Hello again, all. It’s me, Dynah Bee, your beloved Monster Hunter fangirl. Here with the good word. I’ve finally finished Monster Hunter Rise and I’ve got things to say about it. So buckle up, we’re hitting the water hot.
Monster Hunter Rise is possibly one of my favorite entries of the series. Yet, this game hasn’t hit a sweet spot. And this is coming off of a few months of updates.
To update (wink) my stance, I am no fan of modern game development and its rampant use of “always online, always updating.” I feel it is easily abused, leads to games being blatantly unfinished from the jump, and is another consequence of capitalism in the unchecked AAA gaming sphere. I said before that this extends the “lifetime of play Significantly.” Though true, at what cost? While I, the humble consumer, am treated to more and more fun in concentrated, staggered doses, the developers have created a project for themselves (read: their workers) to have a continuous stream of work for the future. I’m digressing a bit here, but take this into mind: this game planned to be updated, perhaps planned to release in the way it did. Monster Hunter Rise released unfinished, plain as day. If someone were to pick it off of shelves today and plug it in to an internet-less console, they would be receiving an incomplete game. The game has received two major updates at the time of writing this review. The first added a significant boost to the game’s content, and the second added and end cap to the start of the established content from the original release. In a sense: Monster Hunter Rise has now been fully released. And now I can dig into it in true.
I posted before about how the game felt as I began playing it. I reveled in its “return to form” design, bringing back the best of the series pre-World, and refining those significant changes World brought to the table. Rise feels like Monster Hunter 4 and Monster Hunter World had a baby. Rise brings back the single-player focused campaign that World left to the wayside. A calm, hidden, little village somewhere in this cave-punk world needs your help to save the village from a calamitous force. Ditching the colony narrative of the previous game, this one takes its time to establish you as a force unique to a village; much like the standards set since MH1. This game simply feels more like Monster Hunter with just that difference. However, World’s design upheavals were not in vain. These great changes that truly made Monster Hunter a better game overall have returned and sharpened themselves through further development. The maps continue their continuous nature, the radial menus continue to aid hunters new and old, and all those small changes from World amount to a world of difference.
Where Rise makes a point to stand out on its own is its further refinement of how combat flows in this series. The wirebug system is honestly impeccable. Whereas I’ve discussed previous combat changes and gimmicks (namely: water fighting, new weapon techniques, verticality, the clutch claw) I feel as though the wirebug system collapses all of the best aspects of these gimmicks, and goes as far as to add several new ideas in the same breath. The verticality, the combo-potential, the riding mechanic, the flow! It’s all there in just a press of two buttons. To explain it briefly, the wirebugs allow the hunter to use a grappling hook essentially anywhere in the play environment. One technique extending a longish length wire from the hunter in a direction of their choosing, pulling them quickly in that direction. From here they can coast deftly through the air, climb up steep walls, and descent brutally on their monstrous opponent. The player has two to three recharging uses of this, keeping it in flux with the changes in play. But that’s not all!!! This system has been retrofitted with a capability to perform Hunter Arts. These interchangeable weapon skills draw from the Hunter Arts of the fourth generation, as well as add a new taste with the high-flying aesthetic of the ninja-like wirebugs. The system is greatly simplified, only drawing from a handful of those old techniques (of which I am grateful), and only a few of these techniques fundamentally change weapon playstyles (a good thing, no doubt.) But there’s still more! The last aspect of this tool is what truly makes a huge difference: the Wirefall. So already these wirebugs have improved or melded with old, beloved additions to this series. But what if they say, also added to how combat fundamentally flows? Y’know, as a goof? The wirefall is one of those unique type of gameplay changes where it is very blatantly obvious that it is there and has made a difference to how the play is approached, but also that this change so subtly ingrains itself into the flow that it is very likely you will want it to stay for the future. And I haven’t even said what it does yet! The wirefall is technique that draws from the same system as the wirebugs where the hunter can instantaneously recover from an attack that would usually knock them flat off their feet. Simple. Whereas previously, the player was at the mercy of gravity, taking a few moments to regain their footing. Now, with an ability as easy as evading, they can get right back in control, choosing to do as they will. This system is huge to me. This feels as though another huge bit of the already excellent flow of this game has been polished to a mirror sheen. Every fight has been changed by this addition, and yet it remains so wonderfully balanced. It is just as limited in uses as the rest of the wirebug system, and requires more time to recharge due to its versatility and usefulness. At times it is as good as a “Get out of jail free” card, at others it can put you into a combo from a monster that will drain your health in the blink of an eye. But more often, it allows players to exit and re-enter combat that much quicker than in the past, significantly increasing the choices of any player without taxing them. Its use changes so much based on situation, player skill, and player-style; and to me that’s what makes it such an elegant new addition. It is something so significant to the design of this game that I wonder how it will continue into the future, its application seemingly so fundamentally beneficial to the design enhancements of this series. And then there’s wyvern riding, something so gimmicky and limited (though fun) that it feels obvious this will meet the same fate as water combat. You can control the monsters in this one, exciting.
