MONSTER HUNTER RISE
By Mark "Demius" Bronneberg on April 2, 2021
Hello, my name is Demius and I am addicted to Monster Hunter Rise... Since I already did a preview on this game, which you can read here, I'm not going to explain the origin of the series anymore. Let's just say Monster Hunter Rise is already a success, 4 million copies have been shipped in the opening weekend alone! Does this game meet the expectations I had? My 50+ hours of playtime probably answers that question, doesn't it?! I have incorporated many pro tips in this review for people that are new to the series, just like I was before sacrificing all my spare time to 'git gud' at this monstrously awesome game.
Monster Hunter Rise has a single player campaign, but don't expect a full-fledged RPG story. You are a hunter for Kamura Village and need to battle monsters. There is a phenomenon called the rampage, where a horde of monsters threaten the safety of the village. There are a few NPCs that amble about the village and most of them hand out quests, work as a local blacksmith or make food for you to enjoy before you run into battle. So let's start things off with Pro tip #1: please eat a meal before every quest to get a nice boost to health, stamina, and other stats! This is not a game series that is known for its expansive story; this is a game that's all about hunting big monsters that mostly look like a combination of dinosaurs, dragons and other assorted beasts. Talking about looks, you can customize your own - at least the look of your character - before you start a new game. This brings us to Pro tip #2: If you happen to get bored with a look, you can change your appearance in the village at the large chest any time you feel like a new hairstyle to match your amazing new armor set. Because Capcom was being really nice and sent us the deluxe edition of Monster Hunter Rise, this gave us even more options to change our appearances in the game. The game works with 'layered armor sets'. This means you can permanently change your appearance to a Samurai and alter its colour. This is ideal when you want to combine different armor set pieces that have the best skillsets, but don't actually match that well. And if you are like me and want to look 'tha bomb' online, the layered armor options are a great solution to this problem. Next to that the deluxe edition offers some layered armor for your buddies, a few extra gestures, a samurai pose and some face paint and different hair style. Since I am a big fan of Ghost of Tshushima, these Samurai extras were really appreciated and I used them a lot.
Now let's talk about the difficulty. The single player campaign isn't that hard, once you grasp the gameplay as a whole. Learning all the intricacies of the game however, is quite the chore. Luckily, I spend hours and hours into the demo trying to beat that Magnamalo beast, sadly he got the better of me over 70 times (yes, I am more persistent than is actually good for me). Maybe because of all that demo practice, I am now not the best judge of difficulty. Still, I am going to do my best to explain how difficulty works in this game. Like I said before you have a single player campaign, where the village works as a central hub, from which you pick quests and start them. The hub is used to prepare your character. There is also a multiplayer mode, where you start from the same village, but a different building serves at the multiplayer hub, where you can start multiplayer quests. You can host or join someone else. Everyone (with a maximum of 4 people) joins the host in their village and can use all shops. Quest progression in single and multiplayer works the exact same way. But the difference is the difficulty. In single player monsters have less health and do less damage. Prepare for a challenge when going multiplayer.
Which leads me to Pro tip #3: newcomers should really start by playing single player, before going online. But if you have a few friends, you can use multiplayer to get some good loot before you go at it alone. There are no difficulty options, but you start with 1-star quests and once you did a number of them there will be a short story skit and a 'priority mission' will unlock. Beating this mission will open the next tier. Single and multiplayer tiers are separate from each other. But character progression is shared! This means all the loot you get can be used in both! Pro tip #4: you can save different equipment loadouts at the chest in the village for easy access. Once you reach 4-star quests the multiplayer hub quests changes to high tier. Monsters will drop better loot in this mode. Single player doesn't work with low and high rank, since I'm already at 6-star quests and still no rank change. Next to hub quests there are also rampage quests (more about that later in this review) and optional sub quests available. The optional sub quests are general quests you can choose a maximum of 5 per time. Once you complete one you can choose a new one. These are fetching quests or kill X quests and are randomly generated and on a loop. Optional quests are the ideal way to farm armor shards to upgrade your armor.
This is not an open world game, the village acts as a hub and from here you travel to different areas, like a swamp, volcano, or pyramid level. These areas are all great and filled with lots of things to do, but like I said these are not connected physically. There are smaller monsters that are easy to kill for rewards. There are resources to farm or mine. And there are secrets to find. Most of the times I used single player to explore and take it easy. In multiplayer you don't really have the luxury to take it easy, since it is a bit more competitive and goal oriented, if you don't hurry to the big monster you are hunting you might miss on rewards. What is really fun is the secrets that are there hidden in the maps, these are bits of story lore or extra rare resources. Pro tip #5 One of my twitter friends 'Ray' told me there was a secret entrance on top of the huge pyramid for which you needed explosives to find. That sounded amazing so I spend minutes trying to find it (it was obvious in the end). I had to use wirebugs to soar the skies until I reached the top. Here there was a crack, which I could demolish with explosives, there were some nice rewards for finding this. I love these hidden secrets in adventure games. Is Monster Hunter Rise an adventure game? I don't really know, let's call it an action RPG without the ability to level up yourself (your companions can level up).
