Well, as Monster Hunter Rise is finally out. We received a pair of review copies at the last minute, so with about 10 hours under my belt, I think it’s safe to to start things out with a gut-reaction to the release, reflecting naturally on the game’s preview, predecessor, and past titles. While late-game or future content can obviously change this, the Monster Hunter series is an evolving online game, which is probably why it’s able to attract traditional MMO fans who want a smaller but still online multiplayer experience.
While I had my reservations during the first demo and made some good progress with the second, I think the full version leaves a much better impression, even if it may not win over non-MH series fans as Monster Hunter World did.
Rise and shine
Now, before I begin, I do want to address one thing zealous fans keep shouting: “You can’t compare this to World.” In fact, we definitely can and should. It’s the best-selling game in the whole franchise – and the best-selling Capcom game period. Anyone who thinks that World somehow should be treated completely differently from all other main-series MH entries is (probably) not someone who reviews games in general. I think it may also be clear to long time readers that MassivelyOP tends to be critical and looks at games from a consumer standpoint, and so I will too.
But even with all that being said, I can highly recommend Monster Hunter Rise. Assuming anyone is (still) reading this and not just playing, I will address a few things, but overall, this is one of the strongest entries in the series so far.
Some people may recall from the demo that the visuals were, well, not quite in the same ballpark as World. While the Switch isn’t nearly as powerful as consoles, I think part of the issue for me is that coming straight from World spoiled me. I admit I may also have had lower expectations having started with the demo, but the full release’s character customization screen and first cutscene actually looks pretty good to me. A step down, but very much serviceable (though also keep in mind that, again, I played the original Darkfall with zero complaints about looks – MMO players aren’t as picky about things like this if the game itself is good). I think having the slightly prettier aesthetics in cutscenes followed by a small step-down is much easier to swallow.
While customization isn’t super deep, there’s still plenty of it, and like many modern games, feels inclusive. Like World, I did notice my character came out a few shades off from what the preview showed, but I tend to cover my face a lot anyway. What I really enjoyed was customizing my Palamute (dog mount/pet) and Palico (cat pet/support). The Palico has support types to choose from which is nice, but honestly, I’ve always been a dog person more, and I love mounts. Although the single-player game allows you to run around with both, in multiplayer, you’ll just be seeing dogs, and I’m more than fine with that. The series feels so good with mounts that I don’t know if I ever want to go back.
As usual, Rise doesn’t have what I’d call a high-class story. It works so far, and there are some creative ways to shoehorn features into the dialogue (heh, “spiderwebs”), so if you’ve got some time for bad jokes, it’s still worth reading the game’s text for things that aren’t tutorials. Also, once I again, I really do suggest people read/play the tutorials before going online, especially if you skipped the demo.
So far, the slightly smaller-looking maps in Rise actually have a lot of vertical content. It reminds me of the time I’ve had with Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Mountains that previously worked as a barrier can actually be scaled here in many cases, given the right buffs and player skill. In fact, I have to admit that a lot of my progress was “hindered” because of exploration. There are so many neat tools and resources you can get quite early in the game to help your hunts, especially if you’re an explorer type. It actually feels close to cheating at times, but in a good way.
This is something that I don’t think came across well in the demo because, naturally, the demo put Monster Hunting at the forefront. When you start the game slower and on your own, you’re able to better appreciate what the developers have done. It’s not that the hunting in Rise is bad at all because it’s not. I’ve already lost track of the armor sets I have based on bosses; my only major regret so far is there haven’t been enough creatures with big tails for me to cut. Don’t worry, Barroth, I saw your quest come up and fully intend to continue my vendetta against your kind.
Overall, I think World was easier to appreciate just based on looks and mechanical accessibility. If you’re just running around to grind, World certainly feels easier to do that with. No judgment there against World players because I’d still point people there if they’ve never played a Monster Hunter game.
But Rise isn’t that much harder once you slow down and learn what you can do, and MOP Chris’ hunch that the wire-bug would eventually become second nature was on the mark. Without a doubt, it really feels key to “getting” the game, and once you have, it brings a lot to the table. I still saw some people in the last demo claiming its use is “unnecessary,” but that feels like playing a rogue without stealthing or a mage that ignores crowd-control spells. I don’t think I saw a single reviewer not using the wire-bug in some capacity, and as I’ve seen press really struggle in past entries, I think the success I’ve seen in Rise’s pre-release bodes really well for the game.
