Should you buy Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak? Yes.
The review may end here, and frankly I wish I could wrap up the article and let you experience it firsthand the way you like it. But it would be all too easy and not exactly honest not to cover with due respect the work of the Team Portable by CAPCOM. Unlike a chapter like Monster Hunter World, which with its Iceborne expansion had the task of amaze the players again, goal more than achieved after several updates ended with the sensational rework of Fatalis, the group led by Yoshitake Suzuki had to convince and regain the trust of its users.
And deep down he had to convince me too. From my point of view, in fact, Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak represented a impasse in my relationship with this amazing series, and believe it or not I was afraid of abandoning it forever.
An unfortunate gem
As already mentioned a little over a year ago by my colleague Elena Eugeni in her review, Monster Hunter Rise is a more than valid base title, in some respects also one of the funniest thanks to new gameplay ideas such as the insectophile and revisiting of the mounts, able to create a flow that goes from fights between kaiju up to close clashes between hunters and monsters to the last insectophilous move and that, speaking with friends, he defined how "a sequel to the MH Generations formula". However, Monster Hunter Rise unfortunately came under one bad star, the cursed one global pandemic which will surely have slowed the development of the game over and over again between 2020 and 2021.
Result? Many of the many "novelties" proposed by the title have revealed themselves hasty such as Apex monsters, a sad rebrand of the Deviant that appeared in the aforementioned Generations, or inconclusive like the Fury Quests, which as fun as they were in the first 15 hours of play, after a while they became almost useless as all the Apex species that can be faced in this mode then arrived as standalone missions. And not to mention the fact that, at the end of the fury, they were missions all too easy and not very punitive and therefore with zero challenge and zero replayability. A real playful blasphemy when it comes to Monster Hunter. To date there is only one video that shows the failure of these sections, irrefutable proof of their uselessness, even in multiplayer.
And to insert the so-called knife in the wound of a game that didn't deserve all this, it was CAPCOM with some interesting updates for the metagame, but which represented patches applied to a game released (through no fault of his) incomplete. Okay, maybe I'm the asshole who got interested in the series by playing World e Generations Ultimate in 2020, a period in which both games offered a lot of content compared to their initial launch period, but at the same time I can't blame those hardcore players who even a few months after the game's release have seen the software house, which he should at least know how to keep alive the engagement of its audience, talk about something else.
Sure, Monster Hunter Stories 2 will definitely be a JRPG with square balls - I would love to enter that world and raise my damn Mini-Rajang - but I'm also aware that Monster Hunter still doesn't have the ultra-dimensional resonance of brands like Pokémon, to the point of keeping alive the interest in two titles released with such a narrow margin of distance. And with all the good in the world, aware of the fact that in 90% of cases the rewards for the various event missions released during 2021 consisted of goddamn stickers, you will understand my choice to raise my hands and leave the village of Kamura for a while.
In love, but with a broken heart. Tl; dr: Fuck you COVID!
Let's make a classic fast forward, until the September 2021, Nintendo Direct. In the first damn 60 seconds comes this trailer.
My heart and my wallet had already taken the road to the bribe. From a certain point of view, I was relieved that my interest in the series was not dead; but on the other I was incredibly afraid that Sunbreak would not have destroyed my wall of mistrust, created by the enormous expectations that I and so many others were having. Because yes, the Master Rank (or G Rank, whichever you prefer), but with it the monkey for the potential roster of monsters to come. “The Malzeno and the Gothic style are beautiful, but where is the Gore Magalli ?! Who will be rescued from oblivion? Tetsucabra infamous for you only Sakura Bladate! " and so on. Luckily I wished that from the following trailers we had the answers to all these questions and more. Not just the Gore and Shagaru Magala, not only the return of the Astaloif that once again confirms that the Gammoth is the most asshole of "Fated 4", but also the console debut of the Espina one of the most iconic monsters of the online genre Frontier, game now closed for 3 years but that would have a lot of content that the series would need like hotcakes-I'M DILANGING!
Basically, the wait for the June 30 2022 it was sucking my soul and my interest was at an all-time high because finally Team Portable had lowered his breeches, pulling out his great big sword. Or so it seemed.
Keep in mind though that this was my impression after seeing the released trailers and without the slightest gaming experience. A distant memory compared to today. And therefore, with a Master Rank that has finally exceeded 100 and a great desire to talk about it, we respond more extensively to the opening question. Should you buy Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak?
Do you ever dance with Malzeno in the pale full moon?
