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Complex, multi-level open maps
Simple, accessible online play
New transportation options
Challenging yet rewarding combat
Requires Nintendo Switch Pro Controller for the best experience
Controls are difficult for beginners
Monster Hunter Rise offers an immersive hunting experience that is accessible to beginners and veterans alike. Quicker hunts and straightforward online play make Rise a great portable game.
Capcom provided us with a review code for one of our writers to test. Read on for their full take.
Monster Hunter Rise is the newest installment in a series of challenging action role-playing games. Developed for the Nintendo Switch, the game nonetheless includes ambitious new features like multi-level open maps and new transportation options. I tested everything from controls to most creative monster murders for 30 hours.
The serene village of Kamura is under constant threat of attack by monsters. The villagers can't venture out into the dangerous forest. They need a hunter's help. Every time I returned from one quest, two more people needed to talk to me. Usually, they needed me to go chase a gigantic monster around for half an hour. When I wasn't hunting, they sent me to scout new camps, recover supplies, and gather all manner of local flora.
Village quests make up Monster Hunter Rise's single-player campaign. These quests helped me learn the game's complex maps. Monster Hunter Rise doesn't have a deep and complex story, but it still provides a charming narrative direction to sell the settings.
Most of the game will be spent hunting in one of five different maps. The maps have multiple levels and interconnected areas that make sub-regions an impossible distinction. I learned the map by hunting. When an Arzuros tackled me off the edge of a cliff, I learned a new layer of the canyon. If I wanted to know what was on the other side of the waterfall, I had to cross it to find out.
Monsters are just going about their business in this world. I was fiddling with camera controls when a Barroth trampled me while passing through. I climbed higher to watch while two beetles squared off against him. One of them breathed fire. I didn’t even know they could do that. Nearby, some yet-unidentified winged monsters emitted puffs of poison gas. The Barroth took no notice of them. It takes a pretty big monster to start a turf war with him.
Monster Hunter Rise added a couple new transportation options that make exploring more convenient. Palamutes are large, rideable dogs that effortlessly carry players over the terrain. They climb vine-covered vertical walls in seconds, and they are easy to control while sharpening weapons and scarfing down rations.
Palamutes are great, but it’s impossible to imagine playing without wirebugs. Wirebugs are insects that shoot silk. They’re essentially a grappling hook. When I first experimented with wirebugs, I was skeptical. They didn’t seem to go very far, so it was difficult for me to judge each climb. Hunters may not be able to jump far normally, but my hunter ejects herself so forcefully from the cliff walls that I often ended up at the very bottom of the canyon if I messed up just one step.
Every time I got tossed aside by a monster, the game flashed wirebug controls on the screen just long enough to remind me they existed. These reminders paid off when I instinctively whisked myself out of a Rathian’s path just before her barbed tail could crush me.
Once I mastered the controls, I was jumping through the maps like an acrobat with my wirebugs and insect glaive.
Monster Hunter is a complex game with complicated controls. Though customizable, they are still notoriously difficult for beginners; Rise is no exception. In past games, I traveled light to avoid any kind of inventory management. The radial menu in Monster Hunter Rise insisted on being learned, though, if for no other reason than I kept accidentally using potions. As soon as I figured out how, I deleted all the shortcuts. Before long I surprised myself by adding them back. I couldn’t spare the time or attention the action bar required while battling monsters.
The game reinforces its advanced controls until they’re as natural as possible. The main attack button is on X instead of A, but that’s because this game is training you to think before you attack. Learning when to strike is important if you want to use weapons like the greatsword or the charge blade. Once I mastered the controls, I was jumping through the maps like an acrobat with my wirebugs and insect glaive. The controls are still complicated for beginners, but they are well-integrated compared to previous games.
Lifewire / Sandra Stafford
Playing became markedly easier after I stopped using the Joy-Cons. They’re fine in handheld mode, but on the television I found myself struggling to figure out how to hold the controller. I needed to use all four of the L/R buttons, but they’re small and oddly shaped on the Joy-Cons. This wasn’t a problem with other games, but I kept getting my wires crossed until I switched to a Pro Controller. Switching between directional buttons and joysticks was more natural, and I could easily reach all the trigger buttons. I’m not usually picky about controllers, but the difference is worth it.
Unless you faint, there aren’t loading screens to interrupt hunts. The target monster is introduced at the beginning of each quest with a cutscene and some truly indescribable poetry. Hunting monsters through these large, open maps feels more immersive than ever.