Maybe it is best I tackle the gameplay mechanics before going any further. And boy these are not easily explained, I'm going to do my best without angering my editor by writing yet another overly long essay. Still, this is the most complex part of Monster Hunter. You can choose between 14 different weapon styles, I have tried testing out a ranged weapon, slow melee weapon, quick melee weapon and defensive melee weapon. Every weapon plays differently, so it is best to experiment before committing to one. Of course, I experimented with all of them. Nope sorry I picked heavy gunner and stuck with it for at least 20 hours, haha. It was then that some of my Discord friends asked me: "isn't it better for a reviewer to test multiple different playstyles, instead of just one?". Well, I guess it is, so I did start to experiment. And now I am using the sword and shield combination. Why?! Because it is quick, and you can block, and the silk bind attacks are easy and hit hard. I will not explain what every button does, there are guides for these kinds of things. Just remember combo's, attacks and special moves are different for every weapon styles. And even within weapon styles different weapons grant different abilities. Within the heavy gunner style, you can have guns that have a special sniper shot, or guns that have a special automatic burst shot.
Pro tip #6: do not overthink it, just start with a weapon you think is cool and take it from there. Your character can't go level up, but customization of different armors, armor skills and weapons in this game is extremely heavy. Item management is important, even more so with ranged classes that use different types of ammo. You can craft new items like potions during a quest or in the village and can craft weapons and armor in the village. Each large monster you find can drop a multitude of materials: horns, shells, plates, etc. Every large monster has unique armor sets and weapons for every of the 14 weapon types. The possibilities really are endless. Once you finally have the cool armor set you wanted, chances are high you have slain a new monster with an even better armor set. Each armor has a set of ability's, some are better suited for specific weapons. Pro tip #7: in the menu the hunter notes can help you find out which monster drops certain materials, and how to get them (smash head, cut tail) if you collected it once. The complexity of finding the right materials is even bigger. Certain monsters need their beak smashed, or horns demolished, or claws destroyed, or tails cut off. This break certain parts of their body to give you a % chance they drop a certain material. Yes, there is chance involved, meaning you will probably be doing a lot of repeating quests until you have all the materials you need.
Luckily, it is absolutely not a chore to play this game. The gameplay is epic. It reminds me a lot of From Software game mechanics, but with much higher mobility. You can dodge, block, attack, use items like bombs, or even soar trough the sky. Everyone starts outs with 2 wirebugs. Pressing a certain button combination makes you soar up or forward. Since you have two you can make quite some distance. You can also find a third one during exploration, this one is temporary. But means you can even reach further (you need three to reach the secret on top of the pyramid I mentioned before). You can also jump and run from walls or ride your trusty dog companion. Exploration is not the only use for these wirebugs. Every weapon has their own unique silkbind attacks, which also use up wirebugs. Don't worry they return to you after a few seconds. These silkbind attacks make monsters docile, because they get entangled in wires, this enables you to ride them (called wyvern riding in the game). And boy is wyvern riding fun. Imagine ensnaring a huge T-rex made of stone, to use him to ram a dragon into the ground. Yes, The Godzilla versus Kong movie is something you can play in this game.
Pro tip #8: most quests have a certain large monster as the main target, often there are two other large monsters in the same area. If you run to these monsters first and they are sleeping or do not see you, surprise silk bind attack them to mount them directly. You can steer them towards your main target and deal some massive damage from the get-go. I wish I had the luxury to explain these gameplay mechanics even more, but let's leave it at that. There are a ton of YouTube tutorials for each weapon style. So, pick one you fancy, craft a big weapon, and go at it! I do really want to give Capcom some credit, because the sheer amount of craftable content is insane. Each armor or weapon looks the part (like the real parts from the monsters you have slain). It gets even more insane, because in single player you have 2 animal companions, from which you can bring 1 into multiplayer (these do level up after each mission). These are called Palico (cat-like humanoids) and Palamute (big dogs you can ride on). And yes, you already guessed each large monster has different weapons and armor you can craft for each cat and the dog companions... And dressing them up is super fun. My doggo looks like a triceratops and my cat like Aragorn from Lord of the Rings. In the village is a special 'buddy area' where you can do mini-game-quests with just your companions, to level them up, trade for items or send them off to explore areas for items. You can also buy new buddy's, each with their own set of skills. I liked the doggo and cat I started with and only used them in battle. But I bought a ton of others to do all my chores, hehe.
