I love hunting monsters. I want to preface my review with that. Joining the series many moons ago with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on both Wii U and 3DS, I’ve found myself excited for each new release, even going out of my way to play the 3DS games 4G and Double Cross before they hit western shores. It’s a marvellous series of grinding for the sake of grinding, and having a great time doing so with friends. Quite happily, I can say Rise is no different in this department.
The setting of our latest entry to the series is Kamura Village, a traditional Japanese-themed environment. As a recently-qualified hunter, it’s your job to go out on quests and strategically hit things to death with an assortment of fun weapons. The game doesn’t give you much in the way of plot to sink your teeth into. Monsters are getting angrier than usual and attacking the village in what is known as a Rampage. This is the first time it’s happened in 50 years, and you’d better be sure you’re going to find out what’s causing it! After a small bulk of text to introduce you to the village and the various shops you’ll no doubt be frequenting, you’re left to your own devices as to how you want to progress through the game.
As with the majority of previous games, World excluded, quests are split into two categories: Village and Gathering Hub, with quests further split between low and high rank. Typically speaking, village quests are where you’ll find the game’s story. Featuring monsters with weaker attacks and less HP, this is the exclusively single player portion of the game, and the ideal place to start for newcomers or those who want to explore what little narrative there is. Hub on the other hand is where the multiplayer content, and often the bulk of the quests lie. Featuring tougher monsters that are usually balanced to tackle multiple hunters at once, hub quests are where the real challenge and meat of the game can be found. Wanting to experience all that the game has to offer, I decided to start with village.
Village quests are broken down much as they have been in previous games. You have different ranks of difficulty, denoted by stars, with you needing to beat set quests in each rank to progress to the next. Rinse and repeat until you’re playing quests in the highest rank. One of the most significant quality of life changes jumps out to you as soon as you enter the quest menu: key quests are marked. And you don’t need to beat every key quest to progress. What this means for people who perhaps don’t want to meander through every quest is that they can pick and choose the ones that sound best for them. Not having to check a guide online to find out what’s required is a brilliant bonus too.
Posing between quests became a regular occurrence.
Looking at the quests themselves, I find myself mixed. As you work through what’s on offer in Kamura Village, you’ll find yourself constantly put against new threats. That’s great. It keeps things fresh. Where my problem lies is in the fact that these new threats are the vast majority of the content; that is to say a quest that requires you to hunt a single monster. I like hunting monsters, but I want more. With Generations Ultimate as its Switch predecessor, I almost feel spoiled for just how much was available to me. There were double monster hunts, hunt-a-thons where you’d be required to hunt at least three, quests based in the arena, standard three, four, five monster quests. More than anything, there were quests, numerically speaking. Looking solely at the low rank village offerings of Generations Ultimate, I could count 189 available quests on my incomplete save file. Village quests here total 53, with more than half of these being a single monster hunt to make said monster available to you. One pleasant surprise to village questing is how it does actually have an impact on your hunter rank now, the number that dictates which quests you can take on in the gathering hub. Traditionally, these are entirely disconnected, requiring you to hunt all the same monsters again. Now though, you’re given special licence quests to complete after achieving so much in the village. These quests are absolutely brilliant fun, and completely stand apart from the rest of the village offerings in the challenge on offer. Beating all three of these quests as they come up will propel you to high rank in the hub, which is especially nice given there’s no high rank village quests.
The gathering hub has similar offerings to that of its village counterparts. Notably here though, is the complete omission of gathering quests. There are absolutely none that can be done in a multiplayer environment, and only a handful of small monster hunts. It may be a game about hunting big monsters, but when there’s content that could so easily be made into quests just sitting there unused and your content offering is so limited, it seems foolish not to use it. Of interest, hub quests dynamically scale in difficulty based on the number of people hunting. This means monsters are perfectly manageable solo, and don’t become too easily overwhelmed should you decide to play with others. In my experience, I found quests lasting between 10 and 15 minutes regardless of whether I was playing solo or with others. Though this is far shorter than I’m used to in other games, often exceeding 30 minutes per quest in older titles, monsters still pack a punch. Even in endgame armour, I found myself feeling vulnerable if I let my guard down, regardless of the monster being fought. The quests that are available, though limited in number, have genuinely provided the most fun I’ve had with the series to date, much of this fun supported by the gameplay of World blended with the new Wirebug mechanic.
Things can get a little hectic with a full party of four.
This game’s gimmick of sorts, the Wirebug is fantastic, and I’ve only come to enjoy its inclusion more as I’ve spent more time with the game. It’s really one of those additions that are what you make of them, and they have a great deal of useful utility. At a basic level, you can aim in any direction with ZL, and propel yourself using ZR, this consuming one Wirebug charge. Using this, you can get around maps and explore in a way previous games just couldn’t manage. On top of this though you have Wirebug attacks, powerful moves unique to each weapon. I’m really fond of how some of these bring back abilities seen in previous games, with several Hunter Arts from Generations making an appearance in this form. With each weapon also having a degree of customisation in the form of Switch Skills, you can tune your hunting experience to how you want to play in a fun and unique way. With my Dual Blade setup for example, I feel like I’m playing a blend of the adept and aerial styles of Generations, with one Switch Skill allowing me to propel myself into the air, and another allowing me to dodge into an attack to deal damage to a monster. This kind of freedom is welcome, and gives you a number of ways to keep the same weapon fresh.
