I’ve been struggling to find the time to write for my blog again these past couple of weeks. And Monster Hunter Rise has been one of the primary culprits, as a long time fan of the franchise, I have been more sensitive to the changes and alterations the franchise has gone through than most. While there’s no doubt that I am happy with a lot of the changes made to World and how it helped the franchise really hit in the West, I also see the continuation of that trend in Rise and find myself worrying about the direction the franchise is going.
The last thing I want to be is one of those toxic, gatekeeping types of fans who is resistant to any and all changes made to a series. Change is vital to keeping long running franchises from stagnating. Monster Hunter World, when it came out in 2018 was almost like a total reboot of the franchise, altering major aspects of the game that had been present within it since its inception.
And those changes where almost wholly positive ones, made to streamline the experience and remove a lot of the frustrating busywork that made it so difficult for people in the west to get into the franchise. And it worked, making the game one of Capcom’s best selling games ever. Sure, old school fans like myself had some nitpicks with the the game; a reduced number of monsters in the game, along with some cut and paste weapon design.
But that was simply the cost of the work that obviously went into making the game much more palatable to the general audience. It was a price I was more than willing to pay in order to see my friends get into the franchise and have someone to actually play the game with.
Cut to a few years later and Monster Hunter Rise has just come out for Nintendo Switch. Like with World, it feels like the developers have doubled down on the streamlining and ease of access for Rise even more than they did with World. And the more I play of it, the more I find intrusive thoughts entering my mind and questioning whether this is really what I want.
I guess I need to explain my headspace somewhat to get my point across. Since the first game, there has been some aspect to Monster Hunter that drew me in that made it stand apart from other video games at the time. There was something super deliberate and methodical about playing a Monster Hunter game. While it often did feel like you were wrestling with the control as much as you were with the wyverns you were battling, there was this sense of extra accomplishment that came from mastering them.
I imagine it’s the same feeling behind why people enjoy Dark Souls and its adjacent franchises. It almost felt like every movement in the old style Monster Hunter games was a commitment, you were constantly battling to make the right choices moment to moment, and if you made the wrong one, the game would punish you for it. Now, I’m not saying we need to get back to that point or anything, I don’t think even I would have the patience for that anymore, but that’s the mindspace I habitually enter when I play Monster Hunter.
Cut to this latest release, and I feel like I’m playing a fast paced character action game like Devil May Cry rather than the more Souls-like methodical game of the past. And I’m not sure how I feel about it. Given, I am only just now entering the High Rank quests in the game, but for the most part it feels like I’ve breezed through every hunt I’ve fought with very few exceptions.
I’ve even found myself brute forcing fights, not really all that invested in how much I’m getting hit nor trying to learn how a monster fights. I’m overcommitting to every attack sequence and not really feeling the game punishing me for it, which is historically the absolute worst thing you can do in a Monster Hunter game. There is no one big reason for this, rather it’s a collection of little changes that all add up into making me feel like this is the easiest Monster Hunter game I’ve ever played.
I’ll get into what I’m talking about:
The Wirebugs are a great addition to the game. Allowing you to dash over any of the environment and essentially make your way from one side of the map to another the crow flies. Between these and the ability to ride your Palamute, it feels like traversal in the game is the best it’s every been. The thing is though, the wirebugs also end up playing a vital role in combat. Giving you new weapon abilities of varying degrees of usefulness depending on the weapon. However they also give you the ability zip away whenever a monster hits you.
In previous Monster Hunter games, getting hit was bad. Because getting hit once could easily mean you get caught in an chain, and then hit a second time and then maybe a third. Then you’d be stunned and it would be a battle to see if you could escape before getting hit again and fainting. The wirebugs all but remove that aspect of combat. Getting hit is no big deal because you can always dodge far away from any potential second hit. It makes getting hit at all feel like no big deal.
Not to mention how easily the new vertically of the levels allows you to zip up high and get a breather from the monster, speaking of.
No commitment to anything
In streamlining the game, it feels like you can do absolutely anything while on the move. Eating and healing can be done while moving. The only thing the game really forces your character to stand still to do is sharpening your weapon, and even doing that is much easier given you can just wire bug up to a high spot out of reach or just jump onto the back of your palamute and then move around while sharpening your weapon.
