Originally published at: Review | Monster Hunter Rise - XboxEra
Monster Hunter Rise was released on the Nintendo Switch back in March of 2021 to massive critical acclaim. Just under two years later it’s out on Xbox Game Pass for console, cloud, and PC. It is an excellent port built off of the original Steam port that hit exactly a year ago. Its precursor, Monster Hunter World, was on Game Pass for a long time so it may be familiar to many of you watching. Just know this, I think that Rise is better in every major way.
Monster Hunter Rise tasks you with fighting increasingly difficult monsters either solo or with up to three friends through two different leveling paths. Story wise, the game is set in a small village that suffers from a once in a generation “Rampage”. During this event, the monsters who lurk throughout their homeland will go crazy coo-coo nuts and attack as one big angry dragon-bear thing feasts on the frenzied creatures. Your job is to become strong enough to stop the Rampage by hunting monsters, carving them up, and using those pieces to craft new weapons and armor. This cycle is the heart of the game.
To see the main story, you’ll have the Village quests, which must be completed solo. They’re tuned for one player and seeing the credits roll will take you roughly 30 hours or so at the most. The multiplayer side of things is the Gathering Hub missions. These missions can scale for up to four players total and will have you facing off against all the same monsters you’ll see while playing solo, but with far more health and slightly higher damage outputs. It is frustrating to have one path completely locked away from co-op play, but it is far better than the odd system that MH World used. Instead of having to see certain cutscenes and then being able to invite people mid-hunt you can just gather together right at the start and work on your gathering hub leveling path with far less aggravation.
Mission types come in a few varieties. The main ones are your hunts, in which you have a main target in a specific zone. They are normally joined by a few other main monster types, and you’ll have a fifty-minute time limit to slay or trap your target. If you’re good enough you can go in and take out all three monsters, though I found myself focusing on the target every time. The monsters will fight each other which is a ton of fun to be a part of, and we’ll get into that more later. The other mission types include the new tower defense rampage mode, which is terrible.
Rampage missions find you setting up a very basic series of defense countermeasures as a constant wave of powerful monsters attack. It’s not fun, feels blatantly unfair at times, and is generally a slog to get through. The fact that a rampage is how you advance to the next hunter rank each time is one of the game’s only major faults. Finally, you have the gathering or delivery missions. In gathering you simply go around the map finding specific objects and delivery is exactly what you’d think. There is also an exploration mode that can be fun to use to try and learn an area’s layout as it never seems to change outside of specific missions for each zone.
Those zones cover most of your standard biome types like forests, swamps, ice areas, lava caverns, and so on. One nice change is that there is one area per zone, and you do not have to constantly travel and track monsters in between them. Your new owl pet is the in-game lore reason why you always know where every monster is in each zone. One of my least favorite parts of MH World was the constant chase of an enemy because I’m so darned impatient. In Rise, your cahoot (owl) lets you know where every major monster in the zone is at all times, though it won’t know what type of monster it is until you’ve defeated it at least once. It’s a huge quality-of-life improvement that I greatly appreciated and there are a ton of them in Rise.
A Life Full of Quality
While playing solo you’ll now have two companions fighting alongside you. The Palico and the Palamute are a cat and dog combo that you can name, gear up, and customize their appearances and I love it. They have different build types such as healing cats that build up fruit that will fill an area with life-restoring mist, and you can give your dog a chain whip that they’ll attack like the maniacal mutt that they are with. You can also ride your Palamute by holding down the b button while not in combat mode, to get around an area faster. While on their back you can still gather items and even do light attacks.
The village hub area is broken up into multiple zones with a buddy zone being where you can hire more and more Palamutes and calicos. Once you have your small furry army you can send out your… Meowcenaries to gather items and boss drops for you. There are a ridiculous number of systems in this game, and it does a great job of slowly introducing you to each of them while also being easy enough early on that you can ignore certain ones. The other areas are the smith works, where you’ll upgrade your gear, and get village quests, items, and more. As always there is an eatery where you’ll find “Bunny Dango” a weird, gelatinous treat that will give you up to three buffs of your choosing per hunt.
You have a home as well where your cat butler can customize things, and all of it can be fast-traveled between at lightning speeds. On the switch version, the loading wasn’t terrible, but at 10 to 20 seconds (or more) it is destroyed by the Series X|S’s SSD. Most loads, either fast traveling or going into missions, were no more than a second. Sometimes they felt instant, and the windows store version was similar to my gen 3 NVME SSD and decent gaming rig. Graphically this is still a Switch game and that smaller memory footprint helps in making this one of the fastest-loading games I’ve ever played.
