Monster Hunter: World saw a lot of success following its release in 2018—it has shipped over 16.8 million copies to date. This made me really curious to see what the future of the Monster Hunter series would hold. While Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate, also released in 2018, was the franchise’s debut on Nintendo Switch, Monster Hunter Rise is the first one built with the hybrid console in mind—although a PC port is also coming next year. The subtle changes in quality of life mechanics make the game a perfect fit for Nintendo’s latest system and streamlines the overall experience in case you’d like to take it on the go.
Monster Hunter Rise feels very similar to Monster Hunter: World, and for good reason. You hunt monsters in big, open, and varied environments and then salvage their parts to make equipment such as weapons and armor. In the past, the series has been known for its complexity, which turned some newcomers away. However, many quality-of-life improvements that started in World can be found in Rise. The game doesn’t provide any huge overhauls, so it’s the same core Monster Hunter experience that players will expect, but Rise manages to add in some new mechanics and aesthetics that help it stand out.
A Fresh Coat of Paint
The game’s medieval Japanese aesthetic really is charming. You can see the townsfolk dressed in traditional Japanese-inspired clothing, and many iconic aspects of the culture can be seen throughout Kamura Village, your home base in Rise. The candy apple stand, onigiri shop, and dango cafe all add to the small-town atmosphere.
Kamura Village isn’t nearly as overwhelmingly big as World’s main hub, Astera. Instead of seamlessly running between Astera’s multiple floors, you’ll have to transition through loading screens to get between Kamura’s main area and various other areas such as the arena.
Luckily, the loading transitions between them are almost nonexistent, usually lasting only about a second. Additionally, Rise is seamless where it matters: out in the battlefield. Much like World, the hunting grounds in Rise are vast areas instead of individual ones connected by loading screens. Thanks to the Switch’s more powerful hardware, battle and traversal run smoother than they ever did in the franchise’s 3DS entries.
Rise places much more emphasis on verticality than previous games. You’re equipped with a Wirebug that essentially acts as a grappling hook. You can utilize it for both traversal and combat. In the game’s environments, the Wirebug allows you to scale walls to reach higher ground. During battle, the Wirebug can be used to add combos to your attacks. For example, you can propel yourself into the air with the Wirebug and then use it again to suspend yourself in midair before coming down with an attack. This adds new dimensions to the gameplay and makes the combat even more dynamic than before.
The absence of loading screens out in the battlefield offers many different interactions, including Turf Wars, which make their return from World. Areas typically have two or three large apex monsters, and one can stumble within the vicinity of another—in which case they will battle each other for control of the area.
New Gameplay Additions Elevate the Series
Another mechanic that Rise introduces to the gameplay formula is Wyvern Riding, where, if you inflict enough damage with Wirebug attacks, you can actually temporarily ride them and take control. If there’s another monster around, then you use the monster you’re riding to attack it. You can also cause it to hurt itself by ramming it into objects. Although this new mechanic is great, the Wyvern Riding process doesn’t last very long before you have to relinquish control of the monster. While it’s cool in the moment it’s happening, the damage you inflict doesn’t seem to affect the outcome of the battle very much. These monsters have huge HP pools, and even though dealing damage while riding a Wyvern does more damage than your normal attacks would, it still feels like sometimes you’re barely making a dent.
The Palico cats return from Monster Hunter: World as well. The Palamute dog is a new addition to Rise, and both of your animal companions will assist you in the battlefield. What I particularly love about the Palamute is that riding it around the battlefield is much faster than running, and it doesn’t deplete stamina at all. When a monster tries to run away and seek refuge on another side of the map, you can waste no time at all by riding your Palamute and chasing it down.
Speaking of chasing down monsters, a welcome change in Rise is that you can just mark them on your minimap and it’ll tell you the monster’s exact location. In World, you had to track them down by examining their footprints. While that added some worldbuilding, I enjoy the more simplistic approach that Rise takes as it makes for a much easier experience. You can also purchase more Palicos and Palamutes to send them off to acquire additional materials while you’re out hunting yourself.