Saddle up and get to hunt, because the hotly anticipated Monster Hunter Rise demo is finally available to try, and we’ve got our thoughts on the game.
Similar to Monster Hunter Generations before it, Rise is a half-generation, yet still adds plenty new to the game that we hadn’t seen in the flagship of the generation, Monster Hunter World.
What makes Rise more interesting is that unlike Generations which launched on the same platform as the generation flagship 4Ultimate, Rise is a Nintendo Switch exclusive (unless the leaks are to be believed). As such, quite a lot more has changed to accommodate the power differences between the Switch and other dedicated home consoles like the PS4.
It should be noted though, that this demo was purely just the hunting portions of the game, and therefore we couldn’t get a glimpse at any of the extra features such as armor building, crafting or equipment. Characters used were also pre-made, and we have no real way of knowing if they had any armor skills that could have affected our experience.
With that out of the way, here’s our thoughts on this bold new entry.
One of the biggest additions to the game is the new companion, the Palamute. Unlike the cat-like Palicoes, the Palamute is a dog that you can ride across the game’s big open maps. They’re a great way to carry one of Iceborne’s big features- the Tailraider by letting you traverse the terrain much easier. You can also heal and sharpen your weapons while doing this, saving you a lot of time.
Where the Palamute really shines though is in climbing. There’s a marked difference between your hunter’s climbing speed and the Palamute’s, especially since the game removed the “fast climbing” that World added. That’s not to say your Hunter doesn’t have their own options (more on that later), but the Palamute is great for reducing the minutia of getting to your quarry, especially after you’ve hunted the same monster ad nauseam.
That’s not to say the Palico is gone, though. You can bring up to two companions with you on a hunt, though the demo limited us to only taking one Palico and one Palamute instead of doubling up on either of them. Between the two, the Palamute is more offense-based, while the Palico has a variety of support moves such as a new healing bubble to keep you topped up.
That being said, unlike in World you’ve lost the ability to command your companions to use certain abilities, so it can be hard to keep track of what everyone’s doing and you have no way of demanding heals of your cat.
OK But Seriously Though The Wirebug Is Amazing
Another new feature in Rise is the Wirebug. Admittedly, at first I was kind of sour on it. Monster Hunter generations are a lot like Pokemon generations, and between the huge leap from Generations to World to now Rise, it can be easy to get jaded and assume it’s all just swapping out shiny new features for each other.
After a lot of hands-on time though, that’s really not the case. The Wirebug feels iterative, rather than like its replacing any one thing. It somehow incorporates some of the best features of 4U’s verticality, Generations’ focus on super moves as well as World’s Slinger-based combat, all while also adding tools for new players. There’s several layers to the Wirebug, and I’ll try to go through them all in order.
Level One: It Makes You Spider-Man
On the most basic level, the Wirebug is a cooldown-based grappling hook. You get two charges of it, though the cooldown is relatively short for each, and you can find wild additional ones to give you a third charge for a short period of time. With your weapon sheathed, you can grapple virtually anywhere, since you’re grappling on to the bug instead of fixed points like in World.
Of course, one of the big issues in World with the Slinger was taking the time to aim would break the flow of combat. To solve this, on top of the free aim option, you can one of two buttons to to a general vertical grapple or horizontal one, which also come with an additional air dodge for you.
You can also hang off of the wirebug, suspending yourself in the air for short bursts of time.
On it’s own, this is a huge feature. Those who like doing aerial attacks are no longer forced to corral monsters near a ledge, instead being able to do them as long as they can do the mental maths to make sure the attacks are hitting their intended targets.
Meanwhile, the horizontal zipline also allows for rapid repositioning, so you can get out of tight spots or into sweet ones. This is extra great for weapons like the Light Bowgun, which have shorter draw animations.
On top of that, there’s plenty of hidden gems that have been added to synergize with the Wirebug. Barrel Bombs can now be chucked downwards, meaning you can actually incorporate chucking grenades into your combo if you’re clever enough. Similarly, you can wallrun now, with many shortcuts being tied to your ability to chain grappling and wallrunning up certain ledges.
Level Two: It’s Just Hunter Arts
On top of that, you can spend charges of the Wirebug for “Silkbind attacks” which are just a fancy way of saying “Generation’s hunter arts are back”. Each weapon has two Silkbind attacks, usually alternating between “Gives the player armor to absorb hits and keep attacking” and “moves the player, with additional effect if it connects”.
The especially good ones will cost two charges as well, so some balancing has been made to make sure you’re not just abusing these attacks. Using a wirebug charge for Silkbind Attacks incurs a much longer cooldown as well, so you’ll have to manage your meter wisely.
I really like that the Silkbind Attacks are weapon-specific rather than universal, though. For example, Switchaxe has an ability that’s both a horizontal dash as well as a buff for the Switch Gauge, filling up your sword’s meter faster while also preventing it from going down temporarily.
