HIGH Super streamlined, lean and mean!
LOW The tutorials are still kinda miserable.
WTF How many goddamned Great Izuchi tails am I gonna need here?
Monster Hunter hit the West in 2004 and invented the ‘hunting’ genre via PlayStation 2. It was slow to grow an audience, but dedicated players got hooked and the fanbase grew. Fast-forward 17 years and 11 stateside entries later, we now have the 12th MonHun to cross the Pacific – Monster Hunter Rise.
The premise of the series is simple. Players create a character and enter a wild, untamed world brimming with monsters large and small. It’s not an open world, though – the adventure always starts in a village which acts as a mission hub and the hunting happens in discrete areas. Between hunts there are always the same general amenities – an item shop, a café, a local/online multiplayer portal and most importantly, a blacksmith.
This last one is key because the loop in Monster Hunter is that the player begins with basic gear and must take down any monster they can via third-person, realtime action that hinges on mastering the intricacies of their weapon (there are 14 to choose from!) and learning each creature’s tells and movements. Hunts can happen solo, or in groups of up to four. After slaying or trapping, parts from that beast – feathers, scales, claws – will be used to craft newer, stronger gear that allows players to take on something more vicious next time.
Capcom has followed this formula since the beginning, but they’ve been iterating every step of the way. There have been a few dead ends, of course (anyone remember underwater combat in Monster Hunter Tri?) but they’ve generally been improving things while keeping the elements that make it what it is.
That process took a big leap with 2017’s console-based Monster Hunter World, and was a huge hit by any measure. However, while some newcomers may see MonHun’s return to handhelds as a step backwards, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Rise delivers the most dramatic and sweeping revisions we’ve ever seen while circling back to the strengths the IP developed after years of being a primarily-handheld experience.
In a nutshell, everything about Rise has been streamlined and optimized for efficiency, with the best changes from recent installments carried forward. Capcom has taken a hard look at every system, every item and every process, and tweaked it from top to bottom to provide the most action in the quickest way. To this end, many legacy concepts have been completely axed, and much of the ‘hunting’ or ‘prepping’ that used to make up a significant portion of non-combat playtime is gone.
For example, players formerly needed paintballs to track monsters on the map. World replaced them with “scoutflies” found during a hunt (canceling the need to craft or carry) but Rise goes a step past even that by simply displaying monsters on the map at all times, no items or flies needed. In deserts or frozen zones, players would need ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ drinks to counteract extreme temperatures. Those places are still there, but in Rise, players simply go there and are unaffected. The end result is the same – those fights still happen in those places – but the busywork has been stripped away. While the original concept of hunting (in the sense that prep work was needed to ensure a successful hunt) is now greatly downplayed, the conceits supporting it were ultimately timesinks that didn’t add enough value. After doing such chores once or twice, the novelty vanished and it was just cruft.
Capcom has streamlined other areas as well. The crafting requirements for gear have been notably reduced – instead of having to down the same monster over and over again, it’s common to make a nifty helmet or a new, sharp sword after just a hunt or two. When collecting items in the field, players used to have to stop everything and watch intricate ‘searching’ or ‘mining’ animations several times in a row. Now most things can be picked up with a single click while passing by.
Apart from quality-of-life tweaks like these — which are already significant — two even bigger improvements come in the form of Palamutes and Wirebugs.
Palamutes are large, rideable dogs that lend support in combat and provide a swift way for hunters to chase prey. Having a handy mount speeds up the pace of play tremendously because more time is now spent actually fighting monsters instead of hoofing it in pursuit when a beast has fled the scene.
Wirebugs offer another type of mobility. With the push of a button, players can ‘shoot’ the bugs out and be towed behind, a bit like Spider-Man zipping along on his famous webs. Not only does this give players (especially those with slow, high-commitment weapons) a quick escape out of bad situations, it opens vertical space that was previously going untapped. Hunters can now climb sheer surfaces to rain hell on a monster from above, or simply ascend and explore tucked-away nooks. In terms of how Monster Hunter is played, having options like these are a tectonic shift.
It’s not all new, though, for both good and ill.
On the plus side, Rise employs the series’ hallmark art style, full of colors, wild designs and Japanese sensibilities. It’s a welcome return to form after the dour, boring and overly-Westernized aesthetics in World. On the other hand, Capcom is still whiffing pretty hard when it comes to tutorials. Monster Hunter is an incredibly deep and nuanced experience, but it’s tough to suss it out without looking up wikis or Let’s Plays. The in-game explanations for weapons (the core element of the series!) are sorely lacking, and every other system gets just a sentence or two in quickly-dismissed popup windows, at best.
While some Monster Hunter vets like me may be surprised or shocked at how much fat has been trimmed away, when all is said and done it’s hard to deny that those elements were fat. After a few hunts it’s clear that less is more, and this new iteration is fast, furious, and retains everything that fans love about the series while making it all less of a hassle and easier to engage with than ever before. It must have been at least a little panic-inducing for the devs to change and shift as much as they did, but I applaud their bravery – it’s paid off in spades, and Rise just might be the best Monster Hunter that’s ever been.
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Capcom. It is currently available on Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 55 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed in the sense that credits rolled on the 1P campaign. However, there’s still a lot of game left and I’m still playing. 50+ hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Alcohol Reference, Blood and Violence. The official ESRB description reads as follows: This is an action adventure game in which players assume the role of a hunter who must save a village from a monster invasion. Players traverse a fantasy world and hunt down and kill various dragons, wyverns, and giant spiders. Players use swords, hammers, bows, and axes to kill creatures in frenetic melee-style combat. Spurts of blood are often depicted when players and creatures are injured during combat. A handful of missions allow players to operate mounted turrets and cannons to shoot rampaging creatures. The game contains several references to alcohol in the dialogue (e.g., “Enjoy the occasional drink and you’ll never need a docto—*hic*”; “I had a couple of sips of alcohol…”; “Drinking alone ain’t the worst thing, but booze tastes better with company”; “Pops tells the story whenever he gets boozed up.”).
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Dialogue is fully subtitled, but text cannot be altered or resized. The game features in-game emotes and pre-scripted messages to communicate with others (“Nice to meet you!”, “Thanks for the hunt!” etc.) but there is no in-game voice chat. Players give automatic callouts signaling events during battle, but these are accompanied with onscreen text. Monsters roar and make noises, but these are not significant as every attack is telegraphed by a series of tells. Out of the 55 hours (so far) that I’ve spent, probably 50+ hours of that was on mute, and I’ve had absolutely no problems playing at all. This game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not fully remappable but there are a multitude of adjustable settings and features that can be altered and customized. Some examples of options are shown below, but in general every button on the Switch is used and the control schemes vary with the weapon chosen. Movement is left stick, camera is right stick. Attack buttons and menu confirm/cancel are the face buttons. Shoulder and bumper buttons are used for blocking, running and wirebug actions.