Monster Hunter Rise Review: Gameplay Impressions, Videos and Speedrunning Tips

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistApril 1, 2021


If Monster Hunter World and its grand Iceborne extension were a reset for the storied franchise, Monster Hunter Rise is a fitting name for the trajectory of the series.  

World brought the series to a global scale with huge setpieces, modern functionalities and a noteworthy visual shift, earning rave reviews (90 on Metacritic). Rise sits positioned to do much of the same, with Capcom leaning into lessons learned from the last entry to offer another grand adventure where increased mobility is the focus. 

Thanks to the functionality of the Switch, Monster Hunter can get back to its handheld roots—where some of the best games in the series had previously called home—while building upon the incredible foundational reset that started with World. 

While it won't have the benefit of taking players by surprise this time, matching or exceeding expectations is one battle Rise looks primed to win. 


Graphics and Gameplay

Rise will surprise many with its visuals. 

It's not World or Iceborne on a specced-out PC by any means, but the game being a Switch exclusive for the time being hasn't hurt it at all thanks to Capcom's powerful RE Engine. The superb character models and fidelity of the world will have players thinking they're playing a first-party Nintendo game, which is usually the only time Switch graphics look this good. 

The vibe of the series remains. The monsters look just as good as those offered up in World, if not better, and the same cutesy vibes of the village and its furry inhabitants is much of the same. A colorful overall palette and whimsical soundtrack give it all that distinct Monster Hunter feel.

It wouldn't be a shock to series veterans to find out that each biome of the map has a distinct feel. But it's worth noting just how impressive it is that each biome appears to have its own ecosystem and details littered throughout each, such as ruins, which flesh out some background story lore for the observant players. 

On a technical level, Rise might be the most impressive Switch game to date. It's presenting a big world and bigger monsters in solid detail while not losing much in the way of performance, even in handheld mode.  

That said, this isn't the same immense, broad and dense-feeling environments of World. It's certainly smaller to fit the console's capabilities, but that's not readily apparent unless blatantly looking for it. This is the apex of what a Monster Hunter handheld game could have ever looked and felt like, yet it holds up strong on bigger screens in docked mode, too. 

If there's a drawback in the presentation department, it's little things like some up-and-down voice acting, repetitive dialogue and sounds, and things going from voiceover to just reading lines of text. That plus what seems like lip-syncing that didn't bother trying to match the English voicelines. 

The impressive presentation and technical package is a welcome upgrade alongside what largely feels like a tried-and-true Monster Hunter experience. 

Starting with the basics, the 14 weapon types return with some new features. It feels like there is more depth to each one, further changing up the feeling between the choices. Combat is just as snappy and responsive as what the series offered in World—if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

That's just not where the series chose to evolve this time. It won't take long for players to figure out the "Rise" portion of the game's title—the new explorable areas are all about verticality.

The new Wirebug, similar to the Clutch Claw introduced in the Iceborne expansion, is a persistent part of the gameplay now that has a cooldown. This new device lets players grapple and swing vertically or across gaps. It's even useable in the village itself, helping to get the player where they want to go faster. It feels like any wall is scaleable now, which opens things up. 

And the Wirebug innovation to the formula hardly stops there, as it has refreshing roles in combat, too. It has different interactions with all of the weapon types, adding another layer to the depth of combat. 

Also on the combat front, it lets the player pop back up after a hit. That doesn't sound like much, but veterans will be intrigued by that idea—taking a hit and instantly popping back up instead of remaining downed like in the past opens the door for a ton of new opportunities.

The game also leans heavily into the animal-companion side of things. The Palamute is a rideable friendly who can throw an assist during the course of adventures. Palicoes return and can again heal, set traps or offer tips out in the wild, and players even have an owl companion they can call down to their arm and send on tasks. 

Taming non-friendly monsters is on the menu, too. Riding those is now an option, which can be a fun time. The drawback seems to be a less dangerous, wild feeling to them, though, plus a lack of those epic, random monster vs. monster clashes that would unfold in World. 

One interesting tweak is the addition of Spiribirds, discoverable critters in the wild that provide stat buffs during a mission—not unlike cooking recipes in past games. It's a bit of a mixed reaction; this would seem to encourage exploration of these bigger areas, yet it can quickly become an annoyance if starting a mission over multiple times. 

There's been a significant streamlining to the series gameplay that veterans will appreciate. Mining a resource takes a single button tap. Thanks to the tools available and level structure, wandering aimlessly in search of a monster isn't really a thing. 

The game still doesn't do the best job of making new players feel welcome. Tutorials are there in droves and accessible in the menus at all times. But the sheer complexity of Monster Hunter and its uniqueness compared to other games simply works against it no matter how good the tutorials are. That's something players will overcome in time, but as usual, new players will feel overwhelmed early. 

That said, the path to the endgame, where the real meat of the game should reside, seems to largely function as a broader tutorial again. 

It helps that Rise is just fun to play. The gameplay formula hasn't changed too much: grab a mission, spec out a character and build to tackle that mission, drop into an area and hunt the target while collecting things along the way, then finally return to base. It can be as simple or as in-depth (with stat sheets) as players want it to be early in the experience. 