Let me now share the most important pro tip #9 (no it is not cardio): BRING A FRIEND! Like I said before, single player is like the big tutorial; once you finish it, you still haven't experienced the real thrill of monster hunting. The multiplayer is godlike. Imagine standing on top of a huge rock, shooting arrows at a big crocodile sumo wrestler, while one of your team members wielding a big shield and lance is tanking the monster. At this moment you see Gandalf's light coming down the mountain, until you realize the cavalry are your other two friends that have ensnared a huge bear and dragon and start to thrash the crocodile sumo wrestler to a pulp. That is until the crocodile sumo wrestler (maybe it is best I start calling it by its real name the Tetranodon) is mountable itself. You use your wirebugs to soar down the rock right on top of Tetranodon and ram its head into the rock you were standing on, it crumbles to a pulp dealing massive damage to the monster. Yes, this is just one example of how crazy this game can get in multiplayer.
Monster Hunter Rise is still an exclusive for Nintendo Switch, with a planned PC release somewhere in early 2022. And drawing from our extensive knowledge of Switch exclusives, it should not come as a surprise that the graphics of the game are amazing. The game is polished, and the monster designs look great. Whenever you start a new monster battle there is a short cutscene to introduce the monsters. These cutscenes are truly hilarious. There is a deep voice-over, dark tones, and all feel like the trailer for a bad horror movie. So we have a game that's fun, looks good and sounds good. But wait... there's something even more important than all of that: the game runs like an absolute charm. I prefer playing docked and it looks amazing on the big screen and the loading times are really short. Maybe this is one of the perks of not being an open world game... The sound effects and music are also top quality. But what amazed me the most is latency during multiplayer. Or. For a better description, the lack of latency. I play together with friends from all around the world, and nobody ever complained about lag or whatsoever. From a technical perspective this amazed me. I mean, we all know how well that certain 'Nintendo Fighting game' runs online with people from across the globe...
The thing I have not explained yet are the Rampage quests. These are the quests during which you must defend the city from rampaging monsters. This introduces an entirely new mode to the game a tower defense game! Yip this shouldn't come as a surprise the game has a lot of content. You place turrets that fire automatically, or you can mount yourself. You can also play this multiplayer. You first set-up towers, bombs and special NPCs that deal a lot of damage. Until the first wave starts. Here you try to prevent the monsters from reaching the main gate. At a certain time even an apex predator appears as the final wave. This last one in multiplayer was quite rough to take down, it made it all trough to the final gate, where we managed to stop it. Rampage mode gives special rewards, which of course can be given to the blacksmith to craft even more weapons and armor.
Now to end my review, let me take you back to my preview. I tried taking down the Magnamalo with my friends, but Capcom only gave us 15 minutes, which was often not enough. Or we died too many times (there is a maximum of 3 deaths every quest, this remains the same for the main game). Luckily, my nemesis Magnamalo is also the main antagonist in the story mode, so everything I did before prepared for the rematch. And what a rematch it was. This time I was properly trained (insert Rocky music), my gun polished, ultra-ammo crafted, and special gunner armor equipped. I brought my trusty friend Ronaldo (Z) and we had a lot of fun battling Magnamalo in a volcano area (I must admit this was much better and epic area to battle this beast than the demo jungle area). The joy I felt when we finally took down Magnamalo... oh man, I still feel the exhilaration of that victory. And, of course, we didn't just leave it like that, because I wanted to craft every armor and weapon available from all his body parts, so I could let my pet dog and cat dance around on his corpse, wearing a monster flesh armor... muahahaha (insert evil laugh). After Magnamalo was beaten I saw there was a new quest where we had to beat three large monsters. I didn't realize this was in one arena area, so that got quite hectic quite fast. For the people that follow me on Twitter, there is a little video of me epical saving my team members to lure Magnamalo into a side part of the arena, to rise a huge wall to separate the playing field and dividing the large monsters. Yea if you haven't noticed yet I have endless of online stories to share about this game.
This brings me to my conclusion. Do you like to have fun? If yes, follow my final pro tip #10: buy this game and start playing it. Please, for the love of god, buy this and play it. I know it can be overwhelming at the start for newcomers. But once you get going it's one of the best cooperative multiplayer games on the Nintendo Switch and it now holds a spot amongst my top 5 exclusives for this platform.
MONSTER HUNTER RISE
March 26, 2021