Monster Hunter is one of those series that either you get it, or you don’t. “What’s this game about?” The only reply can be, “Hunting monsters.” Imagine a game where you prepare your weapons, forge new armor, meticulously pore over your inventory, and then engage in a battle of attrition against an electricity-clad wolf until one of you falls. You use the environment- including its endemic life, such as bugs you can spread like caltrops, you use the very walls of the arenas in which you battle to avoid large, sweeping crashes of lightning and claws that would sear the flesh and sunder the bones of an ordinary person. You, however, are nothing ordinary: you are a hunter, and once you sink your teeth into Monster Hunter Rise, you’ll experience a game that utilizes three-dimensional gameplay in an immensely satisfying way that will leave you coming back for more.
For those unfamiliar with the Monster Hunter series, these are third person action games with an emphasis on learning your opponent- typically large monsters that you need to track down and slay or capture. The series plays more like a series of boss battles, where you encounter a large foe, gradually wear it down, and break parts off of them to make their attacks less effective, such as cutting the tail off of a monster to reduce the range of their tail attacks, or damaging the head or chest so the monster has difficulty spitting fire at you. Monster Hunter isn’t like a beat ‘em up where you run in and mash buttons- you watch the monster, avoid attacks, and then use the openings in their attacks to use your own attacks. The general gameplay loop is that you hunt a new monster, and then take its fangs to make your new weapon and its hide to make new pants, and then you use those to more efficiently defeat the next monster you come across.
Now for those familiar with the Monster Hunter series, Rise does come with a wide variety of quality of life improvements just as its predecessor, Monster Hunter World did. Harvesting herbs or mining ore from an iron vein is one in one fluid motion, rather than requiring you to hold the button down for multiple seconds to collect your items. Most of the changes are made so that players have to spend less time than ever before simply looking at stationary hunters collect resources- Rise wants you to get in, slay the monster, get out. There’s also the new Palamute, a hunting dog that you can ride into battle like an adorable steed, alongside the usual Palico partners we’ve had for many games in the past.
Some of the new additions are the wirebug Silkbind system- players generally have access to two wirebugs at any time. You can use these to fling yourself into the air like Spiderman, but you can also use them to perform powerful attacks during combat. Wirebugs both improve maneuverability in and out of combat and function as a cooldown system for powerful offensive and defensive options when battling a monster. Dealing damage while airborne or using a Silkbind attack to damage a monster will eventually put the monster in a state where you can use the wirebug’s silk to harness and control a monster, allowing you to jump on a Tigrex to punch a Rathalos out of the sky, or just slam the controlled monster into a wall to knock it down momentarily. The new mounting system is a nice compromise of the one implemented since 4U, but gives you more control of what happens with a monster than Iceborne’s Clutch Claw gave you.
Those of us who are familiar with Monster Hunter World might remember World’s end game grind, before its Iceborne expansion released. In World, once you beat the ultimate hunt, you either engaged in hunting Tempered monsters for increased chances at rare decorations, to add new, powerful skills to your armor sets, or you engaged in post-launch content like the powerful Arch Tempered monsters. Rise’s system differs from World’s, introducing the Rampage mode: A tower defense style quest where you defend Kamura village against repeated waves of frenzied monsters.
To defend the village, players can set up ballistae, cannons, even artillery weapons that can be used to repel invading monsters. There are sub objectives to complete which will unlock even more powerful tools like machine cannons and even powerful villagers. The entire goal of Rampages is to repel attacking monsters without allowing the invaders to destroy the gates leading into the village. At the end of end-game Rampages, you’ll typically encounter a very powerful baddie toward the end of the Rampage, such as an Elder Dragon or the wild Apex monsters that exhibit attacks similar to Deviants from Generations Ultimate.
