Hands-on: The Monster Hunter Rise demo reveals some interesting strengths about this new formula

I was cautious about going into my demo experience with Monster Hunter Rise. Capcom had repeatedly said that Monster Hunter World was simply too big and complex for a Switch port. While it was nice to feel like something was designed specifically for Switch audiences, it was hard not to feel like we were going to end up with Monster Hunter Lite, a toned-down version of World that was a square peg shoved into the Switch’s round hole.

Luckily, that’s not the case…. exactly. I’ll say this right off the bat, Rise is not World, doesn’t feel like World, and frankly, feels a lot smaller than World. It’s a lot closer to a more traditional Monster Hunter experience, with smaller more claustrophobic maps and tighter instanced hunts. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but if you were worried that this would be difficult to get into after having experienced World, there is a bit of that effect, yeah.

However, once you stop worrying and learn to love this little underpowered console, there are a lot of things about Rise that set it apart from other Monster Hunter titles. Since this was built from the ground up for the Switch, Capcom went out of their way to make the actual hunting experience feel unique and distinct from other Monster Hunters and they succeeded.

For example, since everything is a bit smaller on Switch, they also implemented a lot of quality of life changes to make everything a lot faster and easier too. Monsters are easier to track with arrows constantly pointing you in their direction. NPCs will tell you when you should retreat or sharpen your weapons. Weak points are easy to find simply by paying attention to the amount of damage you are doing. You might be worried that this makes it something of a “babies first Monster Hunter” but that’s not true. It’s just that Capcom made the game extremely accessible, easy to hop into even if you never played Monster Hunter before.

Adding to this general feeling of speed is the Palamute and the new Wirebug abilities. The Palamute is your faithful dog companion and not only can you pet the puppo, but you can also ride him too, allowing you to zip around more open areas of the map with ease.

The Wirebug is this game’s version of the grappling hook, which it seems like every combat-oriented game is getting these days. Using it is fairly simple, just point at where you want to go, press and button, and off you go. It’s not nearly as quick or seamless as say, Spider-Man’s web swings in his PS4 titles, or the high-speed zips in Attack on Titan games, but it still adds a degree of freedom that is unique for a Monster Hunter title.

This is where the game really shines in being “built from the ground up” for Switch because it’s quite literally built from the ground up. The demo’s maps are much more vertical than Monster Hunter maps of the past, making them a blast to traverse with the Wirebug. You don’t even have to be particularly accurate with the Wirebug to get around them. Aim vaguely at a wall and you’ll zip toward it, perform a little last-minute parkour, and pull yourself up to a ledge.

It’s really simple to use too, just a simple button press and a cooldown timer, which prevents you from spamming in combat. Even so, using it in combat is a lot of fun. It gives you a real sense of power to zip around gigantic monsters using the Wirebug, a feeling that really does seem reminiscent of Attack on Titan.

One of the demo’s missions is focused solely on mounting other monsters, called Wyvern Riding, and let me tell you, this is where it’s at. It’s a lot different from mounting monsters in other games. Climbing up on a monster’s back basically lets you puppeteer it. It gives you access to a whole bunch of new attacks, a new special meter, the works. It feels almost like a special event for each hunt. It’s not clear how often you’ll be able to mount other creatures, but if this is how you deal with adds in this game, massive encounters are going to be a lot of fun.

I haven’t tried every weapon yet, but I will say that in general, the weapons feel a bit faster than they were in past Monster Hunter titles. I wouldn’t call the game mashy, but you certainly aren’t punished as much for getting a little overzealous with your attacks. Recoveries are just a bit snappier, allowing you to really get into a groove once you find a weapon you like. Once again, I wouldn’t say that this makes the game necessarily easier, just more accessible. Monsters can and will punish you for attacking recklessly.

The biggest challenge in enjoying Monster Hunter Rise is absolutely going to be the graphics. While it is certainly impressive for a Switch title, that qualifier, “for a switch title,” is important. Some things just look primitive. Water, for example, looks flat, and terrain boundaries look kind of jagged and polygonal. Character models look fine, though more stylized than World’s were, but character animations feel a bit more like the sloppy canned animations from early MMOs than the refined animations from World. There’s also a serious lack of voice acting, with only a few major lines given any voices whatsoever, and battle cries being somewhat repetitive.

That being said, there’s a lot of promise here. It’s hard not to compare this to World, and if you do, it does come up short. But taken for its own merits, Rise seems to be a neat little spin on the Monster Hunter formula. Whether or not it does the series justice will largely depend on whether or not the innovations end here. If we have seen all this game has to offer, then you’ll probably get a kick out of it for a while and eventually put it down. However, if there are even more systems and maps and encounters built from the ground up for this new system, then we can see you really sinking a ton of hours into Rise’s unique gameplay.