While the Hunter Arts were controversial because they added their own meters to the game, tying Silkbind to your wirebug is pretty genius, because now you’re actually paying a cost for using the Silkbind moves. And speaking of costs…
Level 3: It’s Your Get Out Of Jail Free Card
One of the most frustrating feelings in Monster Hunter is when you get hit, and the Monster hits you with a follow-up before you can even get back up. It’s easy to rage and blame the game for setting you up like that in a situation you just can’t win.
Enter: Wirefall. With Wirefall, you can spend one charge of Wirebug to immediately recover from a knockdown, pulling you out of harm’s way to boot.
That being said, this isn’t exactly a Roman Cancel a la Guilty Gear. Wirefall is explicitly for those of us with a propensity for getting hit. I kind of wish there was some kind of equivalent for more aggressive play, but I’m happy with the system as-is. That being said, Wirefall isn’t a magic savior, either.
It’s also totally unsafe on wake-up, meaning you can’t be a hero and use Wirefall to dash through big attacks. Totally only use it to get out the sides of an attack or backwards if you must, because trying to use it to get in is how you give the monsters a free follow-up.
Mastering the Wirefall is super important to the game, because it definitely feels like the monsters have been balanced around the expectation you’ll be using it. The Mizutsune in the demo has a particularly nasty attack dealing around 75% of your total health, and I can’t imagine it would have made it in the game like that if they didn’t expect you to have a way out.
Now, I first got in to Monster Hunter with 4Ultimate on the 3DS, which added the Mounting mechanic. It’s a unique way to hunt, converting jump attacks into a minigame that if done correctly, gets you a free downed monster for the entire party to brutalize.
Mounting survived the jump to World, although Iceborne followed it up with the Clutch Claw, a much faster-paced mounting that rewarded you with even more damage over a shorter period of time. Suffice to say, many were worried that Mounting wouldn’t make it to Rise, although Capcom said it might show up in other forms.
In Rise we now have Wyvern Riding, the neat little bow that ties in Mounting, Hunter Arts and all the brilliance of the Wirebug. Jump attacks, Silkbind Attacks and attacks from other monsters do a special blue damage, which builds up the invisible riding gauge on the monster. Once its full, you’ll get a prompt to climb on its back, controlling it with reins made of “Ironsilk”. In this mode, you can command the monster to do attacks to lead up to a “Mounting Finisher”, or launch said monster into walls to damage it.
I actually really like this idea, because it builds on the Turf Wars from World and removes the frustration of accidentally mounting the wrong monster, since you can easily score a mount on the monster you want by having your current mount beat the tar out of your prey (remember, monster-on-monster attacks build the riding meter).
On top of that, it incorporates the Flinch Shot from Iceborne, letting you send monsters into walls and other monsters for big damage, rewarding you for using the Recovery button just after launching to get you up to two more hits.
It even deals with another big frustration of mounting, the accidental mount. In every party there’s that one guy who really doesn’t like it yet somehow always lands the mount, either screwing up the mechanics or bailing instead of getting the knockdown for completing the minigame. With Wyvern Riding, the monster is downed first, and then attacking it will trigger the minigame. It’s a thoughtful design, and should see less frustration online.
Exploring The Big World
Similar to Monster Hunter World, Rise has a much bigger map than the “traditional” Monster Hunter games, with no loading screens between its segmented zones. This was one of my biggest concerns when Capcom announced the game’s return to handheld consoles, but it’s good to see that we can still count on the new standard being as little loading screens as possible.
With the added traversal elements, they’ve also made exploring the map more rewarding with endemic life that act as power-ups, boosting your max health and Stamina. Since the demo doesn’t let you customize armor or eat food, currently these power-ups are the only way to actually boost your health and Stamina to max.
I’m not as big a fan of this since unlike all the other new features, this one actually detracts from the hunt by having you chase the animals. I don’t like excessively long pre-hunt rituals, and I really hope that food continues to boost your health and stamina to max in the full game. Currently, items like Steak and Max Potions had that effect removed, so that’s a bummer.
Monster Hunter Rise is definitely a huge step-up so far from what I’d previously expected. It iterates really well on many beloved Monster Hunter features, while also incorporating lots of new ideas that build on the fifth generations’ themes of openness and experimentation.
Admittedly, many of these new features come at a cost. Attacks feel decisively weightier, leaving you vulnerable much longer (likely balanced around your ability to wirefall if you get hit). Dodging, too, has a much stricter timing, and you don’t have fun environmental interactions like you did in World with the boulder traps and such.
However, it’s clear that whatever they’d cut was done so with good reason, because Rise very much wants to be its own game instead of an offshoot of World, the same way Generations was very much its own game from 4Ultimate.
We’ll have to wait until the game’s full release on March 26th to know for sure, but for now Monster Hunter Rise looks like an amazing breath of fresh air for a series that was never in danger of getting stale.