I really didn’t realize the demo was already going on and while I’d seen some gameplay here and there, actually getting the time to get familiar with it has shown that this is going to hook me as successfully as Monster Hunter World did.
The gameplay is in so many respects similar, but at the same time, it’s also incredibly divergent from anything I ever would have expected out of Monster Hunter. It’s an amazing experience with the changes they’ve made, a definite further refinement of the ideas that World had started to touch on and, most interestingly, it takes the major problems I had left with World and tackles them head on.
Before I get going, though, there’s a special mention I have to make regarding Monster Hunter Rise, but take it with a grain of salt and I’ll explain why briefly: this is probably one of the best running games I’ve played on the Switch, and from the first real Switch title I’ve played up until now, there has only been two titles which have ran consistently well at 1080p on the Switch: Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate and Monster Hunter Rise. That said, performance on the PS4 Pro for Monster Hunter World was also fairly decent up until you hit elder dragons and the amount of particle effects shot up significantly, hence why I said one should take that comment with a grain of salt – but for the sake of the demo, I’ve seen no hitches or large frame drops, and the only seeming slowdown I’ve had is looking over the entirety of the map from the highest point and one other part of the map.
As mentioned prior there’s a bunch that Rise takes from Monster Hunter World and really just, runs with it. Between the fact you have full control over your mount and they’re not just going after the target you set on your map and the replacement of the Clutch Claw with Wirebugs, there’s a decent step forward here that isn’t necessarily just retreading what was done prior, but taking forward and, more importantly, not screwing things up too bad along the way.
A lot of times when I start writing about a game and it’s usually some form of sequel, I end up saying things like “One step forward, two steps back,” but, really, there’s not much actually that one could fault Capcom for with how Rise has moved forward. It’s simply a better, more distilled version of the series, and more importantly, it’s also managed to undo some the damage I’ve felt World did.
But, really if there’s something cool that Monster Hunter World or its expansion Iceborne did, Rise is pretty much just turning up the heat, and, then to take things further, Rise almost feels like the sort of looked in the direction Breath of the Wild was in regards to the Zelda series: with the new movement system and wirebugs, you can pretty much “climb” anything and everything in-game.
That said, it’s hard to put the blame solely on Zelda’s shoulders, as a lot of what I’ve seen from Rise and how it plays, reminds me a lot of Spider-Man in general and more specifically Spider-Man games, from the older classics to the latest titles for the PS4. The Wirebugs, when used more for locomotion, feel a lot like a throwback to some of the older webzip mechanics where you could manually aim exactly where you wanted Spidey to zip to. Dodging out of them is pretty much the Web of Shadows mechanic, and the overall method of using these Wirebugs to move calls a lot to Spider-Man PS4’s animations.
I’m really so chuffed about all of this that it’s hard to put into words.
There is one thing that bugs me, and that is that now there are little critters to grab to get a permanent (for the duration of the hunt, that is) buff to your stats. In order to max out your vitality, stamina, attack, and defense, it appears that you need to run around the map and collect these guys before you go hunt your quarry. That’s… Cool and all, and I mean, I get it: after you’ve reached a certain point in any given Monster Hunter game, you don’t really have a good reason to scour the map during a hunt, you’re really just there to kill or capture your target(s) and that’s it.
What I don’t get about this is how it fits into hunts which the player is thrown into an arena, either for those special climax fights, or even just general. I’m not really sure the tedium of having to go get these buffs – which, honestly are not really necessary, but min-maxers being min-maxers – fits into the general gameplay loop of Monster Hunter when it very often boils down to: take the quest, go out on said quest, find your target, kill your target, go home.
Your regular material gathering is, well, what I would normally expect to be breaking that up. When you’re looking for a fight, you’re looking for a fight, not really looking for a bunch of floating parakeets that buff you.
