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Monster Hunter: Rise might look daunting but is actually a pleasantly tame beast

By Kenneth Ang - 13 Apr 2021

Monster Hunting 101

Image: Capcom

No, I did not know you can fight monsters by swinging a giant trumpet around. Or, as the locals call it, a hunting horn. 

Monster Hunter: Rise has been out for roughly two or three weeks now, and this latest iteration of Capcom's beloved open-world RPG franchise has enjoyed an immensely positive reception from fans. However, does that sentiment really apply across the board? Sure, the veterans might love the new game to bits, but what do the first-time hunters have to say about it?

Yes, I know being a gamer who's never touched MH in his life is almost tantamount to committing a war crime, but better late than never, right? Naturally, there is still a lot I don't know about the game but so far, I have been enjoying myself immensely exploring the world and swinging all kinds of weapons around. 

 

All frills and no spills

Screenshot: HWZ

Just like any job interview, first impressions do matter, and even if you're not into the MH franchise, it is rather common knowledge among us gamers that Capcom doesn't skimp on the aesthetics. In fact, the graphics and audio packages are so flawlessly intertwined in Rise that even the title screen is impressive. 

Given the level of detail poured into its predecessor Monster Hunter: World, it's honestly unsurprising that Rise's aesthetics are one of its biggest draws. But while it's predictable, it certainly never fails to amaze. Everything from the cinematics to the characters and fight sequences feature an energetic, vibrant vibe that highlights the fantastical nature of the game's world and keeps you coming back for more.

In fact, I'll even toss in a special mention about the character outfits - unlike many other games, Rise doesn't leave the best looking things for the later stages of the game. Even the NPCs in Kamura Village, like Elder Fugen and the Quest/Hub Maidens look absolutely fabulous, and the latter's entrancing singing is certainly a pleasant cherry to have on top. Good aesthetics are a reward in themselves, and not having to play through three-quarters of the game to get something that looks nice is pretty cool.

Screenshot: HWZ

Of course, the excellence of the game's graphics aren't just limited to towns, outfits and people - the monsters are well done too. Whether you're hunting a couple of sleek, lithe Izuchi lizards or a big, fearsome Magnamalo, it's easy to distracted by the sheer majesty of your prey, not to mention the gorgeous environments they live in. 

But speaking of monsters, it's about time we stopped talking about the appetisers and tucked into the main course - Rise's gameplay.

 

Geared up and ready to go!

Screenshot: HWZ

As a general rule, playing Monster Hunter is quite like baking a cake. No amount of rushing will make the yeast rise any faster, so feel free to enjoy all that the game has to offer. Naturally, you will still want to pace yourself for quests with fixed timers, but for the more laid-back Expeditions, just take a chill pill and explore the stage at your own convenience. Heck, if you're not fond of walking (and many of us aren't!), just hop on your trusty Palamute companion and zoom over to your destination. Alternatively, some monsters can even be mounted and used in combat via the new Wyvern Riding system.

Given that much of the game's core gameplay is rather cut-and-dried already, I won't be going into specific detail about what exactly you'll find, but here's a quick look at the stuff on offer for those who need a crash course. Basically, you'll accept quests from the appropriate NPC in the Hub, get yourself (and your allies) geared up then head out to the respective stages to hunt monsters with your Palamute and Palico buddies. Once you're in, you'l have to work together to weaken and slay the monster, which grants you progress towards your next Hunter rank. 

Screenshot: HWZ

Most, if not all the weapons in Rise are ones that we've seen before in previous MH games, from Bowguns to Charge Blades and Insect Glaives, but where Rise sets itself apart from its predecessors is in how easy it is to use them, as well as the new Switch Skills. For example, the skill cap for the notoriously difficult Hunting Horn has been dialled down several notches, and based on what I've gathered from my more experienced hunter pals, the weapons in Rise are cakewalks compared to previous iterations.

The increased accessibility has been spread across other aspects of the game too - many of the interfaces and mechanics are much less complex than they used to be in games like Monster Hunter: World, making it a great starting point for absolute rookies looking to get in on the action. Additionally, many veteran players have become quite fond of the new Wirebug mechanic. This is essentially a grappling hook that lets you wall-run and whizz about the map for combat or exploration purposes. It certainly takes a while to get used to, but I really do like how it features different Silkbind Attacks for the various weapon styles - for example, swift, close-combat styles like Dual Swords will enjoy a huge boost to their agility and reach with moves like Shrouded Vault and Piercing Bind. 

