quickly with their wirebug and switch up installations if they are in a bind.
With only 120 seconds between each horde, there’s not much time to dawdle, making for intense fights that can be both extremely frustrating and equally satisfying. These frustrations often come to the fore when players are in the heat of battle, constantly targeted by ‘smaller monsters’ such as the Great Izuchi, Great Wroggi, Azuros and aerial Wyverns, making it much harder to take out the heavy-damage dealers first. Perhaps a top-down tactician role here would have served a much greater purpose in emphasising the strategy. While enjoyable, it’s clear this mode still has some kinks that require ironing out.
Outside of the main quests, Monster Hunter Rise also enables players to take on optional side quests to raise their Kamura village points, which can then be spent in the canteen or through training palico and palamute buddies in the Buddy Plaza. Although all hunters start out with two buddies, you can hire more (tailored to your liking) in the plaza and send them out on quests of their own through the Meowcenaries or via trade quests to obtain rarer items. Like the other games in the series, it’s great to see these areas returning, nevertheless.
With renewed accessibility for newcomers and superb new features for seasoned hunters to get to grips with, Monster Hunter Rise is an enjoyable action RPG that refines many of World’s most successful mechanics. Its impressive scale on screen, combined with its sheer depth in gameplay, makes for a great portable and challenging title. Though not without its flaws, Monster Hunter Rise certainly has the potential to reach a new generation of hunters on the Switch, alongside PC players with its expected arrival on Windows systems next year. Perhaps the question is not whether you will rise to the challenge, but when? And remember, it’s not for the faint of heart.
A review copy of Monster Hunter Rise was provided to My Nintendo News by Nintendo UK.