Review – Monster Hunter Rise
Over the past few years the Monster Hunter franchise has become one of my most played games, with hundreds of hours across multiple platforms. It combines fantastic boss fight-based combat with a superb sense of progression and loot with a purpose. Monster Hunter World is one of those games I played any chance that I could. Even the Iceborne expansion offered much more than any brand new standalone game, with tons of content to dig into and an even more impressive post-launch offering.
World is a game that I kept coming back to, being a great game to jump on with friends, but it’s time to move on. Now three years later we are introduced to a new Monster Hunter game. One that goes back to its core fanbase on Nintendo consoles. Monster Hunter Rise is the next major entry in Capcom’s long running franchise, this time taking the game to a more Feudal Japan influenced setting.
You play as a newly appointed Hunter for the Kamura Village. You’re sent out on quests to prepare themselves for “The Rampage”, an event that sends nearby monsters on a rampage to attack the village. Nobody knows what is causing the rampage and this serves as the central mystery for the game. As always, the story here is mostly used simply to introduce its new gameplay mechanics and host of new monsters you will be battling throughout the story and beyond.
For the uninitiated, Monster Hunter is about hunting monsters, carving them, and building better gear from their corpses. This allows you to further improve your performance in battle and allow you to take on greater threats. There’s a ton of armour and weapons to build in-game, all requiring multiple parts of a monster. So you’ll need to go back and keep killing monsters and breaking specifics body parts during a fight. It’s a constantly exciting gameplay loop that forces you to progress.
There’s a ton of variety across its fourteen weapon classes. Each have their own moveset and feel which drastically changes how to play the game. There’s an impressive range of variety here catering to many playstyles. You have weapons ranging from the basic long sword and great sword, all the way up to more exciting things such as a Switch Axe and Hunting Horn. Personally, I’m an Insect Glaive main and it’s always a blast to soar above the monster in spectacular fashion, performing aerial combo’s and dodges while rarely touching the ground.
It wouldn’t be a Monster Hunter game without a strong roster of monsters to fight. These range from returning fan favourites, such as Narcacuga, Khezu, and Zinoge all providing familiar yet interesting challenges. Then we have the new additions including the brand new flagship monster known as Magnamalo, who is some of the most fun I’ve had in my time with the series. It easily jumps near the top of my list. Each monster has their own unique attacks and strategies that change depending on the situations. There’s plenty of variety here in monster designs, especially when you reach the high rank monsters where things really ramp up.
If you are coming straight from World, you will notice some changes straight off the bat. To start, progression between the village and the hub have been split up again to bring it more in-line with older entries. The village is now a strictly solo experience, although this also makes it feel decidedly easier than World. I was disappointed the main questline didn’t present much of a challenge until reaching a higher rank. The hub on the other hand is largely the same experience, being able to bring up to three friends along on your hunts. This is when Monster Hunter is at its very best.
A new game mode known as “The Rampage” adds a layer of tower defense strategy to the franchise. It’s all about prioritising targets with your team of hunters and setting up weapons to help you deal with the onslaught. It’s a decent enough addition, but I’m not sure if it will hold up in the long run without something to make it more interesting. As a whole though, this is largely a direct successor to World. All the streamlined elements are back, taking out much of the tedium of the franchise that made it difficult for most to get into. Instead, it focuses on all the franchise strengths. There’s tons to discover and some surprising changes sprinkled throughout that I won’t get into here. If you liked World, you will like Monster Hunter Rise.
Whilst the gameplay feels very much like a refinement over World, Rise has a lot of tricks up its sleeves. As the name implies, Rise has a lot more verticality than ever before, with your hunter able to wall run up and across walls to reach higher places. That’s not all though; Palamute’s make their debut appearance as incredibly helpful doggo companions. They not only are able to help you in combat, but are also available to ride; an extension of the mechanics introduces back in Iceborne. You can collect resources and sharpen your weapon whilst riding your Palamute as well. These features alone help cut back on travel time, allowing you to make it to the fight very quickly. Of course the mainstay Palicos return as well.
Then you’ve got the Wirebugs, which is by far the biggest addition to this game and replaces the slinger. This is a multifunctional tool that will assist you in traversal both inside and outside of combat. Outside of combat, they will allow you to reach higher places much quicker. As you begin to master the movement, you will quickly come up with your own routes through the map that allow you to collect resources and endemic life to help you in your hunts. Combined with the wall running and Palamutes, you can get across the map in seconds.
However, it’s in combat where the Wirebugs truly shine, allowing you to quickly reposition yourself or perform aerial attacks with any weapon. Not only that, if you get knocked back you no longer have to wait; hitting ZL+B will get you back onto your feet. This quicker flow in Rise‘s gameplay is a nice change of pace and means every second in a hunt is impactful.
Finally, we have Wyvern Riding. This is where you see the efforts made to mounting and the clutch claw in the previous entry come into place. Whilst it was exciting seeing the Turf Wars before (and trust me they are still here), this allows you to jump straight onto a monster and battle with another. It’s exciting stuff that allows you to live your Kaiju battling dreams. Whilst I do miss the mounting mechanics from before, this is a fine replacement. Although, the controls are a bit wonky and I wish they were a bit more difficult to pull off. They require very little strategy. There’s also a weirdly jarring cut to black when mounting that can take you out of the experience. A weird nitpick, but one that happens often enough to mention.
For the first time in years, the Monster Hunter franchise has swapped from the Capcom owned NT Frameworks engine to their much better RE Engine. We have been impressed with this engine many times before, with Resident Evil 7, Resident Evil 2 Remake, and Devil May Cry 5 being technical showcases. But we’ve never really seen it on Switch until now and I think we got something truly special and a tease of what’s to come.
The game looks amazing with a stunning art style that carries the visuals. Armour sets and weapons all look fantastic across the board, whilst monsters themselves just look incredible on the Switch. The only downside is with the environments, which can often look lacking in detail. They never had that “wow” factor that World had. Considering it’s running weaker hardware than the last generation of consoles, it definitely looks impressive. As for framerate, you are looking at an almost solid 30fps, with only a few dips here and there. It’s an impressive Switch game and I highly doubt we will see anything better. I also played the vast majority of the game in handheld mode.
Sound design is also excellent. In fact, I think this is the strongest we’ve seen in a Monster Hunter game. The new battle music in the forest area is one of the best I’ve heard in a long time and the new rendition of “Proof of a Hero” adds an amazing Feudal Japanese flair to it. Elsewhere, we have some decent enough voice acting. Although, one of the weirdest additions is actual voice lines for your Hunter in battle. Surely a divisive change, but one I actually really enjoyed.
Monster Hunter Rise is an excellent continuation of the Monster Hunter franchise, feeling more like a refinement to its predecessor’s already excellent Iceborne expansion. This is a game I will be coming back to over and over again. I’m very much looking forward to the PC release next year.
The RE Engine makes its debut appearance on Switch is a solid one. Although, it is lacking in some areas.
The same core gameplay from World is here, but with some welcome additions.
The soundtrack is incredible with some decent enough voice acting.
Monster Hunter Rise is an absolute blast and one game that I will be coming back to until the next entry.
Final Verdict: 9.5
Monster Hunter Rise available now on Switch.
Reviewed on Switch.
A copy of Monster Hunter Rise was provided by the publisher.