“Nobody has beaten Lunagaron solo,” the inimitable Capcom PR said as he handed me the Switch controller. “Not yet.” Naturally I replied, “Challenge accepted,” with the cockiness that playing a franchise for 20 years will bring you. “Bring it on.”
And thus began my foray into Sunbreak, the massive new DLC expansion for Monster Hunter Rise.
This franchise is no stranger to staggeringly large DLCs. Monster Hunter World is a fantastic example of this, with the game spewing additional, regular free content to both the main game, and then for another year after the huge Iceborne DLC was released. Pound per hour of entertainment, Iceborne was one of the best DLCs I’ve ever bought.
Whether Sunbreak winds up delivering the same remains to be seen, of course, but Capcom has a good track record for this and fans certainly have cause to be excited.
Just as Iceborne added new mechanics that breathed new life into the gameplay experience, Sunbreak adds new areas, monsters, endemic life, Follower Quests and, perhaps most importantly, Switch Skill Swaps.
But let’s start with the basics — the new areas. Sunbreak lands you in the new Citadel area — a vast area with multiple biomes, from snow-capped peaks to luck forests, full of exciting monsters to hunt. Again, fans of Iceborne will know the kind of thing we’re talking about here.
The Citadel is where I found myself for this hands-on preview, fighting Lunagaron, one of the new ‘Three Lords’ based on European folklore. This, the ‘Ice Wolf Dragon’, reminded me in many ways of a cross between a Tobi Kadachi and a Zinogre, but with the speed and icy attacks of a Barioth.
It was fast, it was aggressive, and if you haven’t spent 20 years fighting similarly sized specimens, I can see why people would struggle.
But with TheSixthAxis’ good name on the line, I sharpened my sword and stepped up to the plate. Or Lunagaron’s palate, if you like.
What followed was a tough but fair challenge that ultimately — and this is important — ended with me being the first one to slay the monster solo through the game’s UK previews.
Sick brags aside, this was an educational experience. Not only was this a genuinely exciting experience, fighting an all-new monster in a new area, but I got to learn about the new Switch Skill Swaps, which is where Rise players should start to pay close attention.
Do you have multiple favourite Switch Skills? Do you wish you could swap between your defensive and offensive builds at will in the middle of a quest? Well, now you can, and you do so with added bonus of the swap’s built-in evade function. It’s easy to execute and it can potentially make a huge difference to how you take down a monster.
It adds a whole new dimension to combat. Even if you’re Switch Skill-light like I am when I use the long sword, it’s great to have more options when evading, especially if you’re keen on keeping your combo going.
Then there’s the Follower Quests, a new way to play added in Sunbreak. These single-player missions are the perfect choice when your co-op squad is off doing whatever they do when they’re not helping you hunt that last item you need for the sweet set of armour you’re building. Selfish so and so’s.
The idea is that you accompany an NPC on a quest to ‘go and kill the thing’, whatever that thing may be. However, unlike your standard babysitting quest, your Follower is actually badass, and just as capable as you are at all aspects of the game. They can ride monsters, know how to use their weapons and don’t feel like a liability — which can’t always be said for letting randos jump into your quest when your friends are off having lives. Again, so selfish…
My second mission saw me fighting a Seregios — a fan favourite from Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate — in the Sandy Plains. This “thousand-blade wyvern”, as it’s known, absolutely bodied me. It would have been nice for Arlow to maybe distract it a little, rather than letting it spam me to death, but you win some, you lose some.
And when a very territorial and aggressive wyvern takes a liking to stomping on your face, you tend to lose. Hard.
There’s a whole host of other new things to watch out for in Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak, from new subspecies like the Blood Orange Bishaten, to the new Ruby and Gold Wirebugs — the latter of which increases the maximum number of drops obtained from Wyvern Riding attacks (which means you know I will be gunning for those).
Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak is out on 30th June 2022, and I, for one, am extremely excited. Keep an eye out for our review later this month!