You can keep Mario’s Marinara-powered moves, forget Pikachu’s pleasing patter, and Call of Duty can quite simply COD-off; Monster Hunter is inarguably the best gaming series of all time. What other series brings compelling challenge, convincing single-player and multiplayer modes, and a gameplay loop that rewards your play in a genuinely meaningful way? That’s before you even consider the ongoing support that each title receives, with much of that extra content being free. It is exemplary video game design and Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak furthers that legacy.
The latest mainline title, Monster Hunter Rise launched on Nintendo Switch last year before making a name for itself on PC, tying a wonderful Japanese-centric setting to a host of updated gameplay features, as well as honing the various systems that have remained the beating wyvern heart of the series since 2005. Now we arrive at Sunbreak, the expansive new DLC for Monster Hunter Rise. It brings more monsters, new locations, and more refinements to a game that was already the pinnacle of the series. It’s little surprise to find that it makes an amazing game become an astounding one.
Sunbreak takes place at the end of the Rise storyline, meaning that you’ll have to clear the Hunter Rank 7 quests in order to access it. That’s made slightly easier than it was at launch by the addition of some helpful weapons and armour to help you plough through the earlier content. If this is your first time heading into Monster Hunter Rise, you’d do well to do as little armour crafting as possible – the new Master Rank equipment blows all of it out of the water. For those who’ve been patiently waiting, it’s always hard not to feel a little like your previous efforts have been washed away in one fell Rathalos-like swoop. But, wait! There’s new stuff!
You find yourself in the company of Dame Fiorayne – sister of the Argosy’s captain – and you’re recruited to assist in the latest monster-related danger that’s befallen the land. Elgado Outpost is your new hub, and its crumbling medieval castle resting against a giant, water-filled crater sits somewhere in the middle of all the previous best Monster Hunter hubs in terms of both aesthetics and unique aspects.
Your practically essential Bunny Dango snacks are delivered by a delightful Felyne train, and there’s a lovely dock-side market feel to all of the essential shops and support sites. It’s a shame that there isn’t a major new selling point like Iceborne’s Steamworks, but after many many hours in Kamura it’ll still be a breath of fresh sea air for hunters everywhere, and has its own batch of secrets to discover. You can switch easily between the two as well, so you don’t have to forsake your favourite haunts, or explain to Chef Yomogi why you’re buying your dinner elsewhere.
The intimidating Admiral Galleus is the leader here, and he’s after your help tackling the even-more-intimidating Three Lords. These major monsters – Garangolm, Lunagaron, and Malzeno – are each brilliant additions to the Monster Hunter lore, with Garangolm, a stone armoured giant gorilla with elemental gauntlets, possibly taking the mantle of my new favourite monster. Sorry, Tetsucabra.
There are, of course, a host of returning monsters we haven’t seen before in Rise as well, from the crustacean duo of the Daimyu Hermitaur and Shogun Ceanataur to the rainbow-winged Astalos, while variants like the Blood Orange Bishaten bring explosive pinecones to a sword fight, improving one of the most unique Rise monsters even further. Besides all that, the Master Rank versions of the remaining menagerie hit harder, get angrier, and are often bigger than anything you’ve seen before. Just you wait until you see the size of Lagombi’s snowballs.
Let’s talk gameplay changes and additions, because there are a bunch of them. So many, in fact, that I’m likely to struggle to address them all. Solo players will appreciate the addition of Follower Quests, a new set of missions that grant you an AI companion to work alongside you, and rather than the useless minions you’re often stuck with, these folks actually know which end of the sword goes towards the monster. It’s great to have some of the key characters along for the ride, though it would have been nice to be able to customise them in some way. Guess I’ll just have to wait for Dragons Dogma 2 for that.
From a gameplay point of view the most impactful addition are the new combos and Switch Skills for each weapon. These make every single armament more exciting to play with, simply by virtue of variation. If you’ve been playing Monster Hunter for years, these combos and skills make tried and tested weapons like the Great Sword feel fresh once more, and when combined with the wirebug moveset you have more options than ever before.
You can jump between the two loadouts on the fly with a three-button combo, and you can follow this up with a special evasion move directly after if you need to buy yourself a little more time. It looks super cool too, so I often found myself doing it even when I didn’t need to.
Swapping things is something of a theme in Sunbreak. There’s a cavalcade of new Bunny Dango, but Sunbreak goes beyond simply giving you new flavours and enhanced effects. You can now swap out the skewers that run through the colourful treats, and you can change the skill level and activation chances so you can tinker with your setup – rolling the dice for a really useful skill. It’s one more thing that adds flavour to Capcom’s pre-hunting recipe, and if there’s one thing that dedicated hunters love, it’s new ingredients.
There’s new Wirebugs – gold and ruby – which grant you extra shiny drops or enhanced damage when you’ve mounted a monster, while new species of endemic life include the Marionette Spider that allows you to trip creatures up or lead them into a nearby wall. Even those walls have had an upgrade too, with the addition of tower defense-style creatures that fire a steady barrage at any monsters nearby, as well as some whose pointed carapace will give you extra damage when you launch monsters at them.
There’s more to see and do here than ever before, and each tweak has been beneficial to the hunting experience. To say that it has hooked me back into the Monster Hunter mindset would be an understatement, and while I was clearly infatuated with Monster Hunter Rise and its Japanese setting, I’m utterly devoted to Sunbreak. The PC version also brings a level of graphical fidelity that the Nintendo Switch could only dream of, with up to 4K resolution, unlocked frame rate, and an insane draw distance all options if you’ve got the hardware. If you want the definitive Rise experience, a desktop and the Sunbreak DLC is the answer.