I’ll take just a bit more time here to discuss the skills situation of this game. Thankfully the armor skill system from World makes a triumphant return, and with it, the potential for beastly skill combinations. Decoration crafting has also returned! One of World’s biggest blunders was the grindfest of decoration hunting, so it’s very appreciated that the skill improvements have now been applied to decorations you can simply make. However, charms are still random! So close! No power gaming for you until you trip over a random charm with +3 attack. You win some you lose some I guess. A new type of skill has been added, called Rampage skills, where a unique buff can be applied to certain weapons. These are interesting additions, and can have significant changes to gameplay depending on where you end up with these Rampage skills. And they’re much easier to acquire, only needing the player to make their way through one or two rampage quests. I don’t see myself going too deeply into what a rampage quest is for the rest of this review so I’ll explain it here. Tower defense meets Monster Hunter. That’s it. It has some story significance, but it certainly doesn’t wow or disappoint. Perhaps it’s a welcome middleground to the raid style quests being suspiciously absent from this game.
So, essentially, the most significant change Rise brings to the table for this series is the Wirebug system. An impressive change no doubt, and something that really does set it apart. It’s difficult to follow a game like Monster Hunter World, especially since much of that game’s design has come to influence this one. Monster Hunter, until World, has been a series of incremental changes; so it doesn’t disappoint that this follows the old, beloved trend; even if the game prior changed so much.
What does disappoint, however, is the dearth of content for this game. It is one of the very few games in this series that has noticeably less monsters that its direct predecessor. The only times this has happened were Monster Hunter Tri, Monster Hunter World, and this game. Tri released only 35 monsters total, comparable to the very first game in the series (30), and cutting down from its direct predecessor by more than half (MHFU with 80). World is unique in this category, and speaks to where Rise seems to be heading. World released with 48, and eventually reached 54 with a few free updates. This is a paltry number compared to Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate, with a frankly ridiculous 129, which released months earlier. Now, the dividing line between where World and Iceborne are as entries in this series is blurred, seeing as they share the base game. Iceborne is veritably the direct predecessor to Rise. Standing on its own as basically the “Ultimate” update to World, having been modernized with the rest of game development as it were; being patched directly onto World’s base. Iceborne, eventually, achieved 94 monsters, having 8 added around a year since its release. So with all of this information in mind, I’d like to turn attention to Rise’s content. Having released with 63 monsters, it puts it just above par with the aforementioned dips. So far, it has added 9 more monsters just months after release, bringing it up to 72. This is still very obviously less that Iceborne’s respectable 94. I bring this all up in efforts to make a point that these monsters are the most important piece of content for every entry in this series. It is not just the new ways of play that bring fans to this series, but how these improvements and changes can be applied to the main characters of this series: the eponymous monsters that be hunted. When this roster takes a hit, so too does the overall enjoyment of this game, at least for me. Not to say I didn’t enjoy my time playing this game as it came out and subsequently was updated. But what I am saying is that I’m sitting on what seems like the far side of an update schedule, having encountered the lion’s share of the available content, unsatisfied and uncertain. What I do know is that I will not be seeing any new monsters added to this game in the foreseeable future, the update schedule has seemingly confirmed that. Not only that, but what has been added to this game seems pretty final. The latest update feels pretty similar to what you’d see in the endgame of World, and even Iceborne. The final form of the big bad has been shown and usurped, and the new Valstrax adds what could be some of the strongest armor in this game yet. So, the only way is up. What fun would it be adding such powerful monsters, weapons, and armor and then returning some new monsters that would more than likely be weaker? Monster Hunter Rise has reached a similar terminus that World did, and will likely need to wait until it’s Iceborne equivalent to truly satisfy.
So as not to appear so dire about my outlook and perception of this game, it is now time to revel in the things I honestly loved about this game. It is Monster Hunter, after all, what’s not to love?
