Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak (Switch) Review
Since its release, last year in March of 2021 Monster Hunter Rise has been enjoying near-unprecedented success compared to those that came before it. Truly, it rose from the launching platform that Monster Hunter World created for it and it gave us an incredible new experience, and it just kept giving. Throughout the year, Capcom kept the content for Rise coming, adding in new free content and updates, so the excitement was high when they announced the first, and perhaps the only, expansion to an already excellent game. The Sunbreak DLC offers a whole new chapter to the story, a host of new monsters and variants of the existing, and a step up in difficulty with the introduction of Master Rank. All this whilst providing a fun and engaging experience, however, it is not without fault, and there are of course some issues that come with it as well.
Let’s talk about the story in Sunbreak, arguably the most important part of the DLC. The story itself is very-well thought out, it’s careful and introduces its characters slowly, the pacing is smooth and believable in the world and personally, I found it very engaging. There are only two new locales in Sunbreak, the first being the Jungle, a returning locale from Monster Hunter 2, which feels familiar even if you’ve only played Rise — it’s a good place to start the DLC, but ultimately it’s a little forgettable. The Citadel, on the other hand, is not only beautiful but enormous; I’m not sure I’ve been everywhere on that map yet, it’s a wonderful bit of environmental storytelling. The main hub world of Elgado is a lot of fun, it has that ‘thrown together, making things work’ vibe, and who can be mad at a cat train? Graphically everything is beautiful, I mean if you’ve played Rise you’ll know this, but I can’t impress on you how much detail is in every inch of this DLC, from the environments to the little conversations you can have with the characters, even the music — the jungle has a remix of the original track.
While the story progression of Sunbreak is excellent, the actual Master Rank progression isn’t reflective of that. For some strange reason they have the progression split into two parts per rank; now, the Master Rank number is completely arbitrary, so I’m not sure why they didn’t just give the player a higher rank? You even unlock different armour and quests in each half, so it makes no sense to have the ranking system set up the way it is. Progressing through the Master Rank levels unlocks the ability to go on unique Follower Quests and Support Surveys. These are single-player-only quests, and they’re surprisingly good. Follower Quests are one on one hunts with an NPC whereas the Support Surveys allow you to assemble a team out of all the characters you’ve unlocked. Unfortunately, Support Surveys offer very little in rewards other than the character interactions, while the Follower Quests on the other hand have some pretty unique and interesting rewards.
Before we go into the shiny new monsters (which, spoiler alert, are fantastic) I want to talk about the familiar ones and what they’re like in Sunbreak. If you’re worried that you’ll be spending a huge portion of the DLC doing the same old fights then let me assure you that is not the case. All of the original monsters from Rise have some new fighting styles and smarter AI that make them fun and interesting to fight again. Additionally variant forms, such as the Blood Orange Bishaten and the Aurora Somnacanth, have been added and they’re a new wild ride themselves. And the new monsters? Except for the very first introductory monsters, they are a real challenge, they make you feel like you’re earning that Master Rank title. Yet they avoid that pitfall of being difficult for the sake of it, they’re thoughtfully balanced to push your skills and still be an enjoyable experience.
Sunbreak is absolutely packed with new features, most of which are excellent, as they allow for greater individual customisation and generally enhance the overall experience of playing Monster Hunter. The changes to Switch Skills have had the most impact on me, with the addition of some incredible new skills, the ability to have two loadouts that you can swap during battle was a stroke of genius by the developers. They also added an onscreen element that shows you what your skills do (especially helpful for me who didn’t use them before now — I know, don’t come at me) but it is toggleable or removable in the settings if that’s not your thing. Another incredible thing — Hopping Dango! Being able to prioritise which Dango effects you need per hunt is so much more helpful than I thought it was going to be, and teamed with Dango tickets that make sure you’re going to get the skills 100% of the time, you’re on your way to being unstoppable. Although there does seem to be either a localisation issue or a terrible naming choice with one of the new Dango, it gives the Dango Defender effect, which is a name we already had despite the actual effect being different.
Are there new bugs in Sunbreak, I hear you cry? Oh, you better believe there are, fellow bug lovers! Not only are there some variant wirebugs that have cool effects when riding monsters, but there’s a whole host of new critters to enjoy. The best in my opinion is the Marionette Spider; pulling a monster towards you doesn’t sound like the best idea I admit, but trust me when I say it is one of the most useful creatures in the game. The Starburst bugs are paired well with them, they hang out on walls ready for a monster to be pulled into them to hurt or inflict a blight. Keep your eyes out for other fun little friends like Spearsquids, Thornytoads, and Slicercrabs who will do damage to monsters for you as well.
The weapon upgrades and additions are fairly good overall, however there is one major letdown when it comes to them and that is Rampage Gems. No longer do we have rampage skills, which were a perfectly fine system. Instead, it’s been replaced with a much worse gem system, and it truly is the worst part of the DLC. Not only are some of the useful gems locked to specific weapons, but the selection available just sucks, there’s no other way to say it. There’s also a confusing new sharpness system, and honestly, I still don’t know if I understand it properly, the explanation for it is like reading a riddle. Armour has a similar although much less grievous letdown and that is that there’s also no access to layered armour until the end of the story which, coming from the end of Rise where that was already available to us, seems like a very odd and poor decision. What armour that is available though is pretty great, there have been some really fun changes to old armour sets both in their designs and their skills.
Palicoes have also had a nice little overhaul, with the ability to change and customise their skills, and they’re now much more versatile. Palamutes can now also carry your extra collectables in the field, as well as being able to target and highlight specific ingredients on the map for you, which is very helpful as well. The Lottery has also had a fun little change with the inclusion of bonus Lucky Balls and Boosting Balls, which have a chance of activating and giving you bonus prizes alongside the regular lottery prizes. In my personal game, I have had the worst luck with these – and getting the lottery in general – but my frequent play partner has had the opposite experience, so I wish you luck!
Capcom set a high bar with this DLC, not only with a wildly successful game but their promotional game pulled no punches either, but did they Rise to the challenge? Yes, I think they did. Sunbreak is full of quality of life changes, customisation options, updated, variant, and new monsters. Get your friends together because you’re not going to want to be Palamute about this expansion. Even with its issues, overall Sunbreak is a great addition, one that definitely enhances the experience of Rise.
+ Switch Skills have been greatly improved
+ Hopping Dango allow for more versatility and customisation
+ A challenging but fun extension of main game
- Rampage Gems are terrible
- Lack of Layered Armour access for much of the game
- Hunter Rank progression is just silly