Flicks of brilliance are tucked in here and there. Players can zip toward a massive monster in full-blown anime fashion; riding the Palamute up to it, shooting into the air via the Wirebug, unsheathing a weapon and attacking from above to start things—to name just one scenario. 

What's important atop all of this is the refreshing, speedy traversal options thanks to the Wirebug. The pace of the game has been upped for the better, and the nature of the hunts feels less repetitive, which makes for a sort of exclamation point on an upgraded experience. 


Story and More

Story has never been a deal-breaker in Monster Hunter, but it has to be said that World and Iceborne took big strides in this area. World really gave off the feeling of exploring a new, well, world, and Iceborne was a stunning departure from the familiar with icy undertones as characters explored a new island. 

Rise is a bit of a step back, with only a few cinematics to tie things together. There isn't much of a story, even compared to World. And World's story wasn't must-see stuff by any means, but it did aid a sense of discovery and progression as it unraveled and rolled out new areas and bigger bads in the process. 

That's mostly gone, with players working from mission boards and reading dialogue that generally doesn't make the player feel like they're driving the story. Again, it's not a deal-breaker, but one can't blame players for expecting a jump. 

The usual sense of level and monster progression makes it in despite the story, though. Ranking up, upgrading equipment and joining higher-level events—like the older entries in the series—means encountering the same monsters but with unexpected surprises such as new moves. Not only is it a serious sense of progression on that front, but it's also a good way to prevent things from feeling stale despite fighting the same monsters over and over. 

Rampage, the big-ticket item as far as new modes go, seems like an organic evolution for the series. Players must defend the village or one of its surrounding areas from an onslaught of big bads ranging in size from eye level to Godzilla and beyond. 

Between attacks, players can set up defenses and dole out commands to others. It's got a tower-defense vibe, and it is just as addicting and enjoyable as most of those, even on the mobile phone scene. Really, it feels like a natural fit for the series. 

And that home is worth defending because of some savvy functionality within it. Besides the usual stuff, like chefs who can cook up recipes and blacksmiths who can mold weapon and armor upgrades, the Buddy Plaza lets players send their animal friends off on missions to procure resources and the like—it's a fun minigame of sorts that lets players efficiently kill off downtime spent in the village. 

On the actual monster front, some good friends from the old games return, oftentimes with a wrinkle or two. The new additions to the game, which we won't spoil, feel at home in the series and are a blast to stumble upon and challenge. 

As hinted, the game is a bit of a technical marvel. Even online matching is a breath of fresh air for the Switch (or Nintendo console) in general. Compared to a juggernaut like Animal Crossing's slogging online functionality, Rise offers up a simple lobby system that is quick and easy to use.

We'll have to see how the endgame evolves as Capcom adds to the game over time, but Iceborne got this right where World failed, so the presumption is things will be quite good. Grinding for upgrades in a faster-paced game where what used to be 40-minute fights can be completed in half of that—plus all the added mobility—should keep players coming back for more.


Speedrunning Tips

Iceborne followed in World's footsteps by offering a fun speedrunning element for players, whether it was tackling the whole expansion's story or one monster fight at a time. 

The arrival of the Clutch Claw as a means of traversal only made things more interesting, both from a getting-around standpoint and in battles themselves. Most of the best full-game runs managed to hover in the four-hour mark while helping the speedrunning community blossom on viewing platforms like Twitch. 

Rise should be no exception in large part thanks to the Wirebug, which ups the pace of the gameplay quite a bit. That should only make things more entertaining in tandem with the usual Monster Hunter speedrunning must-haves like map memorization and specific builds for each fight. 

Early on in this feeling-out process for speedrunners, simply charting and understanding the best possible way to get around maps is a must. So is specializing in a certain weapon class. Bows were incredibly strong in Iceborne, while things like the Insect Glaive seem to continue to struggle. 

Nailing down one weapon class and the proper pre-adventure routine is critical. Understanding what armors and stat buffs to get via meals will decide just how quickly things can go out in the wild. Players will also need to figure out whether it's worth going for the additional buffs scattered around each area or merely beelining it to the next big fight. 

As always, buff and item management, as well as the fresh feeling of companion management, will be highly individualized based on the type of run and specific encounter in a game this deep. 

But that's what makes the speedrunning aspect of it so appealing on a broad scale, right? The quicker pace could mean faster times than ever and a consistently competitive leaderboard, leading to a long shelf life for the game in speedrunning circles. 



Switch was a natural fit for Rise. The detail of its world and functions feels tailored for the console, not jammed on after initially being made for other systems. 

That isn't to say Rise feels like the next big thing for the series. It's merely a small step forward, and players who were turned away by the gameplay loop or combat won't find much of a reason to dig in. At the same time, the leap from past games World made sets the table for a bit of an unfair comparison. 

But, the Wirebug and its allowing a much faster gameplay pace and verticality felt like an organic, natural next step for the franchise. For those who enjoy the unique experience, the gameplay loop is superb and deep as ever, with the multiplayer side again the preferred method of discovering the world and its towering monsters. 

Comfortable in its skin and taking smaller, proper steps toward something even greater for the series, Rise is easily the best game for the franchise to date.