Monster Hunter Rise (Switch) Review
What do you get when you combine the quality-of-life features from Monster Hunter World, a tonne of inspiration from classic Monster Hunter games, and a generous sprinkling of new features, new monsters, and a whole new dimension of verticality? The answer is a damn good game, and that’s exactly what Monster Hunter Rise brings to the table. It’s a fast-paced, thrilling experience, and a natural progression for the series after World while still giving nods to the games that came before. It’s not quite perfect, and it seems to be coming in quite hot, but my goodness it’s still fun as heck.
For those who’ve never played Monster Hunter games before, here’s the basics of it: you (and up to three friends) are tasked with heading into the field, hunting and capturing gigantic monsters that mess you up in a host of different ways, carve their bodies up into pieces to make armour and equipment, then spend the rest of your life creating spreadsheets to optimise your damage output and armour construction. Okay, maybe that last part is just me, but that’s pretty much the gist of it. They’re a series of action RPGs that encourage you to team up with friends to swing hilariously oversized weapons at big old beasties, and Rise is no different.
I’m a long-time Monster Hunter veteran, having played every single game from Freedom Unite onwards, so my expectations for a new game are probably a teensy bit higher than most. But Rise absolutely delivers the goods (and then some), in a way that even World didn’t quite reach. It’s faster-paced, more streamlined, more player-friendly. And all of that starts with the game’s story and progression.
Monster Hunter Rise tells the story of a young hunter, fresh out of hunting school and ready to contribute to the village of Kamura, a quaint Old World village with culture and architecture borne of roughly medieval-era Japan. Kamura is a bit of a unique village in the world of Monster Hunter, as it’s the subject of The Rampage, a rare event in which monsters, normally content with living their lives out in the world, fly into a rage-filled frenzy and descend upon the village to wreak havoc and destruction. Life in Kamura is all about preparing for The Rampage, and the village is very aware at all times that if they’re not prepared, it’s game over. As such, you play as the latest in a long line of hunters, and are primarily tasked with getting stronger in preparation for the Rampage. And there’s two ways to do that: Village Quests, and Hub Quests.
Village Quests are, essentially, the story mode of the game. They’re single-player only, and they offer slightly easier hunts to compensate for that, but for the most part they’re designed to show you the ropes of hunting monsters in the Kamura region and get you ready for Hub Quests — as well as The Rampage, of course. Hub Quests are your more traditional Monster Hunter quests, where you team up with other players to hunt down some slightly stronger monsters. What’s nice about Hub Quests is the addition of a monster scaling system, which dynamically tweaks the difficulty of Hub Quests depending on how many players are in the party. This means you can technically complete Hub Quests completely solo if you like, though as mentioned above, these quests are a little bit more difficult than Village Quests, even when you’re by yourself. The best part of this questing system is that Hub progression and Village progression is entirely separate, meaning you can play the entirety of the Village Quests without ever touching Hub Quests, or jump right into Hub Quests and play with your friends without worrying about the story. It’s a fantastic system, and it allows for players to focus in on the parts of the game they enjoy the most — or, if you like, take down Village Quests when you’re by yourself, and Hub Quests when your friends are free. There’s even a licensing system for moving up in ranks between Village and Hub progression, allowing you to take on a special hunt to immediately skip the progression through lower ranks in the Hub if you’ve already completed that rank in the Village. Each rank requires you to complete a certain number of quests to progress through it, so having a licensing system to cut down on the repetition between the two progression systems is a very welcome addition.
