MONSTER HUNTER RISE DEMO
By Mark "Demius" Bronneberg on March 16, 2021
Monster Hunter is one of those franchises that, when it started out, was only big in Japan. The first game released on PlayStation 2 in 2004 and was an instant success with our Asian gaming-brothers and sisters, but the game didn't become a smash hit in the West... just yet.
The Monster Hunter series is developed by Capcom, and while it launched on a Playstation, it didn't stay exclusive for Sony consoles. Capcom also released part 3 and 4 of the series on Nintendo hardware. Even though most games did get localized, they only had a small but dedicated fanbase in the west. Remember how I ended my first paragraph with "... just yet"? Well, that's because everything changed with the arrival of Monster Hunter World back in 2018. That game, that differs a bit from previous installment, boasted larger connected areas, thanks to the newer hardware and sold equally well in Japan and the west. So, time for another game, right? And lo and behold, that's exactly what we got!
Monster Hunter Rise is the next game in the series, and will be released exclusively on Nintendo Switch. Now, let's be honest here for a second, shall we; the switch is a great hybrid console, but not the one with the best specs, so how does this game play and will it be able to best its predecessor? As soon as you start up the demo, you'll notice that Capcom did an excellent job developing this game for the Nintendo Switch. This proves that if you develop specifically for Nintendo's hardware, you can achieve great things. Of course, Nintendo keeps proving this with their own games, but I believe Capcom is one of first third party developers that also manages to test the limits of the Switch console.
For me, the Monster Hunter series has always remained a bit of a mystery. Gameplay looks interesting (action oriented, like a souls game) but also quite a bit overwhelming. With a ton of different character- and weapon classes, a thoroughly crowded HUD and a plethora of crafting mechanics and material scavenging, there's a lot going on at once. But what held me back the most was the lack of story-driven single player campaign. There has been a spinoff game, typically called 'Monster Hunter Stories', which might have been more to my taste, but the kiddy graphics in that game kind of turned me off. I don't really understand why I have not played Monster Hunter World; I own it on PS5 because it is part of the PS Plus collection, but I just never got round to it. It looks good and co-op gameplay seems nice. Maybe Monster Hunter Rise will be the game to finally get me into this franchise! So, let's check out the demo before we tackle the main game!
The demo offers a variety of quests, available in both the online or local play variety. You can play 30 quests until the online trial period will end, which means you'll only be able to use local play from that point on (pro tip is to delete your save file and you will have another 30 tries!). These quests vary from 5 - 45 minutes, so there is a lot of content to enjoy in this demo. I fired up the demo and played the two 'tutorial quests' that are available. After completing these, I fired up the first out of three monster quests. Let's just say that I am a big n00b in this game, so I got my ass handed to me in a more than spectacular way. This was mostly because the controls seemed confusing to me. I also tried to beat the 'intermediate difficult' Mizutsune, and this big bubbly dragon monster took me down more than once. If you play locally you have a trusty dog and minion companion that join you, but these seem to go 'down' quicker than the internet back in 1996. So, most of the time it was me alone versus a big monster that could down me in one big swoop.
I complained about the game's difficulty in a gaming Discord group called Cascade Games, which I am a longtime member of, since they also had a Monster Hunter channel. And it was there that I came across my savior and mentor: RonaldoCrossedZ. He gave me a few early pointers and said we could play together. I first picked the 'archer' (in the demo there are 14 classes to choose from, ranging from massive 2-handed weapons to shields, canons and bows). Together with my trusty mentor Ronaldo we challenged the first monster quest 'slay a Great Izuchi'. Playing this game with a friend enriches the experience by a tenfold. Because Ronaldo took a melee character, my archer could hang back a little and deal ranged damage. If Izuchi came close, I dodged and even had time to heal when my health was low. After 10 minutes Izuchi was slain and I thought, maybe it's time to take revenge on that evil menace 'the bubbly dragon'.
The cool thing about Monster Hunter is that all monsters are shaped like a combination between known animals, dragons, and dinosaurs. This game really feels like a Dinosaur Hunter game. You can even mount these amazing beasts (wyvern's) if you damage them enough and ensnare them using webs from bugs. But let's get back to my buddy Ronaldo and me facing the 'bubbly dragon' Mizutsune. Together with a friend this intermediate-difficulty quest seemed a lot more doable, I tried out the bowgun and heavy gunner class and eventually stuck with the heavy gunner. This class has a huge gun and big armor. This means it's slow, so you don't want to stay too close to the monsters since dodging isn't really a valid option. Luckily, your gun has a built-in shield. This means that when you are aiming in the direction of where the damage is coming from, this shield will absorb a certain amount of this damage. So be careful, because it won't actually negate damage without end. It was at this moment that I realized the entire party is only allowed to die three times before it is game over. Of course, I died three times and we had to start over. But after a few times (practice makes perfect) we managed to beat the bubble master! And I must say the feeling was great. I finally grasped the basics of this game and even felt confident enough to try the 'advanced difficult' Magnamalo. But let's just say this is where the 'real Dark Souls' starts...
This nefarious beast has multiple attacks at its disposal which can one-shot a character. Plus, where you had 45 minutes to slay a Mizutsune, you only get 15 minutes to slay Magnamalo... After going trough 10 more demo-tries Ronaldo and I gave up, but we decided that we would try again the next day. After I put in some more practice the next morning, it was time to have another go at our nemesis. Another one of our pals from Discord Michael-Ike-9 joined us. With a dedicated party of 3 (and some random fellow online to make it an even 4) things started to look good for us.... Well, you would think... But still Magnamalo was not beaten. Michael and me even had to delete our save files to get some more tries at the demo. We did manage to get the beast to phase 5 out of 5, meaning we nearly killed it. But every time we got this far, time ran out. Capcom designed this part to be 'unbeatable' so people would buy the full game to try and beat this beast.
I must say that playing this demo got me really excited to try the full game! The game can be intimidating at the start, but once you bring a friend (preferable one familiar with Monster Hunter) things become better really, really quickly. There is some serious skill and practice needed to beat the tougher monsters, but the satisfaction you get from beating a big beast is great. I can't wait to start my campaign and get even better at this game, so my pals Ronaldo, Michael and myself can take another swing at Magnamalo!
MONSTER HUNTER RISE DEMO
Demo out now (Full game releases on March 26, 2021)