My adult life has been a perpetual struggle with the urge to stay up all night hunting monsters. Often I’ll finding myself vampirically drained of life in the morning, but with a shiny new piece of armour or a scale-encrusted sword adorning a digital room somewhere for my efforts. This is all Monster Hunter’s fault; the Capcom series known for its worrisome beasts and haute couture armour, and this introduction is merely an advanced apology of sorts to my loved ones, explaining why I will soon once again become a lifeless husk by day, and a slayer of monstrosities by night. Monster Hunter Rise is coming.
While Monster Hunter Rise doesn’t release until the 26th of March, Nintendo and Capcom have decided to seize 2021 by the prodigious horn, and deliver a demo unto us mere mortals. It will be available overnight tonight and playable until 1st February, but I’ve had the chance to try out an early version first, and boy, do I have a lot to tell you!
Based on this demo, Monster Hunter Rise shouldn’t worry either long term fans of the series or those fresh-faced newbies that were inducted into our ranks with Monster Hunter World. This is a Monster Hunter game in the truest sense on Nintendo Switch, amalgamating some of those utterly necessary quality-of-life improvements from World, while aiming to revive the spirit of the original titles.
The demo gives you access to two hunts. First up is the traditionally theropod styled bird wyvern, the entry-level Great Izuchi. This beast is exactly as you’d expect, leaping, spinning and swinging its tail in your direction in much the same way as Great Jaggis, Baggis and Wroggis, though the addition of two guards gives you something else to think about, albeit briefly.
The second outing pits you against the trickier Mizutsune. First seen in Monster Hunter Generations, this is a Japanese-styled dragon, a serpent-like Leviathan that looks like the exotic, gym-going cousin of Spirited Away’s Haku. It’s certainly the tougher challenge, with a water-blight causing jet of water that can decimate your health, and an array of differently coloured bubbles that spin around them. The majority are white bubbles which cause bubble blight – you’ll need to pack some cleanser to deal with that – while the singular green ones actually give you a health boost if you hit them with your weapon.
Besides the two hunts, Master Utsushi is on hand to walk you through the basics of Monster Hunter Rise, and even for the most experienced hunters, there’s a serious number of new elements that you’re going to have to get your head around before you set out into the field, alongside many recognisable elements from its predecessors.
When you’re dropped into the quests you’ll find your home camp now affords you the same luxuries as those found in Monster Hunter World, allowing hunters to eat a meal, manage your items, or swap out items of equipment; perfect when you’ve set off with the wrong sword or forgotten to refill your Max Potions.
You can also see one of the new elements which is the Buddy Board. Here you can swap out your Buddies, the new overarching name for your Palico and Palamute pals that accompany you on a hunt. While your dependable feline friends behave in much the same way as they always have done, the Palamute gives you your own ever-ready doggo mount to speed up your exploration through each area.
You can hop onto them at pretty much any time, and use their speed to make your way around the map much quicker. From the relative safety of their back you can still pick up items, or make use of a selected few, hit mining spots, and even take a swing at monsters, giving you a new, highly-mobile option in battle.
The other new creature you’ll come to love are the Wirebugs. Where Monster Hunter World introduced the Clutch Claw, Wirebugs give you a new array of enhanced movement options, combining the Claw’s ability to grab onto monsters with the lethal mobility of the Insect Glaive. Impressively, no matter what weapon you take out with you, you’ll now be able to lithely leap into action. My trusty Great Sword has never been more mobile.
Wirebugs primary use is to let hunters Wiredash. Even if there’s nothing in front or above you, you can fire out the whip-like wire to your Wirebug and be pulled forward or upwards at great speed. You’re limited by the fact that you only have two charges of your Wirebug available at any one time, stopping you from simply spamming the hell out your new manoeuvre. That said, you can pick up additional Wirebugs around the place who’ll stick with you for a while.
Besides the Wiredash, you’ll probably find yourself using your all-new Silkbind moves, which are unique to each weapon class. For those that have been paying attention, Capcom have been showcasing all of the new moves that each weapon has, and in some ways they’ve amalgamating the Hunter Arts of Monster Hunter Generations with the Clutch Claw’s mobility.
The Great Sword’s new Hunting Edge grants a huge leaping attack, while its Power Sheathe gives you yet another charge to try to time correctly. Meanwhile, the Sword and Shield’s Falling Shadow is an incredible-looking attack from above, while its Windmill is a multi-hit whirling attack that is virtually impossible to miss with. Each of Rise’s fourteen weapons has two different abilities, and even after a short amount of time with them they feel like essential additions to the hunter’s toolkit.
The Wirebug also gives you access to Wyvern Riding. While we’ve been able to mount monsters since Monster Hunter 4, and Monster Hunter World vaguely let you control the big guys with the Clutch Claw, Wyvern Riding has you taking full control of a beast after you’ve bound it in Ironsilk.
It’s a huge change, and one that doesn’t feel completely intuitive just yet. However, it does mean that you can basically start your own Turf Wars, controlling a monster’s attacks and giving you a big advantage against whichever beast you’re tracking. From their back you can also launch them into the nearest wall, or another monster, either causing damage to everyone, or making it easier to mount the targeted monster instead.
As you ride you build up a Wyvern Riding Gauge, and once it’s filled you can unleash a super-powerful Mounted Punisher. Unsurprisingly, you can’t do all this indefinitely, and once filled your gauge starts to run back down again. Once it’s gone, it’s back to using your own two feet. The ideal way to make the most of this new ability is to ride them for as long as possible before firing off your Mounted Punisher just as the gauge is running out.
I can see some real risk and reward style plays coming in with the new Wirebug moveset, and it’s going to be fascinating to see them being put into use. I can imagine it’s going to bring with it a new level of chaos to multiplayer, as player’s leap in every direction and take control of other monsters to help in the hunt. It all feels very exciting, and atypically Monster Hunter.
If Monster Hunter Rise already sounds pretty intense, there’s a few more surprises lying in wait for you. Capcom have enhanced the way that Endemic Life functions in each area, and where World saw them adding some much-needed life and movement, they’ve pushed further into their usefulness to hunters, classifying them under the umbrella terms Permabuffers and Hunting Helpers.
Spiribirds are glowing birds that hang around the map, carrying a special spirit-enhancing essence, that you can capture with your Petalace good luck charm. Simply walking by these birds will give you a boost, with different colours denoting to whether they add to your stamina bar or health while other creatures can improve various other stats. They’re all well worth seeking out as you run about the place and can make a huge difference if you’re fighting something that’s on the edge of your abilities and weaponry.
Beyond that, some of the Endemic Life at large can be picked up and packed away to take with you, turning them into a useable item. Where Paratoads and their like were handy in Monster Hunter World after you gave them a swift kick, here you can pack them into your satchel and unleash them on your opponent at just the right moment, in a place you choose. It’s a novel little change, but I wouldn’t think too hard about how your hunter is now able to pack these lethal fellows into their bag without things going horribly wrong.
There are a few differences to be found in the demo that you’re not likely to see in the main game, prime amongst them being the ugly red arrow that points you towards your prey. While there’s so far no sign of World’s Scoutflies, you have to hope the game is returning to the older style of exploration, rather than simply pointing you towards your foe. Other than that though, Monster Hunter Rise is shaping up incredibly well. The visuals feel like a halfway point between World’s “realism” and the original game’s more characterful look, and everything we’ve seen so far in terms of weapons and armour sets has certainly piqued our interest. Of course, the proof will be in the hunting, and thankfully we don’t have too long to wait. Things really are looking up.