Part of the loop of the original Monster Hunter games was balancing your own personal upkeep with actually fighting the monster. In Rise it feels like there is no commitment to any of your upkeep at all. I’m almost surprised they didn’t just take sharpness out of the game as a mechanic given how little of a burden it has become to keep yourself topped up. All of the risk/reward is gone from the game I feel.
Extra Monsters Help you now
Back in the older games, a second monster showing up in the same area you were fighting in was a massive deal. You suddenly had to keep track of two different Monsters attacking you at the same time. And there was nothing scarier than getting wiped out in an instant by an invading Rathalos when you weren’t strong enough tackle one yet.
In Rise, the invasion of a second monster has totally flipped around. Now, when a second monster shows up, you’re rubbing your hands together. Every single time, the monsters attack one another rather than you and then activate the new wyvern riding mechanic. In which you can jump atop one of the monsters and do a ton of damage while also knocking a ton of rewards loose.
Which basically makes the mechanic a requirement whenever you are given the option. After which, one of the two monsters will just run away without you ever needing to use a dung bomb at all. Another item I’m not sure why they bothered leaving them in the game at this point. Which really brings me to the crux of my issue with this game and how it changes the core of Monster Hunter from what it used to be:
The Rampage quests suck. They are terrible and I actively think they are the worst thing ever added to a Monster Hunter game. Because for the frustration and nonsense mechanics around doing them, they essentially seem to be a mode that entirely misses the entire point of what made me, at least, enjoy the Monster Hunter franchise in the first place.
As I’ve made abundantly clear throughout this piece; my enjoyment of Monster Hunter comes from the somewhat unforgiving nature of those older games, in which preparation and learning how to fight a monster felt like vital components in success. Eventually learning the attack chains and tells of a Monster felt rewarding because it allowed you to take them down quickly and efficiently.
It made the somewhat sluggish combat in which you hand to commit to every attack and dodge feel like a skill to be learned and mastered. If there is any part of Rise that show me that this isn’t what Monster Hunter is about anymore, it’s the rampage quests.
Missons in which up to five monsters are thrown in your direction at once and you must rush around to kill them all as quickly as possible before they can break through the barriers and walls blocking them. There is a chaotic nature to these missions that feels as anti to the spirit of Monster Hunter as anything I’ve ever seen in the franchise.
I just tank hits and spam my strongest attacks over and over again to repel these reduced HP enemies and constantly find myself not only not enjoying myself, but actively hating what I’m doing…
Now, having read those last collection of points, you might come to the conclusion that I dislike this new Monster Hunter game. That is absolutely not the case. I’m enjoying the game a ton and have been itching to get back to playing it the entire time I’ve been writing this post. It’s just, the more I play it the more I think it doesn’t feel like Monster Hunter anymore.
It’s a change I honestly don’t know how to feel about. I don’t have the time or the patience for video games that I used to. Especially as a kid. I bounce off games much, much easier than I did when it felt like I had all the time in the world to bang my head off of them. If this was an old-ass style Monster Hunter game, it makes me wonder if I would still be into it.
After playing MH World, I can be quoted as saying several times, on this very website, that I wasn’t sure if I could go back to the old style of Monster Hunter game again. Sure enough I didn’t touch the game that came to Switch shortly after the release of World. I am all for the streamlining of games to make them more user friendly, there’s just something about this game, as someone who has put thousands of hours in the franchise over the years, that just rubs me the wrong away.
As I said at the top. I don’t want to be the gatekeeping kind of fan that announces that this game is a bastardisation of the series because it changes things. If this helps more people enjoy the games then that’s probably a good thing. But I can’t help thinking, at the back of my mind that we’ve lost something in the process.
It the exact same feeling I have with the modern Pokemon franchise. I making the games more modern, they also take away from the franchuse what made me, and specifically me, fall in love with them in the first place. By that same metric, I wonder if I didn;t have such an admiration and connection to those older examples od the franchise I would be anywhere near as patitent or willing to deal ith their bullshit and their arcaeic and dated mechanics.
… I still have a lot of Monster Hunter Rise to play. And despite my mixed feelings, I am enjoying the game a lot. After I’ve squeezed this game as dry as I can of content, I might return and write a more comprehensive and balanced review of it. If not then you’re bound to show up during my end of year discussions. Whatever form they end up taking.
But, they took away Gunner armour? Like, what the hell?
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