Thrill of the hunt

Daniel Lim

When it comes to games that give the player a sense of power as they team up with friends against large monsters, Monster Hunter series has always been the go-to game.

The latest instalment, Monster Hunter Rise on the Nintendo Switch, is thrilling to play and also offers optimism as to where the series will go in the future.

Monster Hunter is a game where players take on the role of hunters solo or with a group of up to three players – to hunt or capture monsters to maintain the balance of the ecosystem and to protect their village.

While the latter is the plot of the game, it is generally sidelined in favour of its monster hunting gameplay. Players are tasked to track down monsters across a large map, with the success of the hunt hinging on skills and equipment.

I have played Monster Hunter, with a few matches in the Frontier Series, which is a spin-off series of Monster Hunter on the PlayStation Portable, while the bulk of my game time was in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate on the Nintendo 3DS.

While a new player’s first few hours of Monster Hunter Rise might be about climbing the learning curve, mine was filled with nostalgia, as many of the techniques and skills from previous games are transferable, but interjected with new ideas.

Monster Hunter Rise. PHOTO: NINTENDO/ CAPCOM
A player facing off a monster. PHOTO: NINTENDO/ CAPCOM

These new ideas make this latest instalment arguably the easiest Monster Hunter game to pick up. This not only includes online play, but also ‘Join In Requests’ first introduced in previous title Monster Hunter World, where players can opt in to have other hunters join and help in an ongoing hunt across the world.

This is where the majority of my playtime was spent, not only in helping out other players, especially those in lower ranks who are just getting their feet wet in the series, but also because it provides decent rewards for aiding both new as well as seasoned hunters of the game.

While the game does balance and scale the monster’s health pool to the number of hunters present, having the opportunity to hunt down a monster is gratifying as a group experience, especially against higher tier monsters that are capable of dealing more damage.

Furthermore, going up against a monster in a group means that there are more options, as more people are equipped with one of the 14 various weapon types available.

Players of the Souls series will immediately feel at home with Monster Hunter, which is generally quite hard to describe; but are usually easily identified by the slow but methodical ways that one can initiate an attack or a series of attacks with their weapons.

This means that players who are more familiar with fast-paced and twitch-based combats might have a tougher time adapting to the more planned and calculated swings of the weapon as well as positioning around the monster.

Monster Hunter Rise’s addition of new mechanics in the form of Wirebugs and Silkbind Moves aims to help provide opportunities for all players to express their creative freedom when it comes to attacking, while also hastening the pace of the game.

Whereas in previous Monster Hunter series where most of the time are spent in running around the map to track down monster, these additions as well as other improvements made to the game have helped bring the learning curve for the game down, which made it more enjoyable.

This might seem counter-intuitive, especially for seasoned hunters, but I for one welcome these new changes as they help to streamline the core experience of hunting a monster, which is still a challenge especially in higher ranks. But these changes are also made in light of the addition of ‘rampages’, where instead of hunting monsters, the monster come to the hunters in droves, to break through to the village.

While these changes might seem too action-oriented, and there are certain times that it will seem quite chaotic, these changes facilitate the faster nature of Rise, and as such rampages as well as a certain final boss of the game are some of the most fun and exhilarating moments that can be experienced other than setting out to hunt for the monster.

Other improvements made include tweaks to how each weapon plays, making snap decisions more instant while retaining the core mechanic of visualising and experiencing the overbearing hits that both monster and hunter can deal to each other.

Also notable is the introduction of ridable palamutes in addition to palicos, in the form of dogs and cats respectively, both of which serve as aids in hunting monsters.

There’s also a new addition to the game, Wyvern Riding, which is a fancy way of mounting the monster to fight other monster, ala Godzilla versus King Kong.

While these changes are something to embrace, some things about the game do not seem to change, namely the rate at which players can upgrade their weapons and armour, especially in the higher ranks where parts and materials used to craft and upgrade these weapons and armour, that are dropped from monsters upon successful hunt or capture can be in the one per cent.

Regardless, the thrill and success of the hunt will help to bring back hunter back again as Monster Hunter Rise is set to continue to expand with planned downloadable content set to drop sometime at the end of this month, which will include more monsters to hunt, and that in turn will bring new equipment and weapons to craft to overcome the odds against insurmountable monster in both scale and power.