When Monster Hunter Rise came across the Gaming Nexus wire for review, I don’t mind admitting that I had no palpable reaction as someone who has never partaken in a Monster Hunter title. A couple of the GN crew chimed in that it was a great game, and that someone should definitely review it on the new systems. Obviously I obliged, but as a franchise noob myself my only burning question was: “Is it accessible to people like me?”. After my time with Rise, I would say the answer is largely a “yes”, but also partially a “no”.
Proceedings begin with a robust character creator which allows you to create the monster hunter you’ve always envisioned yourself to be. I’ve never been particularly great at making myself in those sorts of situations, so I played around with the various options but ended up sticking with one of the preset faces that looked like Revolver Ocelot from Metal Gear Solid 4 (naturally, I had to name my hunter Ocelot). I thought I was done there, but I was then gobsmacked by a healthy dose of charm (which Rise has in spades) at the next screens, where I got to customize my Palamute and Palico companions. The Palamute is a canine sidekick that serves as a rideable mount, but also will be right by your side as you fight monsters. Likewise, the Palico is a feline sidekick that can serve one of many roles such as Healer or Gatherer. What you choose will depend on your playstyle and what you feel will be most helpful to you. Because I was brand new to the series, I figured it would be helpful to go with a Healer Palico, and it certainly was, as it saved me on multiple occasions. I’m sure I’m not the only one, but I took far more time customizing my Palamute and Palico than I did my character, because I wanted to create my real-life pets in-game to help me crush monsters.
Once you have built your team to your liking, the game will introduce the story to you, which honestly is not much of one. It’s a loose tale about monsters coming back to wipe out Kamura village, and naturally as a newly-minted monster hunter you must help protect Kamura from the impending monster scourge. The story in Rise is like that loaf of bread or basket of rolls you get when you’re out to eat at a restaurant – it’s just there to get you started. That’s not a knock on the game per se, because at the end of the day you’re coming for the monster hunting and (likely) staying for the monster hunting.
In that regard, the hunting itself is quite enjoyable. Capcom has managed to take the fun of mini-boss and boss fights and distill it down into a game made almost entirely of nothing but boss fights. As a newcomer, it reminded me quite a bit of fighting the beasties in The Witcher 3, only you do it over and over. Thrashing monsters is a great time, but there were a couple of instances when things began to feel stale to me. Those moments soon passed thanks to the game throwing a brand new monster my way, giving me a new set of attacks, movement patterns, and weak points to learn.
I also have to point out my utmost appreciation for the enemy design in this game. There are some very cool looking enemies, from gigantic killer rabbits to flying monkey snake-things (that’s the best I can do), it is all very well done. Likewise, I appreciated the varied move sets of my foes. I’ll never forget the creature that had a flatulence-based area-of-effect attack that forced me to apply deodorant to my character to remove a negative status effect. As you might expect, some of the monsters are an absolute pain. There is one stone-covered dragon in particular that I avoided whenever possible. He was one tough beast to crack…okay, I’ll see myself out.
There is a large arsenal of weaponry at your disposal in Rise, and much like your Palico, what weapon you choose to main will largely be down to personal playstyle. I bounced off of the ranged weapons pretty quickly in favor of up-close-and-personal options like the hammer (my personal favorite), the switch axe, and the great sword. Like the monsters, each weapon has its own attack patterns, primary attacks, secondary attacks, and specials. One of my biggest recommendations is to switch weapons immediately if you start to get frustrated or things start to feel stale. Ultimately, you are grinding for better weapons and gear which are crafted from parts that you scavenge off of defeated monsters, so that you can hunt even more powerful monsters, to craft their even cooler looking gear – you get the idea. Monsters have their own inspired gear sets which can only be crafted with an adequate number of each necessary part. I need two more of a certain part from a Medusa-like beast to craft a pair of boots and complete its gear set, for instance. It looks rad, by the way!
Hunts are broken out over multiple quest levels, with you starting at quest level one and working your way up to higher tiers and tougher monsters by completing enough quests at each level. Completing enough key quests in each tier unlocks an urgent quest, which also doubles as a plot device to move the story along, and you to the next quest level. Quests typically took me between 10 to 30 minutes, which felt appropriate. It absolutely must be noted that the single-player and multiplayer have separate quest progression in Rise, meaning that if you get to quest level five in single-player, that does not mean you are level five in multiplayer. The two advance independently of one another. Thankfully though, your gear and weapons are shared between the two, so it is not a complete separation. To be clear, I don’t think this is a bad thing. If anything, it adds legs to the game because it creates plenty of endgame content to digest.
