Team Darkside is a charming group of individuals who’d dedicated a lot of time to honing their craft in Monster Hunter. The group’s YouTube Channel sports more than 550,000 subscribers, with videos dating back all the way to Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate.
We spoke to Peppo from Team Darkside, a group of Monster Hunter players known for both speedrunning as well as making videos based on Capcom’s monster-slaying mega franchise, about what a group of extremely proficient hunters think of the newest entry, Monster Hunter Rise.
Monster Hunter Rise: The Team Darkside Review
Naturally, due to the really attention-intensive nature of speedrunning a game, you’d have to clock in a lot of hours just to start considering the idea at all. That stacked on top of their love for the series overall makes speedrunners like Peppo great people to ask about their opinions on Monster Hunter Rise, which brought plenty of new features into the game, such as the wirebug.
“The wirebug addition is actually really good. I’m enjoying it a lot, I didn’t expect it honestly to enjoy it that much”, Peppo laughs. “It kind of adds more mobility and speed in your hands. It helps the hunter quite a lot. You can combine it with different attacks and also the weapon that you choose. So yeah, it’s an improvement”.
While the wirebug is a pretty radical paradigm shift by Monster Hunter standards, it’s not a totally alien game. According to Peppo, there’s still plenty familiar compared to its predecessor, Iceborne. He explained this in the terms of his signature weapon, the Longsword.
“Speaking about longsword, that moveset is pretty similar to Iceborne’s, it kind of feels like the same regarding the moveset. The movement is less clunky, also thanks to wirebug again. But also some existing attacks- I’m not gonna go too much in depth.- for example, Helm Breaker, which is the iconic move for Longsword and now is much faster. It’s also a bit stronger.”
Less Skills Paying More Bills
One controversial change in Monster Hunter Rise was the skill system. While it probably wouldn’t matter to casual players, more serious players would have noticed that many of the game’s damage skills were locked behind higher slot levels, meaning players would have to choose which skills they’d want to have based on their playstyle, rather than just juicing up on every offense skill at once.
While some players might get upset because many offense skills are gated off, Peppo viewed the change with optimism.
“I kinda enjoy the skills in Rise, because its harder to slot in many skills, and that’s something that’s better because you have to make choices. You can’t get every skills, so you have to think about the set you want to use”, he says.
He says rather than making all attack skills the goal for every set, the changes allow players to think about what kind of skills they want rather than hitting every skill like a checkbox.
“Usually there is not only one way to play with your armor. You are more pushed to play around with armor parts because you might consider other skills depending on the weapon you choose because this is something I appreciate”, he adds. “Talking about the Attack Boost and Critical Draw are now level 2 decorations, I think that’s fair, because the skill itself is powerful and the slot level should represent the strength level of the skill. I guess it makes sense”.
We recorded this interview prior to the 2.0 update for Monster Hunter Rise, which saw the addition of many skills getting craftable decorations. Before the 2.0 update, there was a much heavier reliance on charms, which would give you randomized combinations of skills, but also had a bug that could prevent you from getting better charms.
While many more hardcore players lamented the importance of getting a so-called “god charm” for their builds, Peppo reminded us that at the end of the day, it’s not a massively big deal.
“Basically, the charm is really important when it comes to speedruns. When it comes to general players who just wanna enjoy the game without speedrunning, It’s okay to have a normal charm, because it allows you to gain more skills in your set. But the difference between a god charm, which is basically how the Monster Hunter community label the rare and good charms, is minimal. You’re likely gonna gain one or two skills more, and its not something that’s gonna make a big difference in a normal hunt”, he says.
“In a normal scenario the difference is how you play, not the skills you are playing with. And that’s something you have to consider when you play Monster Hunter. So yeah that’s why I feel like charms aren’t a problem right now”, he adds.
He reiterated that even with its flaws, he much preferred it to the preceding system in Monster Hunter World, where decorations were random drops and charms had fixed values.
“Why I think its better because in Iceborne there were some decorations that were a must. When you think about Attack Boost or Handicraft, both jewels were really really rare in World’s base game. You were struggling a lot to gain Attack Boost level 4 because at level 4 you gain 5% affinity. Handicraft is also something you want to gain more sharpness and to get a new level of sharpness like white sharpness”, he says. “It was something that could be way more annoying, since if you didn’t have the decorations it could be very hard to make good sets with the armor pieces you had. So that’s the difference”.