I’m still feeling out the changes to other weapons, but the longsword has seen a proper refinement of its moveset from World. After its transition into a straight counter weapon with Special Sheathe and Foresight Slash being the main focus, I would’ve expected things to remain somewhat the same, but instead I’m pleased to see the weapon come back closer to its roots, becoming focused on delivering pressure by having the Iai Slash that connects and is a proper counter act as either an opportunity to Special Sheathe again or instead choose to go straight into the later parts of the Spirit combo and overall changing the damage.
Helm Breaker is much, much easier to use, but the resource you use to do it honestly confuses me. Not because Wirebugs are inherently bad, they’re actually a really cool system, it’s just putting the way Spirit Helm Breaker is performed kind of seems somewhat superior to other Wirebug options available for weapons, and even in some regards the other longsword Wirebug technique, a counter that costs two charges and locks up the second wirebug from recharging until the first has completed but doesn’t work on all types of attacks, easily making you question its worth.
That kind of, “Wait, so, what exactly is this good for?” Seems to come to mind when I look at the descriptions of the other Wirebug attacks available to different weapons. The greatsword honestly makes sense, although as someone who likes draw builds with both the longsword and the greatsword (especially for their carry-over between the two ways both builds are done), Power Draw honestly seems a little unimpressive, but I’m not really sure what I’m expecting when I’m used to Punishing Draw as an armor skill.
For the most part though, the formula seems fairly obvious and I imagine it’s more to do with my lack of familiarity with the other weapons than their overall design: performing the Wirebug input ZL+A appears to to be more “defensive” while ZL+X appears to be more offensive, and that’s definitely simple enough.
There’s a new recovery system where you can avoid a major part of your overall fall-down-get-up animation, and this is very useful for… Probably anybody who knows what they’re fighting. For somebody who isn’t familiar with monster patterns, though, I can see Wirebug recovery as being more dangerous than simply letting the regular animation complete, and in general, when you’re using the Wirebugs for movement in a fight, it seems to me that it’s very easy to put one’s self in a dangerous position and actually end up in the situation of getting hit a lot more often than you would be without it.
All in all I’d say that Rise is a really excellent Monster Hunter title, although that’s going to need proven by the actual game’s release in late March; however, while World was very welcoming to new hunters and hunters who weren’t necessarily green but weren’t vetted yet either, Rise seems like it’s going to be highly off-putting to new players.
Ostensibly, the new movement systems and everything else seem like they’d really help get players into it. At the very least, I know people who weren’t too keen on World because of the fact it was still, at its core, a Monster Hunter game with the caveats of being Monster Hunter, are looking at Rise because it appears visually a lot more interesting, especially in the hands of someone who knows what they’re doing.
The fact of the matter is that it doesn’t really have that much of an impact for you to be able to recover or to move around an area like you’re the Webslinger, Monster Hunter is still just Monster Hunter at the end of the day, and while some people can absolutely dance around certain monsters, I think if anything, Rise actually has a greater barrier for entry than the first Monster Hunter title I tried to get into myself. It may not be as clunky, it might be well streamlined and modern by comparison, but Monster Hunter is simply not a title for the faint of heart and Rise has brought a new layer of complications to the table that I’m probably more uncomfortable learning weapons that I haven’t practiced than I was ever before.
I can’t help but envision some kid with a Switch who just, doesn’t get it yet, and though they’re trying their hearts out, they find themselves stuck with the knowledge that while there’s this awesome movement system, but all that fun ends as soon as they have to pull their weapon out. Now, some of these weapons do have pretty movement-heavy Wirebug options, sure, but most of those still have that good Monster Hunter clunk, and getting the hang of that is a battle all on its own.
So, I think Rise is going to be a title that’s very confusing. Veterans of the series probably won’t be too off-put, and most anyone who made the triple-digit mark in hours on World are probably going to find themselves mostly at home if they’ve, y’know, gotten it, but it’s the newer players who will probably take the biggest hit – and they’ll keep taking it. We’ve gone from the relatively shallow end of the pool with World off to the deep end again, and while I’m absolutely about to complain, I’m sure there are folks who will.