But let’s talk about that gorgeous gameplay, because hot damn. The Monster Hunter series has always felt a little bit slow and clumsy — in part by design, most of the time you’re swinging around swords twice your size — but there were times where it felt too slow, and too clumsy. Rise cleans that right up, offering fast and snappy combat and a whole new dimension to play in. The biggest addition is that of the wirebug, a cute little critter that allows you to fling yourself upwards or towards a particular direction of your choosing. That alone is cool enough, offering a host of opportunities to attack from above or quickly zip behind an enemy, but it’s more than just a combat tool (even though it is a very good combat tool). The wirebug has given the developers the opportunity to expand the entire game world upwards, with cliffs and chasms unlike the series has seen before. This, combined with the ability to wall-run, means that slowly climbing up inconveniently-placed vines to follow a fleeing monster is now a thing of the past, replaced with a well-aimed wirebug and a quick wall-run up the remaining wall. Any wall. Anywhere on the map. The wirebug also gives you a quick-recovery option in combat when you get knocked down, and while your wirebugs do have a cooldown, this can be offset by armour skills, dango (more on that in a bit), and by collecting more limited-use wirebugs out in the field. It is, by far, the strongest and most impactful addition in the series’ history, and it completely changes the way you approach just about everything in the game.
Another fantastic addition is Palamutes, a dog-like companion creature similar in nature to the Palico, but with a few extra tricks up its sleeves. Like Palicoes, Palamutes will join you on your hunts and fight alongside you in combat, as well as providing a host of buffs and heals if they’re equipped to do so. But unlike Palicoes, Palamutes are big beefy good boys, and they will happily allow you to hop onto their backs as they cart you around a map as your noble steed. You can do just about everything you can do on your own two feet while on the back of a Palamute, including sprinting, running up some walls, drinking potions and sharpening your weapon. Those last two even provide an extra layer of combat support that allow you to easily move around while keeping yourself alive, or sharpen your weapon and chomp on some meat while you chase down an injured creature. The best part is that sprinting on your Palamute doesn’t consume stamina, so you’re free to run, jump, and even attack to your heart’s content — though it’s worth noting that attacks are much less effective while mounted. On top of all that, a change to how buddies join you on your hunts means that even when you’re teamed up with three other players to comprise a full party, each player can still bring either a Palamute or Palico with them on a mission, a nice change from World which whisked your furry friends away when you started hitting three or more players in a lobby.
And then there’s The Rampage, an all-new type of activity that’s really unlike anything seen in the series to date. In The Rampage, you’re tasked with setting up an area to help defend Kamura against waves of monsters, in a pseudo-minigame that somewhat resembles a tower defense game. You’re given a bunch of stations around the arena to fill, and you can choose to fill those stations with manually operated weapons like ballistas and cannons, weapons operated by villagers that automatically fire at monsters, bombs and baits, and special characters that help you on the ground floor. It’s a tense, stressful affair, as you’re zipping around the arena trying to defend the gates from destruction, but pulling it off — especially in multiplayer — makes you feel extremely skillful and confident in your abilities. I’ve had a few close calls in Rampages, and even failed a few, but they never cease to excite me.
Normally, I wouldn’t talk too much about performance in a game unless it was egregiously bad — the Switch is obviously much less powerful than other consoles, and often compromises have to be made, often at the expense of general playability. I’m extremely happy to report that not only are there no egregious performance issues, there don’t seem to be any major compromises either. Monster Hunter Rise looks incredible and performs flawlessly, with absolutely zero noticeable frame drops in my 45-odd hours with the game, either solo or in online multiplayer. It’s genuinely incredible that Capcom have managed to make a game that looks almost on par with Monster Hunter World (on base consoles of course), at a solid and uninterrupted 30fps, in an engine that’s very much in its infancy on the Switch. Whatever technical magic they’ve worked to get RE Engine working so flawlessly on the Switch is something that needs to be shared with the world — providing that doesn’t breach the terms of the ancient old world gods that bestowed said magic upon them.
