Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak helps the base game eclipse Monster Hunter World as the best game in the franchise.
Monster Hunter is an endlessly complex franchise, with incredible amounts of depth and nuance. Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak, a major expansion to a game we’ve already declared a franchise-high point, adds new mechanics for die-hard hunters, but deftly weaves quality of life improvements in, too.
The result is a complete action RPG for fans and newcomers alike, that does well to maintain its intricacies without dumbing down the fundamentals.
Monster Hunter Rise Sunbreak key details
- Developer: Capcom
- Price: $39.99 / £32.99
- Release date: June 30, 2022
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC
Monster Hunter Rise Sunbreak trailer
For all of its complexity, Monster Hunter as a franchise has always offered a pretty simple gameplay loop; go hunt monsters, carve their remains, and use them to craft better gear to hunt bigger monsters, and so on and so forth.
That’s not changed here, meaning you’ll still get the satisfaction of getting just the right material you need to try a new armor set or weapon, but you’ll similarly struggle to feel enthusiastic about it if Rise wasn’t yanking your Monster Bone.
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That’s also kind of the point – as much as Monster Hunter Rise’s campaign was a great jumping-on point for newcomers, the addition of Master Rank is for those that have slain Thunder Serpent Narwa and earned their stripes.
Make no mistake: Sunbreak should be considered a tough nut to crack. As with Iceborne before it, you can expect to get a rough welcome even with early quests. My confident swagger from slaying Narwa was soon knocked out of me by the likes of Lunagaron in Sunbreak.
Thankfully, as much as you’ll be sent back to new hub town Elgado by the various Wyverns you’ll tackle, each one offers such meticulous creature design that you’ll invariably find yourself heading back out on hunt after hunt.
While Monster Hunter Rise’s monster roster was formed of series staples like the Rathalos and Diablos and new additions inspired by Japanese folklore and mythology, Sunbreak casts its gaze west for inspiration. Lunagaron, a tricky customer during our preview last month, is inspired by werewolf legends, while fellow flagship monster, Malzeno, takes design cues from classic vampire horror.
The “Three Lords” trifecta of scaled beasts is completed by Garangolm, which offers Frankenstein’s monster looks with the equally unnatural ability to use both water and fire attacks.
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Each of these battles will test your abilities, but it’s not just the top of the food chain that players will need to worry about – new variants of Rise’s roster, like the Blood Orange Bishaten, remix existing monsters. In Bishaten’s case, the creature now throws explosives instead of fruit.
Master Rank also adds new abilities and moves to Rise’s base roster, with the tantalizing “carrot on a stick” of even better gear to earn. It’s as intoxicating as a Rathian’s tail.
Each beast requires its own strategy, something Monster Hunter has always pushed, but those that started with Rise may be surprised to find out how much more important armor types and damage resistances become. It’s not for the faint of heart, but Sunbreak unfurls its content at just the right pace to avoid any difficulty spikes aside from an initial bumpy introduction – Monster Hunter World players will be pleased to know there’s no “Anjanath” moment here.
Breath of Knife
The good news is that there are new tools you can use to even things out with your scaly enemies, and a way of repurposing existing ones.
Silkbinds, powerful attacks that were introduced in Rise, can now be assigned to red and blue “Scrolls” that can be swapped between during combat, meaning players can swap out a series of five flashy moves for another set. That can be ideal when hunting multiple monsters, or just when you want to switch things up.
Long Sword wielders can switch between an aggressive horizontal slash, for example, or the Soaring Kick to take on flying enemies.
There are also brand new moves, too, and they’re pretty incredible – Gunlance users can propel themselves down onto monsters, for example, while the Dual Blades turn players into a tornado of sharp edges. Long Sword fans can even create a small area where players will earn additional hits if they keep monsters trapped within.
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The only issue I have with Switch Skills is that the command inputs can be tricky to pull off in the middle of a fight in the early stages of the expansion. While nailing the timing will let you switch skills while dodging, it’s an additional layer on top of Rise’s already complex control scheme.
Factoring in movement, each of the fourteen weapon types’ unique mechanics, dodging, moving with the Wirebug, and now switching Skills on the fly, there’s a lot to remember.
Thankfully, Capcom has smartly worked to tweak Rise’s core systems post-Sunbreak, and these changes will work for those playing the base game, too. For one, players won’t have to rely on a Wiredash to scale a wall, making traversal much simpler.
Palamutes now offer an additional series of inventory slots, too, and, uh, yes, you can now play fetch with them. These may sound like small touches, but they continue the excellent work Monster Hunter: World and Iceborne did of streamlining the franchise’s complex systems and removing much of the menu-based tedium of older games.
Helping to ground players in Sunbreak’s world are new Follower Quests, too, where players are joined by AI characters. Each has its own weapon, Palamute, and Palico, but these quests are separate from online progression through Hub quests so don’t expect to lean on them too much.
You’ll note I’ve not discussed Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak’s story yet in this review, and that’s essentially because it really is just a way to shuttle players from locale to locale — including the returning Jungle map from prior games, and the new Citadel area that makes a great impression with its day/night cycle turning the sky an almost crimson hue.
Players are called upon to venture to a new region west of Kamura to help defend Elgado Outpost from the aforementioned “Three Lords”, and from there the voice acting is as over-the-top as it’s ever been.
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There’s a hammy charm to Monster Hunter as a series, especially with its pun-filled quest titles, but personally, I’d like to see the franchise reckon with its core concept of wrecking ecosystems to turn majestic creatures into fancy hats. As with Rise, though, Sunbreak sidesteps that conundrum by making the monsters the aggressors.
It’s unlikely to change your perception of the expansion, but it feels like we’re still waiting for a Shadow of the Colossus-style ending where we find out our hunting doesn’t necessarily feel quite as righteous as we thought.
Verdict – 9.5/10
Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak is a triumph. Combined with the base game, it offers an ideal onboarding for newcomers and plenty of challenge for series veterans.
It’s tougher than a Barroth, but offers the most rewarding action-RPG experience of 2022 so far.
Reviewed on PC
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