Why I Play: Monster Hunter Rise is still worth it one month later

    
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It’s been over a month since Monster Hunter Rise was released to the public. I was feeling good about the game during the press testing phase and early release, for the most part, and now we’ve just received our first free update, which technically brings some nice new features, but for people just looking to check off monsters killed and move on, it probably won’t last them very long.

But for social MMO players, I don’t think that’s a problem. While you may be able to kill each monster faster enough, there’s a lot more you can do than simply beat each boss. Work alone is not why I’ve yet to miss playing a single day since release.

Scratching the raid itch

First, let me start with the eight-point criteria I’ve used when judging other games for their MMO-ness:

  • Avatar-based (text, 2-D, 3-D, etc.)
  • Environment is persistent and interactive
  • The environment then leads to player-to-player interaction
  • Must have AI to interact with
  • Must have some sort of reward system
  • Corporate, not private, servers that don’t require or display a population size to start or cap out at
  • Real-time interaction (for turn-based action, must be limited to seconds/minutes)
  • An in-game communication system

Since everything is instanced, I’m taking off the persistent environment check. We’ve got population caps, so that’s another point off, though one most MMO fans probably look at most. That leaves us at 6/8 points, so while it’s not firmly an MMO, it’s hitting many of the marks we’d want from the genre. It’s no different from other MH games, but I’d argue the series in general scratches the raider itch and sometimes the customizable dress-up itch in recent entries.

Fellow MOP writer Chris “Wolfy” Neal has spent a good amount of time playing solo and offline with his husband, and it seems like the content’s been meaty enough for him. Unlike traditional MMOs, the MH series essentially lets everyone play at least DPS and dodge-tank at some point in the fight, and while the battle choreography tends to be more open-ended (do you dodge, dodge and attack, or take the hit and dish out damage during invincibility frames?), ignoring it can be far more punishing.

I admit I rushed through the single-player content to “beat” it, and the new update does have something for completionists that I haven’t seen yet, but for the most part, the solo content lacks several monsters the multiplayer one has, in addition to lacking the higher-end weapons, armor, and jewels. Clearly it’s fun, but I feel like it’s more of a tutorial for group play, with your pets vaguely acting as weaker hunters who can take aggro from you.

I will say, however, that MHR’s action combat and lack of a keyboard often make it so that playing with strangers can feel a bit more like playing with NPCs that may or may not respond to pre-written commands. While you can sit and fiddle with the in-game virtual keyboard, it’s a sure-fire way of getting yourself killed. The game lacks a voice-chat tool, and while one could blame this on Nintendo, I did not find many people using voice chat in Monster Hunter World, so Capcom may simply be working with features players actually support.

Many of the default chat options auto-translate, which is incredibly handy (more on that later), but there aren’t enough. I literally have not been able to play with my hammer against monsters with tails that can be severed because the majority of players capable of cutting tails are constantly attacking the head. There are times when I am completely out DPSed so the monster dies before the tail is severed, robbing the group of not only additional loot, but specific rewards as well.

The other issue is with capturing. While previous games often had rewards you could obtain only via captures, MHR also has rewards that can be gained only through kills. I’ve noticed the Japanese playerbase in particular is quite capture-happy. Because of this and the tail issue, I’ve had to make custom chat commands in simple English so that the Japanese, Korean, Chinese, French, Spanish, and other non-native English speakers will hopefully understand my requests. It doesn’t always work, but hey, how many times have you had to yell at a rogue in your shared language to stop breaking CC or taking aggro from the tank and still get ignored?

Luckily, the room host also has the option to kick players mid-battle. And my friend and I have had enough negative experiences that she’ll request I do it, especially if I’ve been mentioning not to capture throughout a multi-monster hunt. What’s nice is that kicked people won’t auto-fail the quest; they’ll simply continue what we’ve done on their own. The downside of this, however, is that they’re allowed to use only one pet to help them, not two like in the single-player mode. As someone who has disconnected at the start of quests, I can tell you that attempting these hunts, while not impossible, is far more difficult than any of the solo missions.

Similarly, Capcom has not made reconnecting easy. If you are kicked or DC, you can’t simply flip a switch and ask for help. There’s a bit of a convoluted way to rejoin the quest, but it often means someone else will take your slot and need to be kicked, unless your group isn’t allowing pugs.

