It’s time to return to Monster Hunter. Previously I reviewed Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate which was sort of like a finale for the classic style Monster Hunter with World leading into a new age for the franchise. I had considered getting Worlds, checked if my gaming computer could run it and it looked like it would, but then Rise was announced so I felt that it was pointless to get that with a new game on the horizon for a console I play a lot.
One big difference between Rise and both Worlds and Generations is just how Japanese the setting is. First thing that happens after making your character (which for me took a fair bit of time as I wanted to get them right) is you’re woken up by twin shrine maidens (and in the Japanese vocals setting they even “ara ara”). Then you put on your base gear which is very ninja looking and go out into a very feudal Japanese village.
Frankly this game is oozing with Japanese aesthetics. Not just the setting and clothes, the new monsters are all based on Yokai (Audiobook Review: The Book Of Yokai by Michael Dylan Foster), the monster intros are all in the style of Noh theater, heck even one of the main features of the game “the rampage” is itself a reference to Japanese mythology.
Ok enough about the setting.
Monster Hunter Rise fundamentally plays like Generations, but with MANY quality of life improvements and new dynamics. It still has you hunt large monsters and when defeating them you get materials you can use for armour and weapons that you can craft to get better and hunt more dangerous monsters, that’s all still there. Major changes are now instead of a map being split into different sections that you load into its all one big map you can explore. The maps can also get extremely vertical thanks to the new wire bug mechanics.
Exploring these maps is important for not just hunting the monsters but also thanks to endemic life which range from stat buffing creatures to animals and plants you can find that have various uses in battle such trap bugs which will momentarily flinch a monster when it makes contact (very useful to get out of a charge).
Palicos (the somewhat bipedal cats) return as a companion but are also joined by Palamutes, dogs that have been specially trained to help you and can even be ridden helping you get round the map.
The rampage is a sort of tower defense style mode which has you set up defenses (both automatic and manned) to fend off waves of monsters to prevent them breaking into the gate. It’s not just firing cannons though as during it you can get buffs to your regular weapons to leap into the fray for massive damage. While you won’t get much fun with that mode solo when you have a full group of 4 this mode really comes into its own, often ending against a boss like monster such as an apex monster, feeling your heart beat as you fight the powerful monster and see another wave coming towards you, knowing you need to beat this before the last gate gets down.
There is much more of a story this time round and I was pleasantly surprised to find it was in both the solo and multiplayer modes. Solo being almost a warm up and then facing off against the signature monster of the game Magnamalo while then heading into multiplayer and uncovering the cause of the rampage. I enjoyed that as in my previous Monster Hunter experiences the solo mode had the story and then multi player was a lot looser with maybe a small bit of explanation given for the final boss monster. It’s also useful as if you complete story mode and its post main story quests it will give you a hunt to allow you to get deeper into the multiplayer skipping the first two ranks since you will have proved your good enough (main story for multiplayer kicks in as you get into high rank, and if you have completed solo you are ready for high rank)
Of course this does still require you to be able to deal with hunting the same things over and over again to get the drops. So you need to be ready for a bit of a grind. Fortunately as you do that grind you do start to pick up on your targets movements and weaknesses so you find it easier to beat those monsters. I can’t say it’s a boring grind but you will get a little disheartened if you’re going for that one rare drop from the monster to complete your armour set and it keeps failing to drop (at which point start selling your surplus of other mats, you will need to money as you get into higher level crafts).
The game recently had its first update giving more endgame content with even more coming in May. I also suspect in about a year’s time we will see an ultimate or ice born equivalent to this game, basically an expansion giving us G/master rank level hunts. One tip, when you go online, don’t use a long sword… everyone will hate you.