‘MONSTER HUNTER RISE’: GAME REVIEW
Monster Hunter: World propelled Capcom’s venerable series into the mainstream when it launched in 2018 on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Much of the gameplay and features that made that game so popular are now coming to the Nintendo Switch with Monster Hunter Rise‘s release, along with new aspects and tweaks that’ll delight most fans.
At its core, the game succeeds in delivering a facsimile of the experience found in Monster Hunter: World, but fans should be aware that this is more of a side game than the next big thing in the franchise. Rise is very much World writ small, which isn’t surprising given the Switch’s weaker hardware. As such, some parts of the game feel lacking in comparison.
Rise contains the same gameplay loop that the series has built upon for years: fight monsters, craft better weapons and armor, fight stronger monsters, repeat. However, the overall experience is streamlined compared to previous games. You’re introduced to the various systems quicker, and the tutorial experience, in general, is less overbearing. The hub area is also more compact than the two found in World and its subsequent expansion, 2019’s Iceborne, making stopovers in town quicker.
Palamutes and Cahoots are new buddies that join your Felyne to help you on your journey. Palamutes, in addition to being adorable, help by attacking in battle, and gear sets can be crafted for them and equipped just like the can with Felynes. The most useful function Palamutes serve, though, is transportation. You can ride Palamutes and even attack or use items while doing so. This is a great way to save stamina and makes each hunt quicker overall. Cahoots take the place of World’s Scoutflies and recon the map for you. This includes marking the location of all major monsters on the map at the start of a hunt, which makes tracking down your target a much quicker affair.
Rise includes the 14 weapon types from World, which makes the transition between the games a snap. The most significant addition to the game is the Wirebug. This mechanic works a bit like the Clutch Claw introduced in Iceborne, but with some added features. Players can zip around by wire-dashing, which adds to the game’s offensive and defensive movement options. The Wirebug also adds Silkbind attacks to the player’s repertoire, which are used in new weapon combos. Silkbinding is also used to activate another new combat feature: Wyvern Riding.
Wyvern Riding is the evolution of monster mounting from Monster Hunter: World. Instead of just jumping on a monster and attacking it, players can Silkbind a susceptible monster and ride it. While riding a monster, you can move around with it, cause it to attack, or simply slam it into the nearest surface. Wyvern Riding can only be done for a limited amount of time, which is signified by a diamond-shaped gauge. However, by performing or evading attacks, you can fill a second gauge that allows you to execute a Mounted Punisher attack. This strong attack will cause massive damage to the target and also end your Wyvern Ride.
This time around, players are hunters in the Japanese-themed Kamura Village. The overarching story is tied to a mysterious phenomenon affecting Monsters in the area called The Rampage. It’s causing monsters to act more aggressively and attack the village, allowing players to partake in one of the game’s new events. Rampages have players defending the village from these attacks using defensive emplacements alongside the villagers and give the same vibe that the attack on Zorah Magdaros did in Monster Hunter: World.
Overall, the maps in Rise feel like a step back from World. There’s roughly the same amount of space and there’s also more verticality because of the Wirebugs, but monsters don’t feel as tied to the environment as they do in World. Take the Ancient Forest, for example. The cave feels like it’s where the Great Jagras should live, and it makes sense when you find the Ratholos roosting in the branches of the huge ancient trees. Additionally, there’s no need to track monsters anymore since their locations are marked at the beginning of a hunt, so things like footprints and disturbed fauna are gone as well.
In Rise, the first area, the Shrine Ruins, is good-looking (for a Switch game), but the monsters don’t necessarily feel like a part of it. The creatures don’t have designated nests and tend to roam more of the map. There also aren’t a lot of interactions between monsters and the environment. Also, because monsters knocking each other down allows for Wyvern Riding, there are a lot more Turf Wars, but they lack the cinematic punch many of the titanic showdowns in Monster Hunter: World do. The maps are more open in general, but it makes them feel more like corridors. World has a lot more contrast between claustrophobic passages and wide-open areas that seems more natural, whereas Rise is mostly medium-sized areas connected by straight paths.
One of my favorite parts of Monster Hunter: World was how all the aspects of an area combined into an ecological whole. So, while Rise contains the gameplay elements of World, it’s missing some of the smaller details that added to the immersion. This isn’t the developer’s fault by any means and any blame here most likely lays on the Switch’s shoulders. The game runs well considering the hardware, but that performance likely came at the cost of some of the critters and doodads that made World‘s environments feel so much more vibrant.
Monster Hunter Rise does a great job of delivering a new take on the experience fans loved in World to the Switch. However, something crucial was lost in the transition to weaker hardware. The core gameplay is there, and for many players, that’s more than enough, but many small details didn’t make the cut. As a result, Rise is much more mobile-friendly and the quality-of-life changes that make hunts go by quicker will likely be welcomed by those who are more apt to play the game on the move.
Photo courtesy of Capcom