MHR Sunbreak Review – Not an Expansion, but an Upgrade

Written by Allen

August 16, 2022

Monster Hunter Rise came along and was very much a well-received title. Perhaps partially because of the success of its predecessor, Monster Hunter World. MH World brought on a whole new audience by storm, won them over and perhaps set the expectations for the next title.

When Rise came along and returned to its portable form on the Nintendo Switch, Capcom decided on a very different approach to what hunting monsters would be like. Much less on the preparation, and a lot more on the predation. Of course, the usual thing happens when something popular gets some changes, you get a divided fanbase. Some would say that the innovations are great, fitting, and fun, while others assert that their thirst for the challenge wasn’t quite quenched.

The other half of the issue is the introduction of the newer mechanics, where it’s pretty common not to get them right the first try. So perhaps not everyone was as appreciative of wirebugs, silkbinds, and wyvern riding. However, maybe like a steak, it gets better if you let it rest and settle for a few minutes after it comes off the grill. Sunbreak is here and we’re to check out how juicy the combat and hunting have become. Will it answer the issues that its predecessor had raised? Will it have more monsters? Will there be better build variation?

From my experience, I’d say that they’ve answered all of these issues sufficiently. While it may not satisfy everyone who had issues with Rise, it has refined the mechanics from the previous title and in my opinion, accomplish the goals that the series had set out to do. Realizing the potential of the systems that Rise had laid down through not only maximizing the actions and builds that players can go for, but also designing challenges that can match their newfound strength.

So how good is Capcom’s double-down for Sunbreak? Does it fly like an Insect Glave and hit like a Great Sword? To be honest, after all the hunts I’ve gone through with this title. I can’t really think of Sunbreak as an expansion of Rise. I strongly believe that this is a straight-up upgrade. Want to hear more? Stay tuned.

Production (4 / 5)

It’s hard to tell how Sunbreak upgrades the graphic and audio experience compared to Monster Hunter Rise. It is an expansion, after all, and because of that, it can’t really veer too far from the base game.

What we can tell so far is there appear to be performance improvements In terms of frame rate and slightly more detailed textures. The fur on the Lagombi, Goss Harag, Rajang and is more discernable. You can tell what looks like soft or coarse if you get close enough. There are also noticeable changes in a model’s texture when they’re splashing in the water, or when it’s getting wet by the rain.

Weather effects are something I find very new to Sunbreak as well. In Rise, you would have either a day or night variation of every area. But in the new maps, you might experience a foggier jungle or one with rain. The Citadel will also show you times when the sky may look different or other types of particles would be floating around in the air, giving you a more ominous atmosphere to warn you of what’s up ahead.

It looks like they still have a bit more to push out of the RE Engine for what it can do on the Nintendo Switch. But as a byproduct of that, it feels like the title has become more of a beast on the Nintendo Switch’s hardware. Perhaps it could be that my unit’s age is beginning to show, but the unit does heat up after getting a few hunts through, resulting in shorter than expected battery life so long as Monster Hunter Rise is active. This isn’t really a big problem for me though, as I mostly play on docked mode so I can play on a bigger screen and with a Pro Controller.

On the audio side, the voice acting is still pretty hammy. And that’s something you’re going to like, hate, or get used to. I personally wish it didn’t lay it on so thick, but I eventually got used to it. Music on the other hand is another thing entirely.

In Rise, music themes for particular monsters honestly felt a little thin on the volume of the sound. Coming from MH World, the music I heard had a heavy emphasis on brass instruments, feeling like they went all out with their orchestra. They had to pull back on these loud and intense instruments to make room for the lighter, more subtle eastern themes that they were building the game around. So the punch isn’t quite there, and sometimes the fusion of the monster’s theme with the eastern feel of Rise meant having to tone down the original theme to make space for the new instruments. Oddly enough, this is how I feel about some of the monsters in Rise as well. Now it’s not like Rise didn’t have banger themes, I really liked the ones for Magnamalo, the Serpents, and the Apex themes. But I was sorely disappointed with how the Rajang and Bazelguese theme came out.

But now with the return to Elgado, the Monster Hunter’s music can have a bit more liberty with what it can do with the musical themes of the places and monsters. And that takes us to music that has more intense drums, louder horns, sharper strings, and scores that integrate much more naturally with themes from much older Monster Hunter games. I’m particularly a fan of how they did Proof of a Hero in Sunbreak, and man, I recommend you guys get to the point that Sunbreak breaks that out.

In general, I think my expectations were exceeded. They definitely surprised me here and there and I generally enjoyed seeing and hearing the new stuff this expansion had to show me.

Mechanics (5 / 5)

So we’re already gone through the intricacies of the new functions of this series from the last review of Monster Hunter Rise. Strictly speaking on mechanics, there’s really not much to speak about. You play virtually the same game in terms of how you press buttons and what you fight through the game. Most of the changes here are mostly quality of life improvements, like not needing wirebugs to climb walls or having arrows on your minimap to show where the big wirebugs take you.

The one thing that I can say is new strictly on the mechanics dimension is the Switch Skill Swap function. Allowing you to swap between two sets of switch skills on the fly. Potentially you can tackle this in two ways, have entirely different setups for every set of skills allowing you to deal with different situations. Or you can just ignore it entirely and put the exact set of skills for both modes.