Rise gives you five areas to hunt in. You have the green area, the desert, the ice place, the volcano, and one kind of unique place, as well as a few special arenas. Of the five core maps available, three are new to the series: Shrine Ruins, Frost Islands, and Lava Caverns. Shrine Ruins ties in well with the larger traditional Japanese theming of the game, littered with abandoned buildings, and a large mountainous area to explore. Of the new maps, it’s by far my favourite, with the other two feeling a little more by the books. The best maps of the game for me however were the two I’ve yet to mention: Sandy Plains and Flooded Forest, both originating in the series’ third generation of games. What they’ve done to these two maps is nothing short of magic, and to see the developers at Capcom try to rationalise the spaghetti of previously-zoned maps is a joy. Though the Flooded Forest is notably less flooded than it was in 3 Ultimate and more swamp-like, there are plenty of key areas you can pick out and say “hey, I remember here!”, and even some that made me go back to 3U and realise I never noticed them. I mean, how many of us really noticed the colossal pyramid in area two? I certainly didn’t.
While I found myself really enjoying the maps available, to my surprise I had the most fun with the new arena. The arena itself isn’t anything out of the ordinary. It’s a big circle with a few new destructible towers you can climb up, and the usual button-operated fence down the middle to split up monsters where you’re fighting more than one. What makes this arena more fun than usual is the fact the dividing fence can be scaled, completely mitigating the frustrating minutes of downtime should you accidentally seal both monsters on the other side of the fence from you. The few quests available in this area stand out to me as my shining moments with the game, and goes onto highlight a change made to monster behaviour in other areas.
Of the abilities the Wirebug grants you, one I neglected to mention earlier was Wyvern Riding. Similar to mounting in previous games, you can ride a monster after inflicting so much damage using Wirebug attacks. While you’re on the monster, you actually have some control and choice in what you’re doing. You can move the monster around, and make it fight other monsters with a combination of strong and weak attacks. On top of this, you can launch the monster you’re riding into a wall, or other monsters, to inflict a fair amount of damage. It’s great to actually do something with a mount, and the game really incentivises it with up to three shiny drops being available per monster when attacking a monster while mounted. These mounts ultimately end in a finisher, which leaves the monster knocked down and vulnerable to more typical abuse from hunters. On paper, this all checks out, but to accommodate for the fact the game wants you to bring monsters together to fight each other, a change was made to how monsters interact with one another, and the group hunting them.
Unlike in previous titles, monsters don’t really gang up on you. After using the finisher to immobilise the monster you’re fighting, your mount just… leaves? In my 120 hours of playing, I haven’t used a single dung bomb, these usually handy for making a monster run away from you. They just aren’t needed. If two large monsters are in the same area, you’ll see either a turf war or a small attack sequence that results in one monster becoming mountable. If you finish or mess up the mount, they’ll just leave the area anyway. Monsters fight other monsters–that’s cool! But losing the pressure of having multiple threats chasing you down is a big loss for me. The only time you run into this now is in the arena, where the fence is used to balance the threat in a closed space admittedly well.
When it comes to an endgame for Rise, there’s only really one option for you: Rampages. The hot new thing to grace the series, a Rampage is ultimately a Monster Hunter-themed tower defence game. You’ll place down turrets and face a few waves of monsters, before eventually slaying the leader of the Rampage to secure the victory. Based on how many objectives you complete during the quest, you’re ranked and given rewards to match. I think they’re great fun, but they rely heavily on you playing with other people to bring out their best. Much like hub quests, difficulty is scaled based on player count. This means you can play this game mode solo should you want to and utilise what automatic turrets are available to their fullest. Where I had the most fun though was basking in the frantic nature of the game mode with friends over an equally-frantic voice chat. You can also be paired up with random people, which has been a far better experience than I would have expected. I do feel matchmaking will drop off after the initial hype of launch dies down though.
50 talismans collected, and none of them were good.
What makes Rampages so good for endgame grinding is the rewards you get from completing them. Frankly, you get a lot, and a lot is exactly what you need if you’re wanting the best gear. While crafting armour and weapons relies on you collecting a set list of things from a variety of monsters and gathering points, talismans are different. Talismans are equipment that come with skills, and slots to put skills in for yourself. What makes talismans so powerful is the fact the skills they offer you are random, and some combinations just can’t be found in armour alone. To get talismans, you need to throw your leftover monster parts into the melding pot. With each part being assigned a point value, you need to put in a set amount of points to be awarded a random talisman. Since Rampages offer a lot of parts, as well as tickets that have a high point value, they’re where you’ll be spending most of your time if you want a constant stream of talismans. It can be frustrating. With so many possibilities, getting exactly what you want is incredibly uncommon, creating a somewhat artificial stream of content to support the lacklustre amount of standard quests. It’s fine, but if you don’t enjoy Rampages, you’ll find yourself running out of things to do once the final boss has fallen.
All in all, Monster Hunter Rise has me conflicted. It is without a doubt the peak of the series when it comes to gameplay and overall ease of access. Where it falls short however is in its sheer lack of content at launch. While I have no doubt this will be rectified over time, with the first major update scheduled for later this month, I can’t hide my disappointment in just how little there is to do for somebody like myself who’s already seen and done it all. For now, I’ll keep doing the occasional Rampage with friends and happily replay 3U on the side, waiting eagerly for when that new content drops.