What I do take issue with in Rise are unwieldy menus, a glut of items, and ancillary systems that are the wrong combination of poorly explained and convoluted enough to where I stopped engaging with them altogether. Look, I understand that it’s 2023 and nearly anything can be found with a quick search of the web, but I will never accept that as a means to write-off teaching players how to play your video game. I’m not referring to things such as looking up a video for a good strategy to beat a tough boss. But when a game gives me dozens of consumables or crafting ingredients, for example, but does not adequately explain how to use said ingredients, I take issue with that. In-game encyclopedias don’t do it for me in most situations either, as I don’t believe players should be expected to read pages of menu text to know how to craft an essential tool. Now, for instance, if I need to know how to craft a variant of something for a specific use, then that is acceptable, but the basics should be…well…basic. I’m not looking for my hand to be held the whole way but I do need you to teach me how to walk before letting go. That may upset some Monster Hunter faithful but Rise is abrasive in that regard, and to be fair it’s an issue with a lot of games these days.
For my review, Capcom strongly recommended that I play multiplayer, and after doing so I completely understood why as it is the best way to play, in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed myself on solo hunts, but pairing up with other hunters is my preferred way to play. It’s not always easy to test multiplayer functionality in a pre-release environment, but fortunately I was able to get in several hunts with Eric Hauter, our Editor-in-Chief, and resident monster hunter. I’m proud to report that the monsters never stood a chance. We thrashed them, and I mean we thrashed them good. Well, okay, other than me losing track of my health bar and getting KO’d that one time, but don’t worry about that. Cooperatively hunting beasts while chatting with a friend helped me to realize that those brief moments of staleness I mentioned earlier were largely because, for me at least, this game beckons to be played with others. Capcom clearly knows that as well and, put simply, multiplayer elevates Rise to a new level.
As I mentioned earlier, the single-player and multiplayer quest progression are separate, but function in the same way. If you don’t want to grind as much in multiplayer to raise your quest level, you can also complete Special License Tests in single-player to jump up an entire quest level on the multiplayer front. These tests typical involve fighting multiple monsters on one quest and are worthwhile if you are a hunter who is confident in their skills. Difficulty also dynamically scales in multiplayer depending on your party size. So if you have four players on a hunt, the monsters will be sufficiently difficult, and even if someone drops in or out mid-hunt, the difficulty will scale down or up appropriately.
I’ve written a lot here and still have not touched on some secondary and tertiary systems such as Meowcenaries or Rampage quests, and I think that alone sums up Monster Hunter Rise quite well. A franchise noob like me was able to pick-up and play and have a great time, but I couldn’t help but feel like I was still only scratching the surface at times due to the opaqueness of some of its systems. In terms of how I play games, I don’t like leaving food on the table, so to speak, but I’ll leave that gaming broccoli on my plate every single time in favor of the meat and potatoes if it’s not appetizing.
To be clear, Monster Hunter Rise is exceptional. If boss fights are your favorite part of games then you’ll love this, and while it is good in single-player, it shines brightest in co-op with friends. Whether you are looking for something to play casually, or something to really sink your teeth into, I feel confident saying that Rise can check either or both of those boxes for you.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Hello! I'm Jason, the resident noob here at Gaming Nexus. When not working my day job, I moonlight as a husband to a human and a father to two canines. Of course, I am also an avid gamer and general nerd. My favorite genres of games are strategy, management, city-builders, sports games, RPGs, and shooters, but I don't limit myself to those. My favorite game of all-time is Red Dead Redemption 2 and I have somehow played it for nearly 1,000 hours.
My first video game system was the NES and I never looked back. I currently play on PS5 and PS Vita, although I recently dabbled in Xbox Game Pass on PC for a short while. I co-host a weekly PlayStation news podcast with a lifelong friend/family member called The Dual Sense Podcast, so I stay pretty well versed in that ecosystem. Before that, I co-hosted a basketball podcast.