More Hyper Aggressive Combat
Skills aside, Peppo also had plenty to say about the actual combat in the game itself. One thing you wouldn’t expect out of a game about zipping around with a bug to kill giant monsters is that there’s quite a bit of focus on Hyper Armor. What this means is a lot of skills in the game grant you a state in which you take reduced damage, on top of the attack itself becoming uninterruptable by things like roars and stray hits.
“It definitely feels like every weapon now has a way to absorb or counter Monsters attacks. I think that’s something that’s good on a certain level if balanced correctly”, Peppo says.
He says that the avenue for new moves (with the Silkbind attacks) also gave Capcom a large window to plug up gaps in each weapon’s skillset.
“I think about Switchaxe in World and Iceborne. I always liked Switchaxe for example but it always felt like something was missing from its move set, in terms of counter moves or evading moves. Now with Wirebugs I think Capcom had the chance to make sure to balance these types of weapons so that they don’t struggle that much anymore from this point of view”, he adds.
He mentions that some weapons got way more opportunities than others, such as his main, the Longsword getting both I-Frames (a term meaning you take no damage at all while active) as well as hyper armor following up making for moves that are ridiculously safe. According to Peppo this move was added in Iceborne, so other weapons getting that kind of safety only seems fair.
“People might feel a little weird about Longsword having so many evading movements, so I guess it was fair to give these kind of opportunities to other weapons as well in Rise, as long as this is kept balanced somehow,”he says. “I know that Greatsword has this Charge attack that gives you more than hyper armor: the damage reduction is not 50%, it’s higher. That’s something like the limit of where its supposed to be but I think they should keep an eye on how many Silkbind moves can allow you the hunter to do that. That could lead to an easier monster hunter experience in future”
He said while having safe options was great, you also didn’t want weapon skills to trivialize hunts with how good they were, warning that Capcom should keep an eye on that.
“As I said, you wanna make sure weapons aren’t gonna be too strong compared to the monster. You don’t wanna have the hunter too strong. It’s not something I would like to have, to maintain a certain challenge even with the highest monsters”.
That being said, the new changes have definitely brought about a change in players playstyles. Peppo described that with all the new options, Monster Hunters are doing way more damage than they would have, especially compared to the much slower handheld games like 4 Ultimate.
“[More aggressive play] definitely related to the wirebug addition, because you are faster, this is a consequence that you are gonna deal more damage. And of course you can perform more combos since you are faster”, Peppo says. “All these lead to more aggressive hunters. The game itself is faster, there is a lot of moves on screen when it comes to the hunter. It’s definitely the fastest Monster Hunter gameplay so far in the main series, I’d say”, he says.
Peppo’s Longsword Build Primer
Peppo also walked us through his ideas for Longsword, with some handy suggestions on how to set it up. With Monster Hunter Rise we saw the addition of switch skills, which were options to let you swap out certain parts of your moveset for others. However, if you’re going for the optimal run, Peppo had some ideas for how you’d go about that.
The first of these is the Drawn Double Slash, a new move that replaces the Step Slash. The move comes with Hyper Armor, which Peppo highly recommends having more of.
“There are some examples when you are far from the monster and the monster roars immediately, and you have your longsword sheathed, you can press X even though you are far from the monster, and can evade the roar by having the hyper armor. It’s definitely the switch skill you wanna use because it also increases your spirit gauge meter more compared to the step slash and it deals more damage, so I highly recommend using it”, he says.
He also espoused the importance of Spirit Reckoning, another Longsword Switch Skill. This trades off the versatility of the Longsword’s Spirit Round Slash, in exchange for a speedrunner’s best friend- raw damage.That being said, he says casual players wouldn’t miss out on much if they chose to stick to the safer Spirit Round Slash.
“It’s a fair trade when it comes to speedruns. Every speedrunner in my opinion should use it because if you have good positioning and good knowledge of the monster, you can predict the flinch and you can definitely use it for good damage”, Peppo explains. “But for normal people who plays Longsword, I’m pretty sure that Round Slash is comfier to use. You don’t lose too much damage by using it so its definitely something that new players will use so I would say Spirit Reckoning is too specific and its very hard to learn actually. You need a lot of Longsword knowledge and monster knowledge and positioning, so yeah”.
On the other hand, Peppo says some Switch skills are almost detrimental to beginners who want to learn the game. He compared the Soaring Kick to Spirit Sakura Slash, the third set of Switch Skills. While Soaring Kick chains into the Longsword’s highest damage move, Helm Splitter, Soarking Kick gave players an avenue to build up the Spirit Meter, the Longsword’s unique resource, without having to learn the skillset associated with Longsword.