It’s a great thing that Rise does look so good, too, because its art design is absolutely gorgeous, filled with the spunk and charm that the series is known for, just turned up to 11. Taking inspiration from classic Japanese architecture was also an inspired move, and it leaves the whole world feeling powerful and timeless, a living, breathing world filled with well-fitting inhabitants. It’s the small touches, too, that really drive it home. The main meal of Kamura village is dango, a Japanese sweet street treat made from glutinous rice flour, and, in Rise, decorated with little bunny faces. Each dumpling of dango on your dango stick gives off a special effect to help you in the field, and the animations for ordering dango are adorable, cat-filled adventures in fun. The start of every new monster hunt comes with a cutscene, offering an old-styled vignetted film of the monster going about its monstery activities, voiced over with a poem describing its features and feats. It’s all ridiculously charming, from top to bottom, and a massive treat to experience, even as a first-timer.
Speaking of, Rise offers a lot of onboarding features to help first-timers get the hang of hunting, with clear, concise tutorials teaching you just about every major thing you need to know. That’s a big change from previous games, which have tended to show you the bare basics (often through very dense infoboxes) and throw you into the deep end. Rise’s approach is a more considered one, easing you into the depths of hunting without overwhelming, and even offering a training arena in which to practice. This should hopefully help both new and returning players to get a firm grasp on what is often a very complicated game. Returning players in particular should find a lot to like about Rise, with returning locations like the Flooded Forest available to hunt in, familiar and new monsters to track down, and a few other little secrets and touches that should delight long-time fans — but hey, no spoilers.
As with every Monster Hunter game, there’s still a wide range of weird and whacky armour sets and weapons to equip both yourself and your buddies with, as well as a reasonably in-depth character creator for all three when you start up a new game. And as with every Monster Hunter game, it’s best played with other players, either via local wireless multiplayer, or online multiplayer. While I haven’t had the opportunity to test local multiplayer yet, I can confirm that Rise’s online multiplayer (which, if rumours are to be believed, makes use of Nintendo’s new NEX system) is probably the most solid part of the game. Joining and leaving a game is a simple affair, and once you’re in one, you’d probably struggle to feel it. In my experiences with the online multiplayer portion of the game, there was no lag, no drop-outs, no performance issues or bugs or display problems; it was identical to playing the game offline and solo, except there were other players there. Even in a session with myself in rural Tassie, a player on the west coast of the US, a player in Germany, and another in Italy, there were zero issues at all. In every instance, in every party makeup of different locations and situations, it was still flawless. That’s a technical achievement in its own right, but even ignoring that, it’s a frictionless process that just about everyone should be very happy with.
Despite my high praises for Monster Hunter Rise — and trust me, if I could sing higher praises I absolutely would — it’s certainly not perfect… but thankfully its imperfections seem subject to change. As mentioned in my introduction, the game does appear to be coming in a little hot; for most of my time with the game, the DLC menu, layered armour (aesthetic-only armour that doesn’t change your stats), and amiibo functionality was entirely missing, only being added in a patch just a few days ago at the time of writing. All these things are now there, at least, though it seems as if layered armour for people is still missing, and there doesn’t appear to be any layered armour available beyond preorder bonuses and potentially amiibo costumes, which I can’t test for obvious reasons. In addition, post-game content is largely absent, with certain aspects of the game seemingly pointing to more content that simply is not yet available. As mentioned though, this is very much subject to change, with new content already in the works for as soon as next month, and if it’s anything like previous Monster Hunter games, that additional content won’t be drying up anytime soon. And even with that caveat in place, there’s plenty to do and see in Rise, and everything that’s here is all fantastic.
Monster Hunter Rise is, put simply, the very best Monster Hunter game to date. Everything it does, it does well, and everything it doesn’t do is just around the corner. It’s a beautiful, enjoyable, exciting game, taking all the best parts of World and combining it with all the best parts of classic Monster Hunter, then adding a swathe of new features, monsters, play-styles, and more. It’s a sharp incline for the series, a rise to the top if you’ll forgive the pun, and it’s likely to entertain and captivate for weeks, months, and years on end. If you only ever play one Monster Hunter game in your life, make it this one.
+ Fantastic additions to the MH formula
+ Looks and performs brilliantly
+ Good mix of old and new
- Late game and some features feeling a little empty
- That's it, that's my only complaint
- Really, there's just nothing else wrong with it