If you’ve never played a Monster Hunter game but find yourself, at the very least, passably interested in the franchise, now’s the time to get in on the hunt. The latest title, Monster Hunter Rise, is due out in full on March 26th, but right now, there’s a free demo for the game, available on Nintendo Switch. And while that demo may be limited in more ways than I can name here, especially without having had a chance to sample the main game itself, there’s plenty to recommend not just this new installment but the franchise overall.
I confess, I’m a newb when it comes to Mon hunts. I don’t know the terminology yet (but I’m learning, Je Suis Monté), was not expecting the challenge of 14 weapon types that all seem to come with button combos that are just different enough from each other to be mentally taxing, and can’t tell a Rathalos from a Rathian (or a Mitsuzune, which I’ll talk about in a little bit). But I’ve long been curious about the Hunters out there who have put hundreds if not thousands of hours into the franchise. The MHRise free demo was the perfect opportunity for me to dip a toe into this monstrous world, and I confess, once again, to be quite a bit more excited for the full game’s arrival than I was just a day ago.
For the uninitiated, Monster Hunter is a game series that sees the player taking on the title role, an experienced monster tracker, hunter, and fighter who takes down increasingly tough creatures in order to upgrade weapons and armor. I mean, narratively speaking, you’re usually saving a town from destruction, yadda yadda, but the main feedback loop of this game is Hunt -> Upgrade -> Repeat. That’s the fun of it. And while the free demo for Rise takes a chunk out of this loop by removing any crafting, upgrading, or customization from it, the hunts are fun enough on their own.
I spent a good amount of time in the demo’s two training missions; these are infinitely playable, at least until the demo ends on February 1st, or until you’ve hit the 30 attempt limit of the Beginner and Intermediate quests in solo play. (Online multiplayer is playable until the demo’s time is up.) I not only wanted to wade into the shallow end of Monster Hunter‘s world to get acquainted with its movement and combat styles, its admittedly rather involved item usage mechanics, and its many and varied weapon abilities, I also wanted to get a good grasp on Rise‘s new introductions: The Wirebug and Wyvern Riding.
Think of the Wirebug like a more versatile version of Spider-Man’s web-slinging; Spidey needs an anchor point like a tall building to swing from while the Wirebug itself is the anchor point. This allows for rapid traversal across level ground or easier ascent up vertical surfaces; there’s no fall damage in Rise, but you can use Wirebugs to ease your descent just for kicks, simply because it’s fun to do so. You can also use this rechargeable tool to both attack monsters and evade attacks that are poised to wreck your face. And that comes in handy with Wyvern Riding, too.
The Wyvern Riding tutorial not only teaches you the knew bucking-bronco mechanics you’ll use to force a monster into a “Mountable State” via attacks or use of endemic species like puppet spiders, it also lets you ride an Arzuros around an arena to get a handle on monster combat. This was hella fun, even for a tutorial. (Forgive me for slipping into vaguely Californian slang; I blame Kamura Village master Utsushi for this.) This versatile new addition to monster-hunting combat encourages the use of Wirebugs in both attacks and evasions while battling while also letting you ride giant monsters into battle, which, I mean, c’mon, how can you not like that?
When it comes to those actual battles, however, newbies like myself will struggle a bit more, even in the demo. The camera can be a mini-boss on its own. The copious amounts of clipping make it difficult to know exactly where to hit and what you’re hitting at times. And there’s no hand-holding in this game. The tutorials are explicitly for the new mechanics for the Wirebug and Wyvern Riding; that’s it. You’re on your own when it comes to figuring out item usage, combat, and more; the demo also leaves customization and upgrading out entirely, so expect to put some mental effort into mastering them in the full game. This is definitely one area where experienced Monster Hunter gamers will have a leg up over newcomers. That doesn’t mean, however, that Rise is a deterrent to newbies; my own experience suggests that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Did I struggle with the beginner quest to take down a Great Izuchi? Yes, but I did it, mostly thanks to blind luck and help from Twitch chat. Did I manage to complete the intermediate quest to kill a Mitsuzune? Absolutely not, but I had a (literal) blast trying to do so. Perhaps this one would have been easier with a squad, but it’s certainly doable solo, it’s just going to be a trial for newcomers like myself. I like that. I like when games offer a challenge beyond just setting a difficulty slider at the beginning of the game. Granted, with more experience and practice with a chosen weapon set (rather than hopping between all 14 to try them out), and some upgraded gear, the Mitsu fight will likely be tame in comparison to everything else in Monster Hunter Rise, and that’s exactly why I’m more excited for the full game than ever before.
Monster Hunter Rise‘s free demo is a solid introduction to the franchise and its latest title, offering just enough to whet(stone) your appetite whether you’re a veteran hunter or a green gamer. Just this simple taste of the game, arriving March 26th, made me hungry for the full course, especially since it includes a vast array of crafting, cosmetics, upgrades, and delicious meals cooked up by
talking cats Felynes. Wish me well, dear reader, for I’m about to lose myself in Monster Hunter Rise.
This trailer features a spooky cover of Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me.” 10/10, no notes.
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