Old Weapons, New Tricks
Monster Hunter Rise, like the games that came before it, is an action-RPG that tasks you with slaying giant, snarling beasts. However, its most noticeable and substantial change from previous versions involves Wirebugs. These handy insects expel a supernaturally strong silk when tossed, letting you swing from the thread like Spider-Man, propel yourself forward across great distances, or pull yourself to greater heights. Rise has a fantastic amount of verticality compared to previous Monster Hunter games, and the Wirebugs let you climb, wall run, and parkour over mountainous landmarks.
In combat, you can liken the Wirebugs to the grappling hook or Clutch Claw introduced in Monster Hunter World and its Iceborne expansion, respectively, but with greatly expanded functionality. The series always contained many weapon types and play styles, but all too often your movement speed was tied to your weapon. Not anymore.
With Wirebugs, you can dash, jump, and vault to your hearts content, as they give every class a degree of mobility that is easily on par with the Insect Glaive, the jump-heavy weapon type introduced in Monster Hunter 4. This opens impressive offensive options. Now, you can perform leaping attacks with chunky weapons, such as the Hammer or Greatsword, without jumping down from a ledge or slope. Better still, you don't need to sheathe your weapon to utilize Wirebug abilities as you did the Clutch Claw, which is a significant improvement that makes the mechanics radically more accessible.
In addition to mobility, every Rise weapon incorporates Wirebugs into their its repertoire. These new skills, called Silkbind Attacks, are unique abilities for each weapon type that accentuates what that weapon can do. For example, one of the Charge Blade’s Silkbind skills reinforces the shield’s defense by tethering it to the ground, giving you an easy, on-the-fly guard point to deflect attacks. If this Silk-bound shield successfully blocks an attack, the weapon’s phials are instantly recharged, giving you immediate access to one of your most powerful attacks.
Wirebugs also improve Monster Hunter’s mounting system by expanding what you can do when you hitch a ride on a hapless beast. In previous games, successive jumping attacks weakened a monster, eventually leaving them prone to a mounted attack. After a button prompt, you could leap onto the stunned monster’s back and mash basic attacks to deplete its stamina and force it into a lengthy knocked down state.
In Rise, a new system called Wyvern Riding replaces the mounting mechanic. Silkbind Attacks weaken the monster in the same way that your jump attacks did in previous games, but once you’re prompted to mount, the system veers into new territory. Your Wirebugs bind the beast’s limbs to your hunter, giving you the opportunity to puppeteer your monster’s movements for roughly a minute.
You can, of course, crash the beast into walls to daze it like Iceborne's Clutch Claw stun, but you can also use the system to force your monster to fight anything else on the field, including other monsters, albeit with a limited set of moves. You have a basic attack, a heavy attack, an evasive ability, and a rushing charge, and many of these can be modified with directional inputs, too. Rise incorporates Monster Hunter World's turf war system, so rival monsters attack one another when they encroach on each other’s territory.
The only fault I find with the system is that I dislike holding the R button to move the monster around—a minor nitpick. To budge your beast, the R button must be held before you can move the monster with the left stick. It's a clunky control scheme, and while I did get used to it fairly quickly, I would much rather not hold R at all.
Skills to the Test
Armor skills are buffs granted to your hunter when you use certain armor sets and accessories. Monster Hunter Rise introduces some brand-new armor skills to experiment with, and radically enhances some classic skills, as well. For example, Evade Extender tremendously boosts your dodge distance compared to previous games, letting you roll or dash the length of most medium-sized monsters with a single move. Rapid Morph, for example, radically increases the speed of the Charge Blade and Switch Axe's transformational attacks. This is a game changer for hunters using these armaments, as the increased speed encourages you to incorporate morphing attacks much more liberally into your kit. Mixing armor sets to enhance the skills you want is a staple of Monster Hunter, and Rise is uniquely generous in this respect by giving you new armor skills to sample, alongside the new Switch Skills.
The Switch Skill system is an utterly fantastic addition to the Monster Hunter meta that lets hunters customize specific attacks or abilities in their weapon’s kit to suit their playstyle. Some of these Switch Skills radically alter the functionality of the weapon associated with it. Flurry rush, for example, is a signature spin-attack unique to the Dual Blades. In Rise, Flurry Rush can be replaced with a new overhead attack called Demon Flight. When Demon Flight connects, your hunter is launched into the air, letting you follow up with aerial attacks. You no longer need to leap from cliffs to perform jumping attacks.
Every weapon has a total of three abilities that can be swapped, two for the weapon’s basic move set, and the third being the Wirebug's Silkbind attack What’s more, you can swap your skills around from your item box or from your camp tent, giving you access to these skills virtually whenever you wish, provided you’ve progressed far enough through the game to unlock them.