One thing I enjoyed was the personality they added to the hunters. I’ll qualify that by saying the character creator wasn’t nearly as robust as World’s, but is a nice improvement from the classics pre-World. The brand new aspect added for this entry was giving these hunters a voice, with acting! More than just the grunts you know and love, these hunters can actually say things; truly this is the future of games. I happen to love this new addition, whereas I’ve seen plenty of hesitancy and outright derision. Perhaps I lucked out in my choice of voice, as she happened to have a cute accent and way of speaking. Great example, when sharpening she likes to triumphantly say “Whetstone time!” or “Gotta stay sharp! Haha!” (The sardonic yet nervous laugh always kills me); and when a monster flees she disappointingly reckons “Aw! But I was just starting to have fun!” I have a crush on my hunter its true, she’s adorable. And fret not, you can shut them up if desired; truly an accessible game. I have my girl talking at apparently “80%” frequency, as at 100% she tends to remark about nearly everything. One truly nice benefit about these voicelines is that they’ll sometimes give a good hint as to what a hunter should be doing. Case in point, when a monster is rearing up for a devastating attack, whether the player knows it or not, the hunter will cry out “Look out!” diegetically to your teammates, but also for you, the player. I find it a very nice addition, helps breath yet another bit of life and verisimilitude into the experience.
Now look at my hunter, her garb, her fun and flirty attitude. See how fucking Bad Ass her fits are? This game really lets you go hog wild with layered armor, hence, I have! No longer is “Fuckin’ Stylin on em” gated by post-post-end-game content like in World:Iceborne. As soon as you finish the first part of the story and unlock the ranking cap, you are free to collect tickets from quests that can be redeemed for every piece of armor in the game as a cosmetic. Now sure, you have to get all the materials, enough tickets, and must purchase these parts piecemeal; but I still hold that higher than Iceborne where you have to make it to the ass end of the game (took me at least a hundred fifty-something hours) and then grind for brand new resources (and then keep grinding because you need to level up the grinding area to get the right items… I hated this so much…). You get whole sets with each purchase, sure, but at what cost? I gleefully kept hunting, as there were new monsters to fight at this point in the game, and got my tickets aplenty, all before 80 hours of cumulative play. Ease of access, ease of lookin Fly As Fuck. So, I hope you’re ready for a fashion show… Cuz here’s my fave outfits:
I’m hoping you love Bee just as much as I do at this point. I love a badass babe who knows how to dress. Now, more of what I like about this game. The combat, the second most important aspect of this series, is tight as all get out. I mentioned before just how much I appreciate the addition of the wirebug mechanic. It really just feels like the designers got one of those long torque wrenches and tightened the hell out of the combat flow with this game. Cut some chaff from the older entries while bringing back their best representative skills, took pages from World’s kinematic flow, and ramped up the moment to moment choices with the wirebugs. I can see the weapon skills being a thing that has some changes here and there for the future of the series, but the wirebug mechanic adds just so much versatility to the gameplay of the series. It may go, just as the clutch claw and water combat have, but unlike those this one would be sorely missed. One interesting thing with this entry is a complete rewrite of one of the classic weapons: the Hunting Horn. This came as a pleasant surprise to plenty, myself especially, as this weapon is one of those classics that has really not gotten much attention. I couldn’t accurately say just how much this weapon has changed, honestly, as I never touched it more than once before Rise. It’s a clunky, slower weapon that admittedly adds a lot to the multiplayer aspect of the game. Yet I never got much use out of in the past for multitudes of reasons: Just so slow with awkward combat use, didn’t have multiplayer for some entries when I could use it, started with a game that didn’t have it, etc. But for this game, I’m surprised to admit, it has been my most used weapon over all. I tend to learn a new weapon per entry in this series, and return to some for comfort, as has been the case with SnS (MH3), Lance(MH3, mained in World), Hammer (MH3U), Great Sword (MH4), and all the ranged weapons (MHFU, MHW, MH3). Hunting Horn, far and away, has been a beloved new addition to my repertoire in Rise; sad to say I don’t think I can take these skills backwards through the series. It really got that “good flow” treatment I went on and on about in my retrospective, but much later, and all at once. I had a blast with the horn in this game, and my teammates probably did too. It’s a wonderful buff-and-beatdown type weapon (often for me it’s heal-and-harm; I love alliteration) that really benefits everyone on the hunt, and being so much easier to use really lends itself to player exploration. For those who’ve been lying in anticipation: the Curbstomp Symphony has been touring extremely well.