Becoming a hunting hero

I’ve mentioned group etiquette before, but I feel that especially with the new release, it’s worth repeating. While we may not have the healer-tank-DPS trinity, MH still has general roles: blunts focus on monster stunning, cutters remove tails, ranged fills in for whatever the others lack or are unable to reach. Some classes can tank better,and  anyone can bring or build a healer set with consumables and the right armor skills (especially hunting horn users), but as monsters change aggro often and few people devote themselves to a single niche, the stun/cut/filler roles still stand clear in my mind.

While I still feel there is quite a difference between the Japanese and non-Japanese playerbase, MHW’s ability to attract a wider audience also has led to a larger casual playerbase. I mean no disrespect to new players, but it does feel like the issue with roles is worse than what I experienced in MHW. In addition to the previously mentioned issue with a severe lack of tail cutting, I am finding more and more players who trip their allies, commit friendly fire (even intentionally, and not to rescue stunned allies), lack consumables, ignore chat, and are fairly insufferable.

I was worried it could be me, since I’m a bit of a veteran, but my current playing partner is a MHW newcomer who was introduced to the series by veterans. She’s not half as ruthless as many of the hardcore-casuals that I know (MH players can give MMO statisticians a run for their money), but she can school me in some of the finer points of, say, jewel customization that I didn’t get into for MHW that have affected MHR in some ways. We both have previously joked that Long Sword users, a weapon often heralded as a top weapon for its damage and precision, essentially bring the group down by knocking over allies and for whatever reason, completely avoid tail cutting, even when the tail is easy to hit. Bowgun users have also entered that list. And they’re all fairly common in our pick-up groups.

So while it seems as if it’s significantly easier to get into the series than it was before, it also means that the general playerbase feels significantly less invested in the game’s hidden mechanics, and there are many. The difference between being successful and skilled are farther apart than ever, and because it’s become obvious that modern gamers are not used to navigating old-school text-heavy UI, I’d argue many players simply may not have the attention span to contribute much more than DPS to a group.

Take wyvern riding for instance. MOP’s Chris mentioned that he and his husband have been enjoying the feature, and it’s grown on me as well. A highly common optional quest is to ride multiple monsters, encouraging players to play with the mechanic, and the basic UI always has the controls up in case you forget them.

And yet, in live play, I’d argue that at least 10% of players at or above rank 7 (the highest rank for quests) are terrible at it. The feature basically turns your traditional enemy into a vehicle to use against other monsters in the area. In fact, it’s often triggered by another monster at least once in every hunt outside of single-target arena quests. Fighting another monster, even if it’s not your primary target, not only makes your target softer, but also ensures additional drops from the enemy. If you’re lucky, the enemy will also become mountable, making the primary target even weaker and ensuring even more drops.

However, a good portion of the playerbase, from all countries, will instead ram the monster against the wall or run it as far away as possible, possibly as a form of largely unnecessary crowd control if I assume people aren’t intentionally trying to troll their fellow hunters. Even Chris, who prefers a more controlled environment, is on board with the wyvern riding, so players who have had to fight most of the release monsters at least once should have enough experience to know the benefits not only of wyvern riding but using monsters against each other.

Part of this issue may be the streamlining of online play. Being “carried” has always been an issue in games, but imagine for a moment that instead of grinding to level 50 to begin raiding, a player could start raiding at Day 1. While this is a dream come true for veterans and also makes the game more accessible for players of all walks of life, it also speeds up the rate of powering your friends through the early game when they should be able to learn the ropes. Because it feels like communication is so difficult, and doing so in the middle of combat can very much lead to unnecessary deaths (of which, your group is allowed a combined max of three for the most part), even trying to help teach fellow players the ins and outs of the game within the game is an uphill battle. Social media feels like the only decent choice for quick lessons.

But for all my complaining, I still think this is a good thing. I was a very strong Tri player, and my MH4 experience was largely in Japan, where I only stood out as the non-insect glaive user who could always mount. World was much more accessible, but I also felt like people blasted through the game and never returned, which was disappointing for me. Rise, though, has enough of a challenge that people I know are sticking with it (maybe partially because I haven’t been hand-holding). Coming in halfway into a hunt and cutting off a tail soon before a creature dies, using a life powder to literally save the group from a wipe, or using the environmental hazards people ignored to put the monster into a great whacking position was normal in past entries. I’d argue those actions were more common before because they came with the territory back when it felt like each member had to carry their own weight.

