Preview: Eyes-on with Monster Hunter Rise
Monster Hunter Rise is just around the corner, launching in just a month from the time this article is published, and we’ve had a little bit of a sneak preview at the game ahead of launch.
Normally, these kinds of preview events would be undertaken in-person, with a reviewer or two able to go hands-on with a preview build of the game and really give it a good whack. Unfortunately, with the world the way it is right now, that’s not really possible… but thankfully, we’ve got the next best thing. Thanks to Nintendo Australia and Capcom Europe, my colleague Paul Roberts and I have had the opportunity to watch a special preview of Monster Hunter Rise, going over some of the new features like Wyvern Riding, wirebug traversal, the adorable Palamutes, and a new type of food called Dango.
This preview will be split into two parts; the first is mine, the perspective of a long-time series veteran with thousands of hours in dozens of games, and the second is Paul’s the perspective of someone who’s played most of the games, but not for quite as long and a lot more casually. As a small note, all screenshots in this article have been taken from B-roll footage provided by Capcom Europe, and as such might be slightly lower quality than if they’d been captured on-system. Keep an eye out for more video on the Vooks social channels in the coming days. Let’s get stuck in!
The first thing that strikes me about Monster Hunter Rise is how good it looks, given the hardware it’s running on. We knew this already, of course — we’ve all played the demo, we’ve seen gameplay of it in previous events, but it still blows my mind that this is running on a Nintendo Switch and not a base Xbox One or PS4. It’s a stunning spectacle, and easily one of the best-looking games on Switch, and it’s made all the more impressive that it’s running in an engine that to date has zero games on Switch.
The second thing that strikes me about Monster Hunter Rise is how familiar it all looks. I’m a long-time fan of the series, having played every main game from the first all the way up to Generations Ultimate on the Switch, and there’s just something about Rise that seems… homely. It feels like a warm cup of tea on a rainy day, like a home-cooked meal after a long trip, like taking your shoes off after being on your feet all day. What I’m trying to say here is that Monster Hunter Rise looks to capture the magic of what made earlier Monster Hunter games special. In my review of Generations Ultimate, I mentioned (to much pushback) that I preferred playing Monster Hunter World, for a litany of reasons but mainly for the quality of life additions. But while Monster Hunter World gained a lot in playability, what it lacked was heart. It was cold, clinical, sterile, a paint-by-numbers mass-market Monster Hunter experience, and while that’s good for introducing new players to the series — which World undoubtedly did by releasing on PS4 and Xbox One — it always felt a little lacking in the charm department. Rise has no such problem.
There might be a little bit of nostalgia talking there, and for good reason; the preview we had access to showed off a hunt against the disgusting but classic Khezu, a large, flesh-tube of a dragon that made its first appearance in the very first Monster Hunter. And on top of that, we were shown another hunt in the Flooded Forest, a partially-submerged woodland introduced in Monster Hunter 3 — although it’s safe to say that underwater hunts probably won’t be making a reappearance in Rise. And you’ll have to forgive yet another comparison to Monster Hunter World, but while that game focused almost entirely on new creatures and locations, Rise seems to want to strike a balance between the new and the old. It’s too early to say that balance is entirely right, but judging from what we’ve seen so far, I’m very optimistic that this is the game that can bring together fans of the classic Monster Hunter experience and more recent fans who joined the series with World.
But let’s move onto the new stuff, because that’s really what you’re here to see. Monster Hunter Rise’s biggest and most prominent new feature is the addition of the wirebug, a new companion/tool that allows hunters to zip around with reckless regard for silly little concepts like “gravity”. The wirebug lets a hunter zip upwards into the sky, acting as the first time in the series that jumping is a regular part of every hunter’s repertoire. This not only allows for a huge range of new combat opportunities, it also provides a lot of world-scaling opportunities. In the preview footage provided, it was easy to see just how much verticality has been added to the maps, a whole new dimension to traverse and fight in. A tall cliff in a previous Monster Hunter game might have required the hunter to slowly climb up an accompanying vine, but in Rise you just aim your wirebug into the sky and zoom away.
