Title: Monster Hunter Rise Sunbreak
Reviewed On: PC
Genre: Monster Hunting
Since it was released on Playstation 2 in 2004, Monster Hunter as a series has been growing very slowly, primarily due to the consoles it has been released on – mostly portable consoles like the PSP and 3DS – and a lack of marketing in the West.
Monster Hunter World changed that with its release on Playstation 4 and Xbox One in 2018, selling over 20 million units worldwide, even earning the first Expansion in the series, Iceborne, in 2019, adding new locations and monsters. The success of World put lots of fresh eyes on the series, which put a decent amount of pressure on their new release, Monster Hunter Rise, in 2021.
Released initially on the Nintendo Switch and later on PC, Rise made several changes to better support newer players while also trying to maintain veteran players from previous entries. While not as graphically impressive as World, Rise still sold well enough to earn its own Expansion, titled Sunbreak, in July of 2022. Featured during both a Nintendo Direct and Capcom’s Summer Game Showcase, many returning players and new players gained interest. I’m here to outline changes made to the framework of Rise and to try to explain how it works for new players, as well as highlight additions introduced in Sunbreak. Let’s begin.
First, Monster Hunter is a game where you, surprise, hunt giant monsters, alone and online, with friends. You do so with various weapons, from the simple Sword and Shield to larger weapons like the Switch Axe, Gun Lance, and Charge Blade. There are also ranged weapons like the Light and Heavy Bowguns and the traditional Bow. Each weapon has unique traits, mechanics, and play styles.
Rise also implemented something called Switch Skills, which allows you to modify certain attacks, a mechanic introduced in Monster Hunter Generations. Completely new to Rise, however, are the Wirebugs. These will enable you to move almost entirely freely on the map and activate specific Switch Skills while on a hunt. Wirebugs give Rise the most significant amount of movement options in the series, giving you unlimited movement options and attack directions.
Wirebugs also changed their approach to map design. Areas are now completely open, allowing you to climb most walls using your Wirebugs and wall-running together. To facilitate all the movement options, they hid materials and resource items, as well as helpful animals called Endemic Life, everywhere, making exploring and gathering almost as fun as hunting monsters.
Rise also introduced collectibles called Relic Records to find in each map, giving little bits of lore to each area. These are very well hidden and encourage exploring the numerous nooks and crannies of the maps, which is fine because even with the slight decrease in graphical fidelity from World, Rise still has beautiful areas full of unique materials to collect and endemic life to find.
The gameplay loop of Monster Hunter is simple. Go out and gather materials from maps and monsters, return to town to craft better gear, then return to the hunt to fight larger monsters for better materials to craft even better gear. Of course, you do this as often as you want to get all of the best gear – it’s as simple as that.
While you can just go for the weapons and armor with the bigger numbers, there are also elemental properties and armor skills, both of which modify pretty much everything about your weapons and stats. Skills can be as simple as reducing cooldown times for using items or as unique as making poison heal you instead of harming you. Each armor set has various skills and defensive properties, so it’s up to you to decide which set is best for your playstyle.
Now that the basics are covered, what does Sunbreak bring to the table? Like Iceborne, Sunbreak is an expansion, continuing the plotline from Rise, adding new monsters to hunt, areas to explore, and a new hub town to act as your home base.
To unlock Sunbreak content, however, first, you must progress through Rise’s base game, to High Rank 8, before the quest to initiate Sunbreak unlocks. Then, to assist new players, Rise will gift powerful weapons and an armor set called Black Belt S, built specifically to help you progress through the game up to HR8 to unlock Sunbreak. This is perfect for players who want to move as fast as possible to the new content, though don’t be too surprised if you have to go back to farm some lower-level materials for weapon or armor upgrades.
The new hub town, Elgado, has everything you need to prepare for hunts. The Dango Stand returns, adding even more food buffs than before, as well as adding a new mechanic for modifying your meals. The smithy also has new LVL4 decorations to forge for your gear, as well as adding Rampage Decorations, replacing the old Rampage skills from older weapons. You also have Master Rank armors and weapons to forge now and more unlock as you go.
The item shop lottery adds a point system, giving you more items as you gain points for no real cost, though you can still only play in the lottery once per sale period. The Buddy manager returns, adding new features for the management of your various Palico and Palamute friends. Completing new quests will also unlock new support abilities for your Palico and new gear for your Palamute to better support you on your solo hunts. Meowcenaries also open Master Rank missions for chances at new items. There is even a secret baby Cohoot at the top of the map to visit.
There are two new hunting maps in Sunbreak. The first is Jungle, a remixed map from Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, or Monster Hunter 2 in Japan. It’s been entirely revamped to better match the new movement and the lack of loading between areas.
The map itself is rather small but still has plenty to explore, with tunnels weaving all through the map and even a secret island to find in the corner of the map if you’re resourceful enough. After progressing in Master Rank, you unlock the Citadel, a brand new map for Sunbreak. Unlike Jungle, Citadel is vast, sporting a variety of location types and ruins to explore and secrets to find. It has frozen mountains, a ruined village, and even a swamp. Out of all the maps in Rise, Citadel may be my favorite.
One of the most significant additions to Sunbreak is something called Switch Skill Swap. Unlocked upon reaching Master Rank allows you to make two different loadouts for your Switch Skills. You can also swap between them while hunting, giving you access to essentially your entire moveset with every weapon whenever you need it. They also give you brand new switch skills as you progress, for even more variety on how you choose to fight. This gives Sunbreak the most customization of any Monster Hunter game.
Now for the meat and potatoes of any Monster Hunter game; the new monsters. Gore Magala from 4 Ultimate makes a return. They also added variant types for Bishaten, Somnacanth, and others that were brand new to Rise. Many other monsters from various games show up as well. For the main plot of Sunbreak, they made three entirely new monsters, The Three Lords Lunagaron, Garangolm, and Malzeno.
Each has fantastic designs and thrilling fights for any player. They also bring back Tempered Monsters from World, which are vastly more powerful forms of various monsters you’ve fought before. On top of all these, multiple Title Updates are incoming, the first in August, that will add even more monsters and quests to undergo. The only quest type not returning from Rise is the Rampage Quests, which wasn’t received very well.
For new players, Monster Hunter Rise is potentially the best place to start, with Sunbreak adding even more to the package. It’s the icing to the already wonderful cake of the base game, and the new features give returning players more ways to approach the hunts. There’s a layer of accessibility that makes this entry continue to be friendly to new users, but veterans might wish for the higher difficulty found in World or 4 Ultimate. On the other hand, if you just want to fight cool new monsters with friends and explore vivid landscapes, Sunbreak is an incredible experience.
*Sunbreak requires the Purchase of Monster Hunter Rise to play.
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