By Kimari Rennis
It’s no surprise to anyone that Monster Hunter is a beloved franchise. What was once a tough and difficult niche game, has grown into a fluid, interactive and immersive experience for new and old players alike. Monster Hunter is recognizable and loved.
What also isn’t a surprise is the fact that it is my favorite game series and I take it very seriously. So when I heard that Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak had been released, the only logical thing I could do was start a new game and relive the MHR experience all over again. Only until I could recall every aspect of Monster Hunter Rise, could I truly savor and appreciate Sunbreak.
Sunbreak is the first DLC expansion for Monster Hunter Rise on PC and Nintendo Switch. Similar to the Iceborne DLC for Monster Hunter World, Sunbreak introduces a plethora of exciting monsters and variants to fight and refresh gameplay. Challenging monsters to slay means new armor, weapons, and items to craft and enhance so hunters can tackle any adversities. All of these take place in breathtaking locations and are only accessible after you beat the main story of Monster Hunter Rise.
Since I had made a new save file so I could make the most out of my Monster Hunter experience, I made it so I needed the right to play Sunbreak. I speedran the game. Now it wasn’t a time I would put on Speedrun.com (at least not yet) but I defeated Thunder Serpent Narwa and completed the main story Monster Hunter Rise in 20 hours. That’s 4th place on the speedrunning leaderboard, and a stark difference from the 88 hours I spent in my last save file where I got stuck in High Rank.
In those 20 hours, I meant business. Hammer in hand and palamutes by my side, I swept through every monster to dare stand in my way. Through this experience, I also silently set my expectations for Sunbreak; I wanted a more difficult game.
The base game of Monster Hunter Rise is elementary. Defeating every monster in under 10 minutes without dying throughout the entire playthrough was less about my skill and more about the fact that the game is designed to be fast. Yes, I could put limitations on myself in-game to make the experience harder, but at the same time, I was playing the game normally and saw no need to use everything at my disposal. I wanted to be tested. I wanted to be challenged. I wanted Monster Hunter Rise to make me work harder to succeed and push me to my limits. So when the credits rolled at the 20-hour mark, and Trader Rodine said that alongside tragedy in her homeland monsters were invading Kamura, I knew it was time.
The first monster I had the honor of fighting in Monster Hunter Sunbreak was Daimyo Hermitaur, a massive, water spraying hermit crab armored by a horned monster skull. I instantly felt a blast from the past fighting Daimyo Hermitaur from my time playing Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate. Its move set was reimagined, its model was crisp and beautiful, and it hit really hard. In fact, Daimyo Hermitaur was responsible for my first death in the game as it slipped in and out of the ground, dragging me with it.
I eventually emerged victorious, and just as I suspected, that thorough beatdown was my lovely introduction to Master Rank – signifying I would be fighting a new league of monsters that are much more powerful than the Low and High-Rank counterparts that I found easy. It was the exact challenge I needed from this game, and I got much more than I bargained for down the road.
Monster Hunter Sunbreak brings complexity to the game. So many new mechanics in-game force me to think critically if I want to succeed in my hunts. In fact, in the first 20 minutes of my time in the Sunbreak expansion, I was shown a barrage of slide decks in-game telling me the ins and out of every detail I came across.
Capcom clearly understood the criticism surrounding the Wirebug mechanic; while cool, the overly enhanced mobility of hunters made Rise by far the easiest Monster Hunter game in the franchise. What Sunbreak does to remedy this situation is making harder, faster, and more calculated yet erratic monsters that can keep up with the players flying around them. This change greatly appeals to veteran players like myself. But to make the game still accessible and fun to play for new hunters, two new Wirebug variants were added; the Gold and Ruby Wirebugs. Gold Wirebugs increase the number of materials dropped when riding wyverns, and the Ruby Wirebug increases the damage done in mounted punisher attacks. It’s the perfect balance to give experienced players a proper challenge, and first time players extra rewards for their hunting efforts.
In addition to this change, there is the brand-new Skill Swap mechanic that allows hunters to change their specialized attacks and moves right in the middle of battle. Depending on how you set up your loadout, you could go from fighting defensively seamlessly into a hyper-aggressive style. You could fight stationary to land some devastating attacks and just as easily shift into a high-mobility and evasive hunter with the click of a button. This absolutely blew me away because with the inclusion of new attacks Sunbreak brings to the table, Skill Swapping on the go adds both flexibility and complexity to the game. Skill Swap is a mechanic meant to be learned by all players, and mastered by the people who take the game very seriously, like me.
As for the story of Monster Hunter Sunbreak, following the sudden invasion of monsters and their unprovoked frenzy on the land, hunters assist the Royal Order stationed at the Elgado Outpost to monitor their likely suspect: Malzeno the Vampiric Elder Dragon. Although Malzeno has yet to show their maw in the moonlight, they are one of three lords responsible for the monsters’ outrage. The first lord was Lunagaron, a highly aggressive and erratic Lycan-esque monster with frosty attacks; I immediately identified it as an ice werewolf. The other lord is the second primate monster in the game, Garangolm. As the name suggests, this lord is the combination of a territorial gorilla and the physically steadfast nature of a golem as it towers high above all hunters and pummels them into the ground with its mossy stone fists.
With all of the vast changes and content unveiled in this expansion, Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak feels like a new hobby that I can’t get enough of. The expansion is designed to be long-lived and with the additional content Capcom keeps rolling out alongside the new DLC, I think that Monster Hunter Rise Sunbreak is set up to entertain fans for many years to come.
Kimari Rennis is a senior intern at the New York Videogame Critics Circle, and is a game design student at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.