With encounters feeling slightly easier and attracting more casual players, this is not the case. My “normal” now feels genuinely heroic. That can admittedly feel frustrating at times, since as I mentioned, it was standard before, but getting a “Like” at the end of a hunt where I felt like my short, pre-set messages could offend someone who doesn’t want to learn the game makes me feel appreciated rather than just another fellow hunter.

All that said, I do feel that the Rampage levels are a good mini-introduction to proper hunting for new players. Even with all the stationary vehicular guns, you still learn to notice when you’re being attacked and to properly defend yourself, and players who hunt on the ground at least have the benefit of powerful weapons mowing down the target so they can get a slight feel for the monster’s attack habits.

Again, MHR could use a better tutorial, but as Rampages allow for more deaths and give more materials, I think they give casual players an accessible way to farm materials without feeling like huge liability to the group. The internal challenges may differ from a traditional hunt, but there’s still enough depth between random layouts and quests to keep things interesting. If Capcom continues to use Rampages as a kind of preview before putting Apex monsters out into their own quests as it did with the previous batch in 2.0, it only furthers this idea that Rampages act as a kind of training ground for less experienced hunters.

Non-combat fun

Oddly enough, I’d also argue that MHR can scratch the explorer itch as well. The relics/old notes spread throughout the maps are a good challenge. My partner and I have learned the maps a bit better thanks to those, even when using a guide to cheat. Trees, caves, and other environmental set pieces can hide these trinkets, which unlock a few wooden carvings for your room.

People who don’t think Pokemon Snap will have enough action for them can certainly enjoy picture taking. The game’s Hunting Notes (think Pokedex) is quite useful in learning how to better fight and farm monsters, but the customizable picture slot’s a nice cherry on top of the quest to complete its data. While my hunting horn friend has nearly gotten herself killed several times in the process, taking photos of the game’s monsters has become a passion of hers that’s vaguely rubbed off on me. I admittedly have a tail-cutting lust if it hasn’t become obvious yet, but even I’ll occasionally whip out the camera and try to get a cool shot, although it has resulted in my death. Many times.

While customizing your armor has always been a big part of the MH experience, MHR‘s new update finally added layered-armor crafting (think transmog). Clown-suits to make the most optimal armor have always been something I’ve hated in the series. World made it more tolerable, but Rise came without it until recently. While you can hide armor pieces, the layered options were minimal, and Nintendo and Capcom’s use of amiibo for additional options rather than traditional DLC costs is disappointing, as amiibo often sell out for large periods of time.

Having craftable armor isn’t just about being able to make MH versions of beloved superheroes. It also helps some of us get over the idea of using horribly ugly armor/armor combinations and get back to making our dream armor. I’ve been greedily using the Narwa set for additional drops to reduce farming time and increase fodder for making talisman and decorations, but it’s ugly. My new batsuit, though, makes me feel like I can seriously look at other pieces of armor and combine them to make the perfect tail-cutting suit, thus increasing my desire to continue playing the game, even without considering what may came in the May update. April may have been light for checklist enthusiasts, but there’s enough that I’m slightly worried about MHR distracting me from other games I thought would better hold my long-term interest.

There’s an MMO born every day, and every game is someone’s favorite. Why I Play is the column in which the Massively OP staff members kick back and reminisce about all their favorite MMOs. Whether it’s the new hotness or an old fan favorite loaded with nostalgia, each title we cover here tugs at our heartstrings and keeps us coming back for more.
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Nathan Aldana

Honestly, as someone who got into the series with a bit of world before falling down a deep hole of infinite playtime with rise, I also like that the wirebug stuff adds a whole level of verticality to some classes. I’m hugely enjoying switch axe not only for my ability to cut tails and cause part breaks to help stun monsters, but few things make you feel as cool as landing a perfect soaring wyvern blade into elemental burst combo.

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Louie

Wyvern Riding is an amazing mechanic and a blast to experience, but I have to admit I was guilty of taking very long time to realize that I should be taking the monster to other monsters to keep the damage train going.

The boyfriend and I have been having a ton of fun with the update so far in general. All three new fights are a ton of fun, with Chameleos being my favorite of the bunch. We put a lot of time into World, but for us Rise has improved on pretty much everything especially when it comes to keeping us coming back to the game.

Also, it’s the only game I’m currently playing where I look like a Super Sentai villain, so that’s cool. Really excited to see the other updates the game is going to get (and the possible expansion).

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