Monster Hunter Rise was first released on 26th of March 2021 on the Nintendo Switch. Taking what was learned from Monster Hunter World and its expansion Iceborne, the gameplay was improved and expanded upon to make hunts a lot more fun. Our review (which you can find here) was generally positive, with the biggest problem at the time of release being its lacklustre endgame. It slowly improved with many updates, but as someone who clocked in over 200 hours of playtime it didn’t exactly keep me playing for more than a quest or two whenever an update came out. The new monsters were cool and the Event Quests had some good layered armour, but it still just came down to grinding out talismans. There were also a few complaints about the under-utilised Switch Skills and it’s generally regarded that the difficulty was lowered for this entry.
However, the new DLC expansion, Sunbreak, resolves to correct that by introducing a whole bunch of stuff. New monsters, new areas, new equipment, new Silkbind moves, new quality-of-life features, and a new difficulty to conquer: Master Rank (MR).
Can Sunbreak improve where the base game was lacking?
A new threat is endangering Kamura Village: an invasion of monsters from a kingdom far away. They’ll need the best of the best hunters in the village, so Elder Fugen chose the Fierce Flame of Kamura (that's you) to be sent to Elgado Outpost to help stop it and prevent Kamura Village from turning into a crater in the ground, like what happened to several other civilisations every 50 years or so. The story is nothing special; it's your standard Monster Hunter plot that you could probably predict if you've played any of the games before. The main draw of Monster Hunter is the monsters themselves, anyway. The characters are nice and quirky though.
First, I wanna take note of the new areas and monsters this expansion has—they are extremely well done. The Jungle, a returning area originating from Monster Hunter 2, has been updated with better textures and new areas that will surely make veteran fans excited to explore without loading screens. The Citadel is my favourite: not only does it have ruins of an old civilisation, but it also has several biomes in it so the monster variety is great. From swamps and forests, to mountains and snow. The new monsters are no slouch in the graphics department either; Astelos, Daimyo Hermitaur, and Garangolm are sights to behold, and Seregios and Gore Magala in particular are amazing to see. The last time I saw them was on my 3DS, pixelated to all hell; fighting them now in HD at 60 FPS is both amazing and terrifying.
Speaking of fighting, one of the main changes to gameplay is Switch Skill Swap, which gives you the ability to switch between fighting styles on the fly that you can customise in the hub or camp. For example, Great Sword users can swap out their standard Charged Slash for Surge Slash; a fast, multi-hit attack perfect for inflicting status effects. There's also Swap Evade, where you can dodge after switching styles. It definitely takes some getting used to, but I found the system pretty fun, and being able to adapt to the situation was rewarding. This type of customisation hasn’t been seen since Generations Ultimate and it is a welcome addition that I hope stays for future instalments.
Follower Quests are a very interesting addition introduced in Sunbreak. These special single-player quests allow an NPC ally to join your hunts with their own armour skills, weapons, and buddy. Fiorayne might even join you on some Urgent Quests, so you could have up to five hunters in one quest. While they can faint, they don't count towards failing the quest and can be revived on the spot. However, this isn’t very common as Followers can take care of themselves with no need to babysit them. They know when to dodge, run, heal themselves, heal you, lay traps, throw flash bombs — everything a normal player can and would do. For example, during a standard hunting quest, Fiorayne suddenly ran off in the middle of a fight, then came back Wyvern Riding another monster and toppled the target down. They will even sleep bomb monsters when they have the chance. The only real issue I had with them was that they occasionally target the wrong monster and will run off after it, but if you keep fighting the real target, they'll head back to keep kicking arse.
There are some really cool quality of life features and fun stuff to play around with once you unlock them. For example, if you have a Palamute with you, you get an expanded inventory and the ability to mark points of interest (like gathering points and endemic life) on the map, while Palicos can learn Secret Support Moves that massively help out in the middle of a fight. Plus, with the exclusion of Rampage Quests and Ramp-Up skills being replaced by Rampage Decorations, you don’t have to grind out Rampages anymore. All of these changes generally smooth out all the problems Rise’s base endgame had. Plus, Elgado Outpost is a slightly better hub than Kamura Village. You don’t need to wait through a loading screen if you want to maintain your Argosy or craft new equipment. All the important facilities are all in one area, and are just a wiredash or two away from each other.
There were also tons of small details I noticed while I was playing. From what I found there are two Cohoot nests hidden up high in Elgado where you can get free items and feed a baby Cohoot between hunts and, as you go through the story, the title screen changes to reflect whatever developments there are in it. It's cool stuff that I can appreciate.
Now, onto the expansion’s difficulty. As I mentioned before, Monster Hunter Rise wasn’t exactly the hardest Monster Hunter entry to date. The only real difficulty spikes came from Apex monsters and Crimson Glow Valstrax. However, the addition of Master Rank should resolve that, right?
Well… it tries. At least for me.
All the monsters in MR will have new moves and can very easily two-shot or one-shot you if you aren’t careful or underprepared. However, I didn’t really run into much trouble until MR5 which is pretty far into the expansion. Even Espinas and its fire/poison/paralysis attacks didn’t worry me as much as I thought. It was pretty much smooth sailing until Malzeno, which actually put me at risk of failing for the first time in 80 quests. From there the game actually stops holding back, having monsters seriously punish you for mistakes like overusing wirefalls. Still, the game still heavily favours the playeFr. It’s not the hunters that should be scared, it’s the monsters. While I don’t mind (I still remember pulling my hair out over Gogmazios and Dalamadur after dozens of failed attempts), I felt like I was going through High Rank all over again except with the occasional new monster. However, this is just from my personal experience and skill level. I'm usually over-prepared and have poured many hours into Monster Hunter, so what I think is easy might be a wall to others.
Now, I was playing a beta version of Sunbreak for this review, so what I say should be taken with a grain of salt, but I did encounter some bugs and performance issues. There was one time a Blood Orange Bishaten was floating right above the ground for a minute, and I sometimes suffered some slowdown after unpausing my game, frame drops, and even suffered a crash but it was never anything game-breaking or too annoying. What was annoying was when I had to wait for NPCs I’ve interacted with to finish their goodbye animation before I could do anything else like save or talk to someone else. I also noticed that there were two Dango Skills with very similar names: Dango Defender and Dango Defender (Hi/Lo). This has probably been all ironed out in the full release but I just wanted to take note of it.
I love Monster Hunter and I liked Monster Hunter Rise, but it came out in a polished yet unfinished state. The endgame and completion of the story had to be patched in at later dates, and I admit that I got bored of endlessly generating new talismans and moved onto other games. Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak pulled me back in. Every day, I would be itching to play more and get better gear for my next hunt against any world-ending threat that was being thrown my way… and then groan when it doesn't drop the one material I need to craft the armour set I wishlisted. I just wished it gave me more of a challenge sooner rather than later.
To summarise this entire review into a sentence: It's more Monster Hunter, and that is never a bad thing to me.
Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak is available on Nintendo Switch and Steam and will release on 30th of June 2022. You will need the base game, and must complete the 7-star Hub Quest “Serpent Goddess of Thunder” to access the expansion. Good luck and happy hunting!
Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak is a great expansion to an already good game. You’ll appreciate all the changes and new features added, but it won’t give you a challenge until much later.