Unlike Kamura's living room, hunters in Sunbreak will take a one-way ferry to the Elgado Outpost, the research center set up by the Kingdom (of which at the moment little or nothing is known in relation to the universe of the series) and dedicated to the analysis of a particular phenomenon that is making the monsters of the neighboring areas increasingly aggressive and dangerous. At the center of it all seems to be the Malzeno, an elder dragon who had wreaked havoc across the region several years ago, kind of like the Magnamalo and the Fury that before the events of Monster Hunter Rise had threatened the peace of Kamura Village.
And as saviors of the Village, our task in this new adventure is to to investigate the origin of this phenomenon, advancing on mission and mission and becoming quite skilled hunters to face this new threat head on. And although the plot and the narration of the latter did not stray too far from the "Flat standard" that the series has accustomed us to take not too seriously, Sunbreak manages at least to entertain just enough not to encourage the player to skip every single dialogue, a sensation had in the past both with World and with Rise vanilla. In the case of the latter, the lack of context behind some key events, such as the telepathic connection of the Wyverians Hinoa and Minoto with "The dragons of sexo" Ibushi and Narwa, made the stay in Kamura like a huge tutorial of several hours that separated the player from the multiplayer fat.
And like in the best films of the Tokusatsu culture, get ready for phone twists and wacky jokes of supporting characters; all topped off with pre-rendered scenes with an excellent scenic impact especially during the final phase of the game, and which serve as a prelude to what I could define the best final fight (outside of Fatalis) of the Fifth Generation of Monster Hunter.
Towards new (and old) frontiers of hunting
As mentioned at the beginning, the gameplay of Monster Hunter Rise is a direct evolution of what is shown in Generations Ultimate, with the necessary re-balances and problems of the case. If on one hand the insectophile gave a new youth and play options to weapons such as the previously mistreated Hunting Horn and increased hegemony in the Greatsword and Longsword metagame, in the case of weapons such as the classic Hammer or the Loaded Blade, players found it hard to adapt to the frenetic clashes of the vanilla version of the game.
The solution adopted in Sunbreak was therefore that of nerfing those special moves that were considered broken compensating for this loss of power with new offensive tools and capable of increasing the consistency of damage per second, and to breathe new life into previously penalized weapons. For example, the hammer's Impact Burst ability offers a power buff for the next 60 seconds, increasing not only the efficiency but also the speed of a style of play that in the past needed too many openings and miraculous stuns to cause damage after all in the average. Same goes for the Sword-Ax, which passes from having skills mobility-centered to have in Elemental Burst Counter a great finisher capable of overcoming (almost) any attack or explosion that gets between her and the flesh of monsters.
And if already so, the more experienced players would have a lot of bread for their teeth, with an improved combat system from all points of view, CAPCOM has nevertheless decided to go beyond. In Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak, each player can customize two sets of Switch Skills (and which include not only the insectophile skills, but also variations to the moveset of each weapon) and that, through a simple combination of keys, can be swapped on the fly during gameplay. Add to this also new armor skills focused on continuous exchange of moveset, and which reward the player with additional stat buffs.
And if we add to this the constant creativity of the community in the combine skills from different sets, therefore looking for the perfect synergy for each situation, it was very easy for me to agree with those who define the Sunbreak experience as "Monster Hunter Rise on crack", to the point of being occasionally alienating for novice players. And not only that: I would not be surprised if, assuming a further evolution in the design of monsters, moveset and maps in a next chapter, the Portable Team does not already have in mind a return to the complexity of a Monster Hunter Frontier. But we'll talk about that later.
The Tetranadons also started small
But what good is a deep and fun combat system if you don't have worthy opponents to face? As with any expansion, the transition from High Rank to Master Rank not only affects hunters and their gear, but mostly monsters. The latter leave the operating room of the CAPCOM polyclinic with two possible treatments: new moves to your moveset, or with a new subspecies or variant look, so as not to disfigure and represent a new challenge equal or at least comparable to the new monsters introduced.
Sure, it's still Monster Hunter. A fairly competent team of 4 hunters will always be able to trap any monster in a series of stun, fatigue and altered status and then complete the quest at the same time as I make myself a coffee; but in most cases a team of 4 strangers with no possibility of communicating outside of the stickers and pre-set messages will be faced with a demanding and sufficiently balanced challenge ... at least until the endgame.
Tracing a little the dynamics of Hyper monsters of Generations Ultimate, the monsters you can face during Anomalous Quest and present in the post-game content are super aggressive versions of the creatures already faced, with a very high amount of life points and mutated body parts and able to not only destroy the less cautious prey, but also inflict status "Affltto" and significantly reduce the amount of HP recoverable through healing items. If struck, these mutated parts are also tempting opportunities obtain rare materials, deal heavy damage and stun the target, with a kind of dps check high risk and high reward. In case the hunters fail to inflict enough damage on the areas of interest, the latter they will explode in an unstoppable crimson cloud, infecting hunters with the aforementioned "Afflicted" status and incapacitating them for a few seconds.
