Friday, April 16, 2021

Review: ‘Monster Hunter Rise’ definitely rises on occasion

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Monster Hunter: World was very successful after its release in 2018 – it has shipped over 16.8 million copies nowadays. It made me really curious to see what future Monster hunter the series would hold. While Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate, also released in 2018, was the start of the Nintendo Switch franchise, Monster Hunter Rise is the first built with the hybrid console in mind, although a PC port will also be available next year. The subtle changes in quality of life mechanics make the game a perfect fit for Nintendo’s latest console and streamline the overall experience in case you want to take it on the go.

Monster Hunter Rise feels very similar to Monster Hunter: World, and for good reason. You hunt monsters in vast, open, and varied environments, then collect their parts to craft equipment like weapons and armor. In the past, the series was known for its complexity, which deterred some newcomers. However, many of the improvements in the quality of life that have started World can be found in ascend. The game doesn’t come with huge revisions, so it’s the same core Monster hunter experience players will expect, but ascend manages to add new mechanics and aesthetics that help it stand out.

A new coat of paint

The medieval Japanese aesthetic of the game is truly charming. You can see the townspeople dressed in traditional Japanese-inspired clothing, and many iconic aspects of the culture can be seen in Kamura Village, your home port in ascend. The candy apple stand, onigiri shop, and dango cafe all add to the small town atmosphere.

Kamura village is not as huge as WorldAstera’s main hub. Instead of operating seamlessly between the multiple floors of Astera, you’ll have to go through loading screens to get between the main Kamura area and various other areas such as the arena.

Fortunately, the load transitions between them are almost nonexistent and usually only last about a second. Additionally, ascend is transparent where it counts: on the battlefield. A little like World, the hunting grounds of ascend are large areas instead of individual areas connected by loading screens. Thanks to the Switch’s more powerful hardware, the battle and the crossing are easier than ever before in the franchise’s 3DS entrances.

ascend places much more emphasis on verticality than previous games. You are equipped with a Wirebug which essentially acts as a grappling hook. You can use it for both crossing and combat. In game environments, the Wirebug allows you to scale walls to reach higher ground. During battle, the Wirebug can be used to add combos to your attacks. For example, you can propel yourself through the air with the Wirebug, then use it again to suspend yourself in the air before coming back down with an attack. This adds new dimensions to the gameplay and makes the combat even more dynamic than before.

The lack of battlefield loading screens offers many different interactions, including Turf Wars, which are making a comeback from World. Areas usually have two or three large apex monsters, and one may stumble near another, in which case they will battle each other for control of the area.

New gameplay additions enhance the series

Another mechanic who ascend Wyvern Riding presents the gameplay formula, where, if you deal enough damage with Wirebug attacks, you can actually temporarily overlap them and gain control of them. If there is another monster around, then you use the monster you are riding to attack it. You can also cause him to hurt himself by ramming him into objects. While this new mechanic is great, the process of Wyvern Riding doesn’t last very long before you have to relinquish control of the monster. While that’s cool by the time this happens, the damage you deal doesn’t seem to affect the outcome of the battle much. These monsters have huge HP pools, and even though dealing damage while riding a Wyvern does more damage than your normal attacks, it still feels like sometimes you barely make a dent.

Palico cats return from Monster Hunter: World as well as. The Palamute dog is a new addition to ascend, and your two animal companions will help you on the battlefield. What I particularly like about the Palamute is that rolling it around the battlefield is a lot faster than running, and it doesn’t deplete stamina at all. When a monster tries to run away and seek refuge on another side of the map, you can’t waste any time at all riding your Palamute and chasing it.

Speaking of hunting monsters, a welcome change ascend is that you can just mark them on your minimap and it will show you the exact location of the monster. In World, you were to find them by examining their fingerprints. While this added a bit of world-building, I appreciate the more simplistic approach that ascend takes because it makes the experience much easier. You can also buy more Palicos and Palamutes to send them to acquire additional materials while you are on the hunt.

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