Although Monster Hunter has been around for nearly two decades now, it wasn’t until 2018’s Monster Hunter World that the series truly exploded in popularity. Thanks in no small part to its myriad quality-of-life refinements, World opened the traditionally dense franchise up to a new audience and became Capcom’s best-selling video game to date, and the series’ next installment, Monster Hunter Rise for Switch, builds upon World’s strides with a greater emphasis on exploration and mobility.
We had a chance to play an early access version of Monster Hunter Rise’s forthcoming demo, which offered a small taste of the game’s different weapons and features. The demo consisted of two training missions, designed to acclimate players to the game’s basic controls and new mechanics, as well as two proper hunts: a “beginner” quest to slay the new Great Izuchi, and an “intermediate” quest revolving around the returning Mizutsune.
The backdrop for both hunts was the Shrine Ruins, an expansive bamboo forest dotted with cliffs, stone shrines, and waterways. The locale lent itself particularly well to showing off the Wirebug, Rise’s most notable new gameplay wrinkle. Like Monster Hunter World’s Slinger, this creature functions as a sort of grappling hook, allowing you to swing through the air and wrangle monsters. Despite these cursory similarities, however, the Wirebug is functionally quite different from the Slinger. For one, rather than latching directly onto a monster, you’ll be using the Wirebug primarily to slingshot yourself toward or away from it, making the tool more about mobility.
Monster Hunter Rise Early Access Demo Gameplay
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You begin each quest with two Wirebugs on hand (and can temporarily pick up a third one while out in the field). To use them, you need to hold down the ZL button and press either X to swing up into the air, A to propel yourself forward, or ZR to swing in the direction your character is currently facing. The Wirebugs can be used consecutively, but each one will have a brief cooldown period afterward, so you’ll need to deploy them with care while in the heat of battle. There’s a bit of a learning curve to using the Wirebugs given the different button combinations you need to remember, but once you get the hang of things, these actions make maneuvering around the world much more enjoyable than previous Monster Hunter games.
The Wirebugs have a few additional uses as well. If you deploy one while your weapon is drawn, you’ll unleash a special “Silkbind” move. Each of the game’s 14 different weapon types has a unique attack when used in conjunction with the Wirebugs, which helps them retain their distinctness and gives you an incentive to experiment with different weapons. Moreover, if you attack a monster enough times with Silkbind moves, you’ll eventually ensnare it, opening the opportunity to mount it and initiate the new Wyvern Riding mechanic. While atop the beast, you can command it to attack another monster or launch it into a wall or some other nearby object, stunning it.
Taken all together, these actions dramatically alter how you approach hunts. This is especially true for something like the Great Sword, my own preferred weapon. Maneuvering around with the Great Sword has never been particularly graceful, especially when the weapon is drawn. Thanks to the Wirebug, however, I was able to close the distance between a monster much more quickly and even use the Wirebug to dash away, retreating just before it could retaliate. This greater degree of mobility feels very satisfying and adds another layer of nuance to monster encounters.
Maneuverability in general seems to have been a big focus for the development team, as the game introduces other ways to get around more quickly. This is obvious in Rise’s other headlining innovation, the Palamute, a new canine companion that can accompany you on hunts. While the Palamute offers some offensive assistance when battling monsters, it’s particularly invaluable when it comes to traversal. At any point during a quest, you’re able to hop on your Palamute and dash around without depleting any stamina. Not only is this a significantly faster way to travel than roaming about on foot, you can also run vertically up climbable walls while riding the Palamute, letting you reach elevated areas in a fraction of the time it would normally take.
Even more importantly, you can pick up materials and use items while riding the Palamute. This comes especially in handy during a hunt, as you can hop on your Palamute and run around while sharpening a dulled weapon with a whetstone, something you could previously only do while stationary (thus leaving yourself open to attack). After a couple of hours of questing with the Palamute, it’s difficult to imagine playing a Monster Hunter game without it.
Rise also incorporates many of the other quality-of-life improvements introduced by Monster Hunter World. Potions, steaks, and some other items can be consumed while on the move, even on foot, so you’re no longer forced to come to a standstill when using an item, as you were in older Monster Hunter games like Generations Ultimate. You can also fast-travel back to camp from the map screen and pick up endemic critters. These function like items and offer a helpful bit of aid during your hunts, encouraging you to explore and collect resources.
Although we’ve only sampled a small portion of Monster Hunter Rise, its new mechanics enhance the series’ gameplay in appreciable and exciting ways. Rise launches for Nintendo Switch on March 26. The game’s free demo goes live publicly later tonight, January 7, and supports solo and online play. As is the case with the full game, however, you will need to have a Nintendo Switch Online subscription to play the demo online. The game is also releasing alongside three new Amiibo figures that unlock special layered armor sets. You can read more about Monster Hunter Rise in our preorder guide.