“Of couse Soaring Kick is the best option not only for speedruns but also for general hunts because during openings with Longsword you don’t have many strong attacks. Of course you can do the spirit combo but its not even close to the damage you could be doing with the helm breaker, so it’s really difficult to give up the Soaring Kick and Helm Breaker for Sakura Slash because, yes, you’re going to be stuck with the Red Gauge for most of the hunt but you’re going to deal enough damage”, he says.
He specifically says it’s not so much that Sakura Slash is bad, but rather Soaring Skill is just that much better for the Longsword.
“The hunt is gonna last way longer if you give up the Helm Breaker. I guess every hunter wants to finish the hunt in not-30 minutes. Less than 10 minutes is ideal. I don’t feel like I would suggest this switch skill at all”, he adds.
The Joys of Speedrunning
Now, it’s easy to get turned off by the idea of speedrunners when Peppo describes things with such strict terms. However, the hobby is born of more than just elitism. After all, no one would do it if there wasn’t some form of joy to draw from it. Peppo explains the logic by which he and the rest of Team Darkside operate:
“I think with Speedrunning, how much you’re supposed to enjoy it is subjective”, Peppo says. “I think one of these is the satisfaction. It is immensibly satisfying when you can achieve your goal, and that’s something when you apply to other things, in life for example when you achieve your goal. That’s something personally and I’m pretty sure also other members of my team agree to”.
He also said it’s not just the speedruns per se, but what you learn from them, too:
“Satisfaction is something that really gives you the power to keep going on a speedrun. It’s not only that, as I said it’s subjective. In my case I also enjoy specifically speedrunning because it allows me to sharpen my longsword skills, it also gives me more insight into the gameplay itself. Because of Speedrunning I discovered many tricks, many hidden mechanics that I wouldnt have been able to discover if I didnt speedrun”.
“Of course at the end of the day you have to have fun. Speedrunning is not always fun, thats something you have to consider if you want to start speedrunning. Because as I said there are many times where you’re gonna reset, its not even when its because of you. It’s one of those games where you’re gonna have to be aware of that, there will be some moments where you could be bored or annoyed and that’s something normal in speedrunning. As I said, when you achieve your goal, all the pain you went through is nothing compared to the satisfaction you’re gonna get”, he concludes.
On Being A Monster Hunter Veteran
One of the most contentious features in Monster Hunter’s long history was the underwater combat from the third generation. While it never came back after 3 Ultimate, there’s been rumblings between some fans who think it was unique, while others who thought it was a big low in Monster Hunter’s history.
As someone who loved the third generation, we had to ask Peppo’s thoughts on this.
“Personally I did enjoy the underwater combat system in MH3. Lets say that it was quite different from the normal combat system we are used to and maybe that’s obvious because you are swimming while trying to fight monsters so it kinda makes sense”, he says.
That being said, Peppo isn’t exactly frothing at the bit to get it back into the series:
“At the same time, in 3, it was okay. Like it was in 2010, I think for that time it was an okay mechanic. Now I think to include that combat in 5th generation it would feel kinda sluggish, it wouldnt feel great in my opinion compared to what we are used to now compared to the normal. I definitely liked it back in the day and my dream is Capcom thinking about implementing it again in a future MH6, it is definitely something I miss, it is also something that’s the reason I love that 3rd generation”, he continues.
“It was a unique combat style, some people might not have enjoyed it that much but it was unique and it added uniqueness to the gameplay. It’s something that adds something, not taking it off. I would be happy if they introduce it again”, he adds.
Closing Off WIth A Manga Recommendation
As someone whose online career is built around killing monsters, it’s no surprise that Peppo’s recommended reading is the ever-popular Attack on Titan. While Peppo also has a history of reading Italian literature, he says it’s the contemporary manga about giant naked men attacking the remnants of humanity.
“Attack on Titan is my favorite [manga], and it definitely has a special place in my heart. It’s because it covers a lot of topics like humanity, it’s something that I really enjoy reading it, and that’s the type of story that I love. Like, romantic manga or even anime that I watched that are completely different from Attack on Titan that I would consider to put on the top of my leaderboard. It’s not that easy but you can say that Attack on Titan is the best, in my opinion.
He also had a message for fans who wanted to know if Team Darkside would do another damage cap video, similar to the ones they’d done for Monster Hunter World and Iceborne:
“You’re not gonna be disappointed, let’s leave it at that”, he laughs.
Our thanks to Peppo and Team Darkside for agreeing to do the interview. Don’t forget to check out the Team Darkside YouTube channel.