There is a truly ridiculous amount of mechanical stuff going on both outside and in each mission. Breaking it all down, including the vast number of monsters, weapons, and more would take 15,000 words on their own. Just know that the game does a fantastic job of teaching you at a moderate pace, and I never felt overwhelmed during its incredibly satisfying combat.
Clean, Crisp Combat
Anyone who has played the series before the combat will feel instantly familiar. For those who haven’t this is a mix of fast and deliberate weapons designed to keep you on your toes without feeling overly difficult, at least early on). All the classic monster hunter weapons return and operate similarly to World. I mainly used the Long Sword and Insect Glaive and I felt immediately at home with both. The biggest change in Rise are the Wirebugs. You have two of them by default and they’ll empower all of your main movements and special moves. While your weapon is stowed away you can, at any point, hold the left trigger and then use the right trigger to throw out a bug that then pulls you forward like a slingshot. You can find a third temporary bug during missions, and I can’t imagine playing a Monster Hunter game without them. The flow of combat is so much faster than before, and the extra platforming available makes exploring each zone far better as well. Depending on the weapon you’ll have various wire bug-powered special moves as well. My favorite was using the bug to pull myself forward as I did a double-slash attack with my long sword. There is a training area tied to the buddy zone to test out and discover all the moves the game has to offer, and you’ll need to for the higher difficulties.
The movement and combat feel tight, though there is no lock-on for the monsters. Tapping the left bumper will change your aim toward them, but only for a split second. It’s a re-orientation and not any type of actual lock-on mechanic. Preparing for each hunt will quickly be taught to you and once you’re in mission there is a hut you can visit should you want to change gear, eat a meal, or replenish your useable items. The system for changing through your currently equipped item can be awkward to navigate at first. You’ll need to hold the left bumper while using the face buttons to go left or right. I did get used to all the UI quirks eventually, but I had a lot of practice with MH World.
The monsters themselves are a visual treat, with great-looking textures and incredible animations. Learning their patterns never felt cheap, and the difficulty spikes were manageable thanks to the gear you’re gifted for free at the start. The credits will roll after you reach Hunter rank 5 in the village questline, which took me about 35 hours. That’s just the start though as a full playthrough can easily hit 100 hours as you push the higher ranks and face the game’s true final boss. Most hunts took me roughly 20 minutes or so if I focused on the main target and having two monsters run into each other will most likely see you take on this game’s version of mounting. Once a monster is stunned you can use your Wirebugs to easily climb onto its back and take control of it. Using light and heavy attacks while dodging will let you quickly knock pieces off of any other monsters if they were fighting each other. If you manage to do it while solo, you can press X and have the monster run into a wall for massive damage. It’s a lot of fun and keeps people from focusing on constantly trying to mount enemies as they did in World.
A Great Art Style and Incredible Music
Monster Hunter Rise looks like the prettiest Xbox 360 game of all time. The geometry of each stage, level of detail as you move, and some of the texture work is indicative of the portable hardware it was initially made for. I still think it looks great though, running on a Series X or PC. That is due in large part to an excellent art style and nearly flawless performance. There are a series of surprising to see graphical options on the Series port of the title. Things like shadow distance, texture quality, and more are there to be tweaked as you desire. Even after maxing everything out the game still felt either locked or close to 120fps on my console, and it consistently ran well over 200 on my PC. The game always feels smooth. I’m not sure I ever once felt it hitch during combat, which was a huge factor in fights feeling fair.
One area that blew me away though was the soundtrack. Every track in the game is great, both those that were orchestral and the ones with vocals. You’ll be in town a lot and each area is musical bliss. It’s not a genre of music I normally care for but it’s gorgeous and counters the way too cheery and cheesy mood of the game in a way I needed. You have three choices for the dialogue, Japanese, English, and their own made-up one. The last is the best choice I think, to match the weird place-in-time vibes of the setting. The quality of the English voice acting is decent, but the lines are so unbelievably cheesy that it grew grating on me immediately. Your character talks to themselves and their buddies non-stop during missions by default, but you can lower that in the vast array of options that are available.
Bug-wise I ran into nothing, outside of all the endemic life buzzing around each zone during a mission. This game is going on roughly two years of support from Capcom and it shows with a content-rich and technically competent package being released here.
Wrapping Things Up
Monster Hunter Rise benefits from a tighter focus and massive quality-of-life improvements over its predecessors. The performance is excellent, and your hunts are more enjoyable than ever. With it releasing day one on Game Pass it’s a world worth visiting by yourself or with some buddies.