 

Success is a journey

Image: Capcom

However, just because it's easier doesn't mean it's going to be all sunshine, rainbows and hand-holding. The game's tutorial gives you sufficient info to smack a few monsters around, but the real thrill of the game comes in a bit later, after you've had the time to study the game mechanics as well as the ins-and-outs of your preferred playstyle. The diversity in this sense is another of the game's plus points - players aren't really shoehorned into one or two playstyles, nor are they heavily punished for wanting to switch like in many other games.

Rise gives you a lot of that flexibility right from the start and keeps it that way, which makes it even better for beginners who might not really know what they want from the outset. Want to switch over and try out another weapon? Just head back to your camp and switch out your gear any time. Need a bit more insight on how to enhance your play? Just skim through the Hunter's Notes and take it for a spin in a quest. Honestly, though - the Hunter's Notes provides a great deal of information that us rookie hunters should browse through.

Image: Capcom

In a nutshell, it's easy to pick up and yet surprisingly skill-intensive - a lot of the improvement is done through a player's own initiative, and the game assists you by keeping things rather mild and relaxed. There's no need to go balls deep and save the world or defeat a terrifying villain - it's one of those games where you can really see success being more of a journey than a destination.

There isn't really a clear-cut end-point - you just keep getting better at the game by putting in the work. After all, as they say in the business, you'll need to earn your keep, and you don't achieve that by waiting for the game to do all the thinking for you. I find that's a really good factor to home in on especially if you're just starting out, and it has changed my perspective on the franchise somewhat. At the end of the day, I found that becoming skillful enough to duck and weave smoothly around huge boss monsters was its own reward.

Full disclosure; I used to think it was just glorified Dragon Age, so please put down the Bowgun. 

 

Your skill is its own reward

Screenshot: HWZ

As for the co-op aspect, the game doesn't make it a must for you to dabble in it, although I will mention that you're missing out on a lot of experiences if you don't. While you can beat big, fearsome monsters on your own if you play it right, there isn't much fun to be had going at it alone. Just join up with some buddies or even random players if need be - there's nothing quite like savouring a successful hunt together. And even if you did get "carried" by more experienced players, you can still work towards becoming skilled enough to carry others down the line! 

Frankly, I don't think there's much to really nitpick about the game and its flow, but what I will say is that its initial sequences do feel quite content-heavy. There's a lot of text to read through, and while they do a good job of explaining which buttons do what, it can feel a little intimidating. And then there's also the need to be aware of whether your weapon is sheathed or not - I think we've all been through the scenario where we downed a potion or two by mistake. I hate it when that happens, and the crappy part is that it still does. 

Image: Capcom

Accidental potion usage aside, I'm quite fortunate in the sense that I had friends who were experienced and could guide me along, but not every beginner will have that luxury, especially when you consider the co-op aspect. The most enjoyable part of Rise, and by extension the MH games in their entirety comes from working with other people to take down a powerful boss monster, but it can also be quite demoralising not knowing exactly how to contribute in such scenarios, which is one of the only ways I see people putting the game down for good. Sometimes the journey of becoming a skilled Hunter doesn't appear as rewarding as it actually is, and it's certainly possible to get bored of the grind occasionally, even if you've been playing for a while. 

Regardless, there's still a fair bit of reason to be satisfied with the game. The medley of accessibility changes and quality of life improvements, especially with regard to weapon handling does make this iteration a lot easier to get into than previous games. There's no pressure to quickly do well or make it to the top, and many of the formerly confusing bits such as crafting recipes and whatnot have also been streamlined and made easier to understand. Taking all of that into account, I'd say it's actually a pretty solid Switch title in general, and if you haven't had the chance to get acquainted with World or any of the previous games, then Monster Hunter: Rise is a particularly good place to start. Happy hunting!

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8.5
  • Playability 8.5
  • Graphics 8.5
  • Sound 8.5
  • Addictiveness 8
  • Value 9
The Good
Highly accessible for both old and new Hunters
Excellent and enrapturing aesthetics package
Many previously complex features have been made simpler
Wirebug mechanic opens up an immense wealth of gameplay options
There's no pressure - take your time and improve at your own pace
The Bad
First hour of gameplay can feel quite content-heavy
Gameplay can feel grindy at times
You'll need to play Multiplayer to get the most out of Rise
The satisfaction and enjoyment isn't instant - it's progressive
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