Lastly I want to give the monsters for this entry the kudos they deserve. Sure I went on about how there’s not enough in this entry, but the design chops on who’s new here really does need some time to shine. Rise’s design ethos this time around went hard on the feudal Japanese era, and with it: Yokai (That’s monster in Japanese!). Many of the new faces in this game are based on folkloric Japanese monsters. More widely known monsters such as the Kappa, Tengu, and Oni (more accurately the Namahage in this case) get the beloved Monster Hunter treatment, as well as less well known faces like the Kamaitachi, Kasa-obake (though a well loved design, the name escapes me), and the Hitodama get some spotlight here with very interesting design elements. There is a distinct love that is put into how these monsters are crafted, what they’re able to do in the environment, and how that environment is reflected on their design. Take my fluffy baby boy, the Goss Harag, for example: A large lumbering hairy beast of the tundra. He’s designed after Oni, man-eating devilish creatures that come in blue and red colorations traditionally. As such, when he’s calm, he has a blue face, but get him angry and the red oni appears. His ferocity is made apparent in his seeming tirelessness, as exhaust element weapons are ineffective against him. And he looks like an angry polar bear ogre, very cute in an ugly sort of way. I was very happy to see more non-reptilian and lizardlike monsters for this entry, it does get tiring fighting dragon after dragon at this point. We could all use a funny monkey like Bishaten to spice things up. Fuck that otter bastard, Almudron though, hate his fight to death. All the game really needs now is some more brutes, bugs, and mountains to fight. I very much miss the chitinous crabs and bugs of the older games, and my favorite monster class, the brute wyvern, only has my least favorite representatives. But something I truly crave is being able to return to the sandy dunes with Jhen Mohran…
All said, Monster Hunter Rise feels like a true return to form, for better and worse. Where it brings back the comfort of the old generations, it also brings with it a feeling of being a middle release waiting for the expansion. Whereas World was so unique for the series, it didn’t actually feel like it was really missing much. It had a final boss right out the gate, making it feel like a more complete package in comparison. Sure it added monsters as it went, but Rise really dropped the ball by not even having its final boss until months after release, let alone end game monsters like the elder dragons it added in 2.0. My faults with this release stem mostly from this issue, glaring as it is, but that isn’t to say it wasn’t fun while I got my hands on it. It is a weird feeling, though, having played this series for as long as I have, and essentially 100%-ing it just a hundred hours in. That is to say, every boss has been slain, I’ve finished almost every quest at least once, and all of the strongest armor is gracing my closet. I know I’ve gotten better at this game after all these years, but this still feels a little too quick, almost unearned. It feels difficult to give a review of this game, and has been since it came out, because it just feels so unfinished! I still have a gut feeling that the true “Final Review” of this game will only be when its expansion finally comes out who-knows-when. Even so, the game deserves to be reviewed as it is, something that came out too early and has been made as it goes. You just can’t wait until all the tracks are fully put down to see there’s a problem at the first station, especially when there’s no real “end goal” in sight.
I’m not sure if I’m really committed to giving numerical ratings of games, but I feel I need something here to endcap this review. So let me end with this: In the time since I’ve started writing this review (please don’t ask me how long it’s been, I’m really trying here…) Monster Hunter Stories 2 has hit the shelves. I’ve learned that you can ride a Deviljho in that game, and not this one. So already the Pokéclone has a leg up on this release. Pretty shameful if you ask me…
So there we go! I’ve finally gotten that out and done here, and can mentally work on getting new things started; isn’t that exciting?! I hope this write-up has been fruitful for you, dear reader. I really feel like we’ve gotten closer after all this time… Ah but I really should finish this up. You can find me on my Twitter mostly these days, but that’s subject to change. I streamed my whole playthrough of this game on my Twitch, but since that was ages ago I’ve finally uploaded the footage to a Youtube channel! Wow, new links, drop those web2.0 bad-boys queen… I’m unsure of what I’ll be posting here next, as I’m terrible at fulfilling promises. But do know that I’ll be back soon enough with something juicy. I have a big project upcoming but you’ll have to know just about nothing on that front; don’t wanna get your hopes up! But thanks again for stopping by, this webpage has been a great platform for me to just hit the page and keep going. Come back for more ya hear? Buh-bye now~