Each weapon in Monster Hunter basically controls like a completely unique character in a fighting game- the Sword and Shield plays differently from the Lance which plays differently from the Heavy Bowgun. Rise actually increases the variability among weapons by introducing a new Switch Skill system, that lets you change two regular actions of your weapon, and one Silkbind action, with new, unlockable abilities. A Bow player, for example, can use the charging sidestep to avoid attacks and deal big damage on your next shot fired, but it has a pretty hefty stamina cost so it could leave you without the ability to dodge a large incoming attack. Conversely, the Dodgebolt turns your sidestep into a short range melee parry attack that only boosts your next arrow’s damage should you successfully parry incoming attacks. Many weapons have Switch Skills that open up new avenues for gameplay or increasing the skill ceiling of a weapon.
The Silkbind actions each weapon has also open up additional avenues of gameplay. Outside of combat you use your wirebugs to zip around in the sky to reach destinations faster, but the wirebugs can also be consumed during combat to perform new attacks that aren’t too dissimilar to Hunter Arts from Generations/Ultimate, with some of the moves being returning arts from that game, like the Longsword’s Sakura Slash.
Outside of the new mounting system (Je suis monté) and Switch Skills, this is Monster Hunter as you know it. Players who skipped out on Monster Hunter World may find some of the new options jarring, as customizable radial menus give you easy access to much of your inventory, gathering items takes practically no time at all, now, and there’s still no need for things like Psychoserum and Paintballs to track monsters through the Shrine Ruins or Flooded Forest. However, these additional, minor improvements make the game much more accessible for players new to the series, and reduce the initial grind from game-to-game, which is much appreciated even from a veteran’s standpoint who started with Freedom Unite on the PSP.
For a game ported to PC from the Switch, Rise is very impressive, visually. There’s some form of magic going on under the hood of this game and it cannot be understated, as while the textures are muddier than what you’d see from World, the characters and environments are gorgeous and aren’t the victim of slowdown even on older GPUs (which, good luck finding a GPU in this age of bots, scalpers, and crypto farms). Rise runs surprisingly well on my now-aged computer system, sporting a Ryzen 9 3900x CPU, but a much older GTX 1070 graphics card. The visual performance is a smooth and consistent 75fps at 1440p, with high res textures and an added 50% image quality bump, to boot. This game isn’t quite as pretty as World, but it does run substantially better at High settings without a frame drop in sight.
The music in Rise is fantastic, assuming you enjoy Japanese-themed soundtracks. Tracks like the Shrine Ruins encounter theme utilize a shamisen, shakuhachi, and an orchestra, giving it a very distinct Japanese sound. Each environment in the game has that same warm or bright approach to its tracks with these instruments, and it meshes with the orchestra in a very unique way that’s immediately appealing. Even existing monster themes like those of Zinogre or Mizutsune have been given an eastern revamp, with chanting vocals included in several tracks for maximum impact.
Rise on PC drops with all of the content the Switch version has, so there’s no wait to unlock your hunter rank cap or anything of the nature that Switch players had to deal with, thankfully. Various elder dragons and Apex monsters were added to Rise after its release, and all of those are available for you to hunt on PC once you rank up enough to hunt them, no need to wait for title updates. The improved visuals and silky smooth frame rate of the PC version has actually made it hard to go back to Rise on Switch, and thankfully when the master rank expansion Sunbreak releases (the equivalent of Iceborne for World), both Switch and PC should have unified content drops. This, of course, means if you want the best visuals and performance over portability, the version you’d choose is a no brainer.
Overall, Monster Hunter Rise is a fantastic entry to the series, with an excellent PC port that runs astoundingly well on old hardware. Rise is welcoming enough for newcomers that they should be able to dip their toes in without getting overwhelmed, but has enough new options and gameplay elements that veterans should find a lot to enjoy as well. After all, what’s not to love about a game that lets you use two swords, shoot a wire at a monster and Beyblade yourself down its back like you’re Levi from Attack on Titan? That’s a thing you can do with your Silkbind attacks in the game. Seriously, go play it, Rise is fantastic.