My time in the shrine: Monster Hunter Rise demo impressions
As a series, Monster Hunter is divisive. To half of its players, it remains a monotonous cycle of endless grinding. To the other half, it’s… Well, it’s the same, but they actually enjoy it.[prebreak]1[/prebreak] Since joining series in 2011 with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, I’ve sunk hundreds upon hundreds of hours into each game. I’ve adapted to underwater combat, I’ve survived my fair share of invisible monsters, and I’ve revelled in each new generational improvement as it presented itself. From the vaulting and mounting monsters in 4 Ultimate to the open maps of World, each game brings with it something fresh and unique, and Rise is no different. Having spent a good amount of time in the Shrine Ruins, I wanted to share my experiences in hopes that, if nothing else, a few more people will check out the demo while it’s still available. It’s free, there’s really nothing to lose.
All 14 weapons are available for your idle choosing.
Coming into the demo with any monster hunting experience you’ll feel largely at home, but I do encourage you to try the tutorial missions all the same. While you do have a play limit of 30 total missions, these tutorials don’t count towards it. The basic controls are as they’ve been for generations, but most closely resemble that of World. Many combos will be familiar to you if you’ve spent any time with Iceborne, myself being able to pick up Long Sword again as if I’d played Rise for months. It’s not to say every weapon remains the same, with some standout changes really propelling a choice few weapons to newfound stardom, but there’s an appropriate degree of familiarity. Many of World’s small quality of life changes still stand strong too. You can still move while drinking a potion, which might be an odd thing to hear somebody celebrating if all you’ve experienced of the series is World. Whetstones remain infinite, and you also have the handy radial menu for quick access to your most used items. It feels like World on the go, minus the clutch claw.
Of course, in the clutch claw’s place is something entirely new. Wirebugs are insane. Each weapon features two unique wirebug skills, requiring either one or two charged wirebugs to utilise. On top of these, you can use one charge for a quick burst of horizontal or vertical movement, but my favourite use has to be the fast recoveries wirebugs enable. You see, after getting hit by an attack, you’d usually get staggered or knocked down. It’s a problem if you’re trying to beat down a monster. In the past, we’ve had skills that negate knockback from small attacks, and we’ve had whole gameplay styles revolving around skilfully dodging attacks for satisfying payoffs. We’ve never quite had something with the same risk and reward ratio as in Rise. You see, when you get knocked back, you can use a wirebug to propel yourself in a given direction to quickly recover. On one hand, you can see this as a means of running away to heal in a pinch, but if you’re particularly brazen, this can be used offensively to tremendous effect. The best use case I’ve found is with a Great Sword. You can run in, take a hit, and use the wirebug recovery to get in a fully charged airborne slash to the monster’s face before it even has a chance to recover from its attack. The Valor style of Generations Ultimate had a sense of risk and reward to it, but never quite to this extent.
In my time with the demo, I’ve been playing it safe, sticking to the weapons I’ve come to know and love over the years. Between the Long Sword, Great Sword, and Dual Blades, I’m the kind of person that really just likes to go in and smack things until they die; I’m a simple fellow. Like I mentioned before, Long Sword really does feel just as it did in Iceborne, complete with special sheathe and the fun combos you can get cycling through that and the spirit blade routine. The wirebug attacks are also incredibly fun, one effectively being the helmsmasher, and the other being a counter with as much of an opening as Sephiroth’s counter in Smash Ultimate. Both attacks suit the Long Sword well, and it’s a weapon I can see myself using in the long term. The Great Sword is as the Great Sword always is, which is about as much as you can ask. It’s slow, it’s methodical, but it does damn good damage. Where it really stands out for me is in what I mentioned earlier; jumping attacks out of taking damage is brilliant. Having said that, I do have to question the longevity of such a thing at the more difficult end of the hunting scale. Even if you’re not intentionally taking damage though, it’s a handy way to get back into action if you just messed up your prime charged slash on a monster’s head. The wirebug attacks here offer a nice range of defense and offense; one gives you a dodge akin to Absolute Evasion of Generations, and the other is a jumping slash. The jumping slash is something I’ve not quite managed to master, it propelling you an incredible amount forwards, but I’m sure there’s some wild tricks you can pull off with it.
Finally, we have Dual Blades. I’ll be honest, I really miss the clutch claw. Dual Blades feel entirely new to me. In World, my primary damage dealer used the claw to perform an uppercut. What’s left for me here? As a weapon, they remain incredibly easy to pick up and play with, but unlike the others, my familiarity is down the drain. This is largely my own fault for becoming overly reliant on a single combo, but I’ll be damned if that combo wasn’t fun to use on loop. Having said all of that though, they are still fun, and the wirebug attacks again suit them well. One is a dodge that turns into an attack if you happen to get hit while in motion, essentially mimicking the Adept style of Generations. The other is a small jab that, if you don’t look at the controls, you may mistake for doing very little. In actuality, it causes an explosion, the damage of which increasing dependant on how many hits you deal to the monster within a set amount of time after landing the attack. And with how fast you can dish out attacks with the Dual Blades, you get some satisfying damage numbers on screen.
These three weapons are of course not all that’s available. With 14 total weapons on show, there will more than likely be something to suit your own play style. Of course, there’s more to the wirebug than just its weaponised applications. Exploration has always been a great part of the hunting experience, and this has been taken to a new level here. Where in World the environments made a point of their seamless connectedness, a first for the series, Rise feels like a different setup entirely. It’s almost as if there’s an intentional sense of detachment, where you really and genuinely have to go out of your way to see all that’s there to be seen, and it’s in this design you’re encouraged to be creative. To jump and throw yourself off your Palamute, to chain together wirebug after wirebug to reach a height you thought unreachable. Area 5 is my favourite example of this, the entire zone to the best of my knowledge requiring you to utilise a wirebug to even begin exploring. And it’s brilliant. There’s old houses nestled in the mountain, and a plateau I expect many a fine hunt to end on. The map is littered with small things outside of this to find, often rewarding you with a temporary power up for your troubles. I had a great deal of fun just running around spotting run-down shrines and collecting what collectables I could see in the limited reach of the demo.
Before wrapping up, I just want to profess my love for the new companions, Palamutes. First, they're dogs. That's a big check in my book, but being able to ride them opens up so many possibilities. You can jump and dismount, giving you significant air time to perform any kind of attack without using up a precious wirebug. Perhaps more notably though, you can consume items while riding. This means that, in a pinch, you no longer need to run half a mile from the monster just to sharpen your weapon. You can actually be mobile while doing this now, a series first. Again, it's one of those things that doesn't sound like it'd have so much of an impact, but finding time for a five or so second animation amidst the chaos of battle isn't always easy. I can't wait to see what Palamutes can really do when the main game launches, but that's just something I'll have to wait for.
As much as I love to spill everything I enjoy about Monster Hunter, the game is something best experienced to see whether it’s for you. This demo allowing for online play, I cannot encourage you enough to give it a go while it’s still available. At worst, you’ll waste an hour of your life, but the best case? You discover a whole new world, one where you’ll waste far more than a single hour of your life. You may yet fall victim to the joy and addiction of hunting, and find yourself as I am, rather impatiently waiting for the game’s release just a few months away, deleting your save data after every 30 hunts to just play that bit more.