To be honest, adding these new versions of the monsters to day one with a simple "Big damage" smashed on their head I perceived it as the will of CAPCOM in trying in every way to put a patch on the imbalance of some abilities obtainable once the content of Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak is finished, to the point of making these clashes boring and frustrating in case a player decides to face them outside of the multiplayer experience.
It's the same mistake we saw earlier with Apex Monsters: incredible and advanced challenges, but which offer very little in the way of rewards and satisfactions. Both in terms of materials (some rare parts and vouchers for creating armor styles that are distributed with the dropper), and experience points. Added to this is a progression system which, once the cap is unlocked, will inevitably lead to repeat the same quests over and over for several hours before you can get your hands on the rest of the content (Valstrax, Rajang Furioso and Magnamalo Astioso).
For charity, repetition of quests is the soul of Monster Hunter, with the player being invited to go through this farming process in order to compete with the toughest challenges. But in the case of Sunbreak I got the feeling that CAPCOM tried to enforce this type of interaction, in order to mitigate the "short life" (which for a game that on average offers a duration of 300 hours and passes seems like a blasphemy) much complained by many members of the community during the first days of Rise. Something new was needed, or rather, something already tested and functional for the creation of an interesting endgame loop.
Who you gonna call? Quriobusters!
Although the upgrade to the Version 11 of the game has led to the addition of both welcome and discounted Rath Metallics, the Volcanic Bazelgeuse of Iceborne and the return of Shining Nargacuga, whose additions within the meta confirmed the Frontierosity of Sunbreak, the real “meat” of this free DLC lies in the Anomalous Investigations and in Qurios Crafting.
The first is a reinterpretation of the random quests that can be faced in Monster Hunter World, and which by modifying some parameters can facilitate or penalize the game experience, in exchange for rare and unobtainable materials. Each completed investigation will increase the Anomalous Investigation Level, unlocking even more complex quests (in which the Apex Monsters buffed by the passage to Master Rank also appear) and opening access to further degrees of customization of one's arsenal, which can be carried out through Qurious Crafting.
This upgrade is possible both for weapons and armor once you reach the cap of their statistics. But if on the one hand weapons can be customized as you prefer, increasing (albeit slightly) any of their stats (Attack, Element, Affinity, Jewels etc.) within a certain slot limit as in Iceborne, upgrading armor using Qurio materials represents the fair of the RNG. I confess I'm not a lover of min-maxing at any cost, and in most cases I tend to sidetrack from the most popular builds to create sets suited to my ignorant and caciarone style of play; however I believe that - from the point of view of game designer - rather than wasting hundreds and hundreds of Essences for the opportunity to unlock that single skill that radically changes your set-up, selecting for each armor a specific list of additional skills obtainable through this mechanic would have given players much more possibilities than this random approach and very close to gambling, without ruining the aforementioned heart of the series: repetition, farming, experimentation with new ideas.
A chipped diamond
Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak adds a lot, but at the same time completely cancels what is presented in the vanilla version of the game. I said at the beginning, the Fury mode was thought out badly and managed worse, offering in principle a passable experience for a few hours and negligible once the final stages of the High Rank have been reached. At the same time, however, Sunbreak could have saved the savable and review the mechanics, add alternate victory and defeat conditions, add new Apex Monsters or revive the idea behind Prowler Mode and allow the player to control the invading monsters.
Instead nothing, Damnatio Memoriae which goes to set aside everything that revolves around this modality. Perhaps for the best, the development team has clearly decided to focus on much more interesting content, but in practice Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak will forever be marked by a splinter, almost invisible to the naked eye, and which ruins the perfect shape of a beautiful diamond.
The dawn of a new day
And now? What to expect in the near future? Leaving aside the second free DLC already announced for the end of September, and which will be added the Ardent Espinas and a rumble Subspecies of the Mizutsune, I still hope for a total creative derailment. Leaks aside, the gameplay and possibilities of Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak are the perfect business card to introduce some of the gimmick and more weird ideas leaked from the minds of CAPCOM. It is now an obsession: I want Frontier monsters! I want Inagami you walk in the Kamura forest like a proud god, while unsuspecting hunters are pierced by bamboo as sharp as spears; test my skills and reflexes against the couple Ray and Lolo Gougarf or Duremudira in the midst of the ruins of the Citadel; or, just to put the usual icing on the cake, conclude my stay in Elgado with a clash between the mortal and the divine. The ordinary and the legend. Hunters against Disufiroa… or a White Fatalis.
In short, CAPCOM, I hope the message is clear: SMALL!
Only three things: less sticker, more free armor and no Plesioth.