My first foray into “Monster Hunter” was a nightmare. I learned the basics of resource gathering and combat, but when I went up against Rathian, the creature beat me down. It wildly slammed into me. It stung me with poison. Whenever I tried running away to recover with a potion, it would somehow track me down and knock me unconscious. I wasn’t the hunter; I was the hunted.
Despite my poor showing, I kept playing through each iteration from PlayStation Portable to the Wii to the Nintendo 3DS to the PlayStation 4 and finally to the Nintendo Switch. With each stop, I learned more about the intricacies of the franchise and somehow I miraculously improved.
Over the years, Capcom simultaneously made the “Monster Hunter” franchise more approachable while also deepening the gameplay. The culmination of this refinement is “Monster Hunter Rise.” The latest iteration takes more of the lessons from “Monster Hunter World” and continues to streamline the gameplay.
The newest chapter has a heavy Japanese influence that runs through the architecture of Kamura Village, the inspiration of new monsters and the design of armor and weapons. It gives “Monster Hunter Rise” a distinct feel compared to past efforts.
On the gameplay side, Capcom added rideable dogs called canynes that make it easier to traverse the larger maps. After gathering certain items, they can automatically be converted into usable items such as Mega Potions. These changes speed up the hunting process, but at times it goes too far. Being able to spot all the monsters on the map removes the concept of scouting and tracking, which was a key part of the franchise.
In previous games, squads would fan out and search for the monster, and when they did, they would alert teammates. It was a small part of the hunt but added fun to the experience. The change also removes the idea of learning a monster’s habits in order to track them on the map.
The other major change is the introduction of Wirebugs, which adds an unprecedented level of maneuverability. With these bugs, players can zip through the air over short distances. Players can use this ability offensively to attack from the air or they can use it defensively to escape attacking foes and create distance.
The Wirebugs are one of the best new features, along with wall running that opens up the verticality of the maps. Wirebugs also have a third effect on hunts. By using silkbind moves, hunters temporarily trap a monster and control it. This Wyvern Riding turns the battle into a limited-time “King Kong vs. Godzilla” grudge match. It’s a way to deal massive damage to an opposing monster, knock out crafting pieces out and gain an edge in close hunts.
The caveat is that Wyvern Riding is tough to control at first, and it takes time to learn the feel of the unruly monsters. Capcom re-creates the sense of puppeteering a wild animal with wires.
To break up the monotony of the hunt, Capcom introduced the concept of rampages, which constantly threaten Kamura Village. It’s almost like a tower defense game where players have to set up defenses as waves of creatures run through a gantlet of ballistas, cannons and heavy weapons. The rampages are nowhere near as grandiose as other the special battles in “Monster Hunter World” but they make things more replayable.