The other major addition is the Palamute, an adorable dog-like companion creature that every Hunter has access to alongside their Palico. Like the wirebug, the Palamute gives the hunter access to a lot of both combat and traversal options, with the ability to ride the Palamute across the map at breakneck speed to follow a fleeing monster or escape a sticky situation. Both Palamutes and Palicos can be hired from the hub town’s Buddy Scout, who’s in charge of finding and training up the furry friends to excel in combat. And of course, there’s a wide range of customisation options, both with the look of the creatures themselves, and a wide range of armour options for companions and hunters alike.
Aside from the new food options, the silkbind, and the all-new training options, all of which Paul goes over below, the other thing worth noting is the multiplayer. As with Monster Hunter games before it, Rise has a heavy focus on multiplayer, with up to four friends (and their Palamutes or Palicos!) able to team up to go on hunts together. With all the options for combat, and the new focus on verticality and speed, a four-player hunt looks frantic and energetic, with non-stop action the entire time. Together, you can zip around and distract monsters using your wirebug, silkbind an opposing monster and do battle with your target, and jump on your Palamutes to chase after a monster that’s run away to eat some berries. It’s the fastest Monster Hunter has ever looked, an electric shot in the arm for what is traditionally quite a slow and clunky series, and when it finally launches in a month’s time, I’ll be looking forward to diving far into the depths of Rise with my friends.
Just like the great cooking cutscene from Monster Hunter World, the Dango cooking in Monster Hunter Rise looks just as delicious. Unlike the big meaty platters from World, Dango is a Japanese dumpling. These ball-shaped dumplings are placed on a skewer for your hunter to enjoy. Each dango ball on the skewer can carry a different buff/bonus, further enhancing your character beyond armour and weapon bonuses. Not only do they look tasty, I don’t see myself skipping the cooking animation any time soon.
In the footage was a group working together to bring down the slimy looking Khezu. I was looking forward to seeing more of how the wire bugs work out in the field, and more about silkbind attacks, and thankfully Capcom did not disappoint. Encounters with the big monsters look more over-the-top than ever! Seeing everyone ‘webslinging’ around with wirebugs — everyone can easily get airborne to get the jump on these beasts. There are Puppet Spiders that can be collected out in the world to gather their silk, and if you land a silkbind attack on a weakened monster you get a chance to ride these Wyverns. In the footage you could see them crashing one of the non-mission-critical monsters into walls and boulders to do damage, as well as pitting them against your target. It’s hard to know how much damage these attacks will do so they aren’t too overpowered — although I wouldn’t mind too much if there was the opportunity to level the playing field.
Later on in the demo, the most exciting moment was when three of the larger monsters had gathered all in the same area, with all four hunters also in the fray. I’ll be really interested to see how the game holds together with so much going on, and I’m excited to see if you can get all three monsters being ridden around, making them hit each other.
As with any main Monster Hunter game, you harvest monster parts once you kill them. In this case we saw what happened when you stripped the Khezu of its parts and crafted the Khezu hammer and armour. The Khezu is kinda gross looking compared to other monsters, and its armour makes you look like you are wearing a big slimy grub coat. If you want to cosplay as Ezio from Assassin’s Creed only in an outfit made from skinned albinos, then look no further than this monstrosity. (Note from Ollie: this also applies to the Palamute Khezu costume, which looks like somebody’s taped some big flaps of white whale skin around a dog and let it go. It’s horrific.)
When you finish up a hunt with a group, you’re given the opportunity to give the other players a ‘like’ or a thumbs up to let them know they’re appreciated. It also makes the players you liked easier to find when looking for online hunts in future. Anything that Capcom can do to make Monster Hunter easier to communicate through the better!
Training allows you to try out your weapons on a big wooden monster, the Toadversary. What really caught my attention was how customisable it was to help you train for many different situations. You can let it perform specific attacks like targeted projectiles or knocking you back. It looks good for if you want to give all the different weapons a good try before getting out in the field, or just to practice against certain attacks you might be having trouble with.
After Monster Hunter World went some way to making the franchise a little more accessible to a wider audience, I look forward to seeing how Rise benefits. Zipping around on the wire bugs looks like battles will get really interesting as you can get more airborne. It’s going to be a long month for all the hunters out there. I can’t wait to play a new Monster Hunter on the go again!
Monster Hunter Rise launches exclusively for the Nintendo Switch on the eShop and at retail on the 26th of March. You can click here to check out our Aussie Bargain Roundup and score yourself a deal.