May 29, 2024
Our impressions of the new Monster Hunter Rise demo ahead of its release in March.

Monster Hunter World took over my life for a few months in 2018 making me completely miss a number of big releases early that year. I wasn’t the only one. The first time Capcom had fielded such a massive hit in the Monster Hunter franchise in the west was cause for excitement, and westerners new to the series found the hunting, crafting, and upgrading loop addictive to say the least. It spawned a massive DLC expansion a year later with Iceborne, and has solidified Monster Hunter as a viable franchise in western territories. It even got Greg and I playing co-op for a very long time (which is no small feat) with our own squad of two trying again and again to take out certain monsters and get towards that endgame.

However, for some of us, the endgame was too much of a grind, which reflected poorly on getting into Iceborne in a big way. Iceborne may have got overwhelming, but don’t sleep on Rise! This is a chance to start again, all-new monsters, all-new world, and revamped ideas.

Monster Hunter Rise is the newest iteration of the franchise that has long been a handheld staple, taking many of the big defining ideas of World and bringing them exclusively to the Switch. Nintendo players missed out on World and Iceborne, so it’s only fitting they get their own MH game. The game itself is due out on March 26th but for a limited time you can download a free demo and try out the game for yourself. We gave it a whirl this weekend so you know what to expect.

The demo starts beautifully with a lullaby-like song and a clear indication of more of the Asian heritage that was there in Monster Hunter World, but wasn’t the overwhelming focus. Rise is set in Kamura, a far more eastern-flavoured world to explore than World’s Old and New Worlds. There’s even a little of the watercolour Okami aesthetic in places. There’s no story to speak of in the demo, so I can’t comment on that.

You are given the ability to play 30 quests, including tutorials, hunts and riding lessons. But this just means 30 attempts, there’s actually just four missions in the demo, two of which are tutorials. You can take a tutorial to get yourself familiar with the controls again, and check out the new riding mechanics (more on that in a moment), and you can take on two hunts; one against the Great Izuchi, which is a starter-level creature, or the fearsome water wyvern, Mizutsune.

As you set off to hunt these monsters, one of the first things that we noticed was the lack of loading screens. Rise is looking like the best graphics the Switch can handle and yet the transitions between missions and fast travel was almost seamless.

Monster Hunter Rise introduces Palamutes, a new companion to go with your Palico, this time a dog/wolf hybrid instead of a cat humanoid. What’s even better is you can ride them. Sick of hitting a monster only for it to run off and demand you fight it somewhere else? Well, sorry that’s still here, but now you can chase it down much faster on the back of your own friendly Palamute. I’m thinking Palamutt, like dog, rather than Palamute like it can’t speak, but that’s just me. You can attack with them two, but for the most part they are much weaker than you can be with your weapons.

You can also ride monsters. Yes, you read that correctly. Instead of just mounting a monster and trying to stay onboard while you damage it, you can now hit them with webs and wirebugs to harness them and use one to fight another, or just dash it against a wall a few times to bring down its health.

All the weapon types from World are here, available to try in the demo. My personal go-to, the Long sword is still great for a bit of distance, but without sacrificing melee, but all the weapon designs look great.

Rise also looks great on the Switch. It’s a little low-res compared to World, which is to be expected but nothing that will encroach on your fun. The world of Kamura still has plenty of the great stuff that made World so much fun to explore such as all the Endemic life, this time just as integral to your experience and combat as it was before. New to Rise are Wirebugs, which allow you to swing and hook onto them to traverse and reach higher places, or to corrall a monster, and Spiritbirds that will endow you with quest-long health, stamina, attack and defense buffs.

However some of the problems with Monster Hunter World are still here and still aggravating. You still can’t lock-on in any meaningful way, possibly even less than you could before. You can lock the camera to the monster, but your attacks can flail everywhere. When the monsters, especially Mizutsune, move at the speed of light, this can and always was pretty aggravating. It’s a cumbersome control scheme too, with a lot of superfluous stuff all jammed onto the same buttons and the same inputs. X is your basic hit, and a strong attack on the right trigger, but in between those is the right bumper which sheathes your weapon (hopefully this can be mapped in the main game, because I want hit back on the right bumper). Cycling through four different wheels of items, or suddenly using Y and A to browse your quick items takes a bit of getting used to, and the speed at which you put away your weapon and only then can actually drink a health potion is as slow as it always was. Monster Hunter could be a much more streamlined experience, but then it would also be far easier so it’s clearly not what they are going for. You will get used to it, and start to own the monsters left and right. I’d love to see a monster hunter game, maybe in future, with a lock-on, proper dodge rolls and quick heals – make it more like a modern action-adventure control system, like God of War or the Souls genre.

What we aren’t seeing in the demo is how a few of the other big systems will work. For example co-op play or crafting, or the creation of weapons and armour from the scavenged remains of all these monster you’re killing. You can get some materials in the demo, but no central hub area or blacksmith to use them in. There’s no reason to think this won’t be every bit as ambitious as World, but we shall have to wait and see.

Monster Hunter Rise releases on March 26th worldwide exclusively on the Nintendo Switch. It is clearly a little graphically constrained by its hardware and doesn’t look quite as incredible as World, but its also clear it’s got everything else going for it, quality of life upgrades, and plenty of heart. It’s already one of the best looking games on the Switch, and we can’t wait to take our hunting portable.

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