Monsters are still fast and deadly, so they have no problem knocking out hunters who haven’t learned to read their cues. Though challenging, they don’t take as long to fight. The game encourages capturing them, which shaves a few minutes off the hunt. In previous installments of the game, I failed against tough monsters like Barroth due to time. Failing a quest with a 50-minute timer while the monster is a few blows from defeat is frustrating. Hunting in Monster Hunter Rise is still challenging, but it doesn’t take as long.
With so much to learn, the first weekend of online play was a riot. The first Bishaten I hunted was for a hub quest with three other players. When the Bishaten tried to escape, the four of us took off in four different directions. Three of us reached our target in quick succession, but the fourth was hopelessly lost in the Flooded Forest. I spent minutes trying to find the hunting party when I took the wrong exit out of the Frost Islands camp, so I’m not judging.
Chat being optional rather than a core component of the game makes online play more accessible to everyone.
It would have been possible to help the poor guy, but not really worth the effort. Voice chat isn’t supported yet. The game has some premade chat messages, but I would rather spend my time hunting than looking through them.
Chat being optional rather than a core component of the game makes online play more accessible to everyone. You can give other hunters ‘likes’ at the end if you want, but even that is optional. Usually, the people who liked me were people who joined after I spent a few minutes getting embarrassingly lost.
Village quests are basically preparation for online play, the game’s real content. Monster Hunter games are always centered around group hunts. So far they’re fun and challenging. The game connected me with other players within a few seconds. With this game’s popularity, I’m sure that after 30 hours of play, I’m only seeing the beginning of the game.
One time I was trying to take a picture of a lava waterfall by some water when the music turned dramatic. My heart skipped a beat. I turned around, expecting to see the Volvidon that I was supposed to be hunting. I wasn’t sure what it looked like, so I wasn’t able to picture exactly how it was going to wreak cartoonish destruction on me. Instead, I saw a beetle. While I laughed with relief, the beetle set me on fire.
Even the small monsters command attention in Monster Hunter Rise. Other monsters command the whole screen. Large monsters are every shape and size, with bright plumage and tattered leathery scales and everything in between. They look realistic, yet mystical.
Hunting with other players really feels like a hunting party. When someone has a hunting horn, dazzling music surrounds everyone. With monsters breathing fire at us and people running through clouds of dust for buffs, fights were chaotic and colorful. Even particularly spectacular battles rarely caused me to drop frames.
Large monsters are every shape and size, with bright plumage and tattered leathery scales and everything in between.
Endemic creatures like butterflies and toads are just noticeable in the natural environment. Brightly colored birds mark routes through the map, like rings in a Sonic the Hedgehog game. Golden bugs suggest good places to wiredash. These features are highly visible, but still look believable in a world where cats negotiate trade, pound rice for dango (dumplings), and throw teeny bombs at monsters.
It’s true that Monster Hunter Rise doesn’t look as detailed as Monster Hunter World. There's not as much foliage, for example. The comparison is fair to make, but each game has its place. Monster Hunter Rise is a portable console game. The maps are larger and more navigable than ever. Online play is fast and stable. Monster Hunter Rise offers a beautiful hunting experience, and not just in a computer chair.
Monster Hunter Rise retails for $60. I finished its single-player campaign in a little over 20 hours. It was a lot of fun, but Monster Hunter doesn’t have to stand on the merits of its single-player campaign alone. The series has always been about online play. With over 4 million copies shipped, we're probably just seeing the beginning of this game's life. Being able to catch monsters on the go makes this game worth the money.
Monster Hunter Rise has a steep learning curve that makes it difficult for beginners, but that’s what makes a successful hunt so rewarding. Capturing Rathian isn’t much of a victory if she doesn’t trounce you once or twice. That said, Rise is best for people who want to join a hunting party. The single-player campaign is fun, but online play and endgame content make up most of the game.
People who prefer to face tough challenges alone should consider Dark Souls Remastered. It’s a great game to pick up and put down, making it well-suited for the Nintendo Switch. Like Monster Hunter, Dark Souls is complex and challenging for beginners. The enemies are monsters of the dark fantasy variety, like fire-breathing gargoyles and witches with the bodies of giant spiders. Encounters are very difficult, so victory will never feel more hard-earned.
A great Nintendo Switch game for newcomers to the series.
Monster Hunter Rise is a great game for new players and veterans alike. With no loading screens to interrupt quests, hunting is more immersive than ever. Joining other hunters online is quick and easy, but it’s a lot of fun to play alone, too.
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