However, playing solo really helps give a better feel for how and when to use the wire-bug, as that’s when I’ve learned the most tips. There’s a reason people tend to look down on hunters who are “carried” by higher ranked people annihilating monsters for them in past entries, but I think that sentiment is really going to be felt strongly in a few weeks/months when lat comers may try to just jump right in with over-geared friends and then find that they’ve really missed the basics.
I’m still certainly learning what I can and can’t get away with myself, and the fact that I can cover so much ground so fast in an MH title is both confusing and freeing. I still miss my clutch-claw, but man, if I could have the clutch-claw in Rise with everything it’s already bringing to the table, I’d be in heaven.
Immersion vs. mechanics
Gameplay-wise, there was something that always stood out to me about Rise in the demo that I just couldn’t put my finger on, but after running around in multiple levels, doing a larger variety of quests, and fighting different monsters, I’ve figured it out. What made World work was a lot of “real-world logic.” You followed footprints, droppings, blood, snot, whatever. You had tracking flies, which vaguely makes some sense if you know about bee communication; you climbed ropes, shot down rock traps, broke dams… it’s still impressive just writing about that. And all that built on other “knowledge” the series was known for, like cutting off tails or slashing wings to prevent the monster from using those, or combining honey and herbs to deal with wounds. It felt like a true survival game before those were really a thing, and World finally made that click for people.
Now, Rise does have some of that, but it’s on a smaller scale. You’re not going to bring down a mountain with a slingshot, but the local wildlife has its uses beyond the simple buffs I think most people played with during the demo. Things like the Stinkmink, which will attract big monsters to you, were largely overlooked in the demo from my experience, and I can kind of see why. There are plenty of creatures and bugs that you can pick up and do neat things with, but they’re often inventory items, not just out in the wild like before. If you don’t stop and read the description (which gives some good tips) when you first find the item, it’s easy to forget about these.
That, I think, is the difference. World is very visual and highly immersive, and that plays well with making the game accessible. While Rise is capable of similar, if smaller-scale immersive mechanics, the problem is that these require the player to read text and tips and then cycle through inventory to play with the items. It’s the whole “out of sight, out of mind” thing. It’s very good when designing a video game for people used to “reading” a game, but for more casual players, having a big environment they can “naturally read” can appeal to a broader audience.
However, design-wise, Rise is actually more accessible than your average MH entry, even World in some ways. Changing from World’s massive environments and losing the tracking-flies is hard to ignore, but leaving World out of the equation, we’re still leaps and bounds better than before. Gathering is super quick, crafting can be done automatically, the game is more generous with items to help people cut down on farming, the two companions actually help better simulate online play than past titles have, the new mounting is much more interesting with more
pokemon monsters to fight with on different terrain… and I haven’t gotten to the multiplayer features! That alone actually blows World out of the water for me.
The multiplayer connection
Since I joined later in the preview cycle, I tried to stick with other “lowbies” like myself. During the pre-release and the early-AM release, I was easily about to join random rooms and friends’ rooms, who were very easy to find/make. While in some ways it may not seem as flexible as World’s flares, it’s more consistent. I had people come and go from rooms and active quests with few to no problems, both as the host and guest. Even better, when I did disconnect with the group early into one of the battles, I was still able to finish it solo. The fact that it was so easy to get in and out of groups and not lose all progress from a disconnect was quite refreshing, especially after the issues I had with World’s PC release.
The scaling so far is fairly quick from what I’ve seen too. The monster I disconnected on was the hardest one available to me, and I had been with a group of four people. I’d had people sit back or quit on me in the past, and it’s just agonizing trying to beat a monster designed for four people on your own. When I disconnected, though, I’m pretty sure the monster scaled to me alone, as I killed it in almost the same time it had been taking my group, possibly even faster.
At the end of the day, Monster Hunter Rise at release is worth the cost of admission for most players. Veterans old and new should enjoy it, even if it’s not as immersive as World. The wire-bug antics, especially as you unlock more of your skills, not only help make the levels feel bigger in a “tall” sense but also increase the space for explorers to regain a sense of wonder, while in combat, the wire-bug gives the game a stylish, cinematic look and feel, as does the new mounting mechanic. Palamutes really round out the “hunter” feel, as does having a group of three in single-player mode, which better simulates online multiplayer. The only people who may wish to avoid the game are people who didn’t enjoy World or are not fans of action combat to begin with. For the rest of us… the hunt is on.