If you choose the former, you’re interacting with the system by letting it expand your arsenal in a lateral manner. No longer will you be bound by having times where you can’t do much during an encounter because your current tool set isn’t suited for it. Press a combination of three buttons and you’re suddenly a different hunter entirely.

But if you’re fine with just one set of skills it doesn’t mean the swap function isn’t useful to you, as there are late-game armor skills that interact with it directly. It can be healing the red part of your life bar, recovering from certain status effects, or even dodging attacks that at the same time allow you to recover your wirebugs faster.

Content (5 / 5)

Actually, ‘interact’ is probably the key term for Monster Hunter Sunbreak. Most of the game’s design, from my experience, aims to make a stronger interactive experience for the player. In fact, a lot of the new content is so closely intertwined with the mechanics that I’m having a hard time sorting them between the two sections of this review. I suppose for convenience’s sake, I’ll put them all under content.

First of all, there are a lot of tweaks for the entire roster of weapons, but to walk through all of that is well, going through a set of patch notes, but here’s the short version. The viability of weapons and the builds around them feel a lot more diverse. It feels like you can make a lot more stuff work in your hunts, and after many hours of going through hunts in this game, I’ve seen a lot more variety in the choice of weapons of the players I get to match with.

To match with these changes are new switch skills for every weapon. I’d have to say there are at least three new switch skills for every weapon, at least that’s what I’ve found with the ones I’ve been using, dual blades, gunlance, and charge blade. I’m fairly sure I’d end up taking a few more months if I have to go cover all fourteen weapons, but I think trying three weapons is a decent sample size. Most of the new switch skills cover exactly what had been lacking with the previous iteration, which again allows you to explore new builds with every weapon.

The new maps, Citadel and Jungle, feel much bigger than the 4 maps that Rise had given us. The previous title had maps that felt more like separate arenas that were interlinked by paths. The design of the new maps feels more natural, where each area that a monster would stop at would have particular characteristics. This could be uneven footing, restrictive walls, or being surrounded by winding paths. Hunting monsters from one arena to the other felt more natural, as you can be striking and dodging your marks and spill into a path between two arenas and still feel like you can keep going, rather than feel like you should step back. The presence of fixed traps in certain areas also made them stand out from others. It helps that you can make use of them even without relying on Wyvern Rides or bombs thanks to the new Marionette Spider, which can let you throw monsters into walls quite easily. Getting to know the new areas in detail becomes much more rewarding thanks to this.

So finally, what are the monsters like?

Well. They’re uh. They’re- They managed to cart me, a lot. Partially maybe because I was still carrying the idea that I’m an overpowered superhero from MH Rise and the other might be because I still play mobile games while hunting. But hey, definitely not a skill issue, okay?

Each of the old monsters has been revamped for this encounter have been revamped in such a way that you can’t think of them as the same ones from before, they move faster, strike harder, and much tougher than before. Some of their moves are just the same move twice, and you’d think that’s just a cheap update, but I think otherwise.

Most of the time in Rise, it was rather easy to deal with monsters because you can counter their one big move or just use Wirebug Escape to get you to safety. I honestly thought it was pretty much a ‘get-out-of-jail-for-free’ card during hunts. But with new combo moves and attacks that hit twice or three times, you’ll have to pick exactly when and where you’ll want to do a counter. You’ll also want to keep a wirebug in reserve for the most part, since you never know when you’ll need to use it. Some attacks will straight up send you back to camp if you can’t get out of there in time

And that’s just the old monsters, the newly added ones demand more of you, and some will be able to deal with the insane mobility that you have. Others will make you play by their rules because of the statuses they inflict upon you. Each monster is powerful enough to keep you on your toes, and others will compel you to adjust your approach. Every monster is a new teacher, and they’re taking you to school.

Of course, each new monster also means new gear, decorations, and well, drip. Before anything else, damn the new armors look great, and this has been my driving force to hunt every monster down, because why else would I slice, dice and bomb every monster I hunt away from existence if not to do it in style? Layered armor is life, my friends.

Customization is at the core of why you would grind, and they took it even further here, where you can slot in what sort of Rampage skill you would like your weapon to have, or even hybridize how your buddies work in terms of their skills. The Palamute is even more attractive now since it can also carry a gun, a genius idea where I wonder where they got the inspiration for it.

And finally, the most genius addition, at least in my opinion, is the follower quests. These are single-player quests that you get to do along with NPC allies that are actually the colorful cast of characters from Kamura village as well as Elgado. It’s here to replace the Rampage defense which was an interesting concept but couldn’t really elevate itself to something as fun as a real hunt. Being able to hunt together with the characters Capcom created is a real treat. Because if Capcom is good at designing anything, it’d be fun characters. Where my personal favorite is Luchika, who obviously has issues and I wouldn’t dare fix it because she’s so fun that way. As you complete these follower quests, you can watch them develop as people and as hunters, where you will eventually gain access to their weapon, armor, and even have them as an ally you can bring along to Follower Survey quests. Where you can decide what sort of weapon they will bring along, allowing you to make a customized party. How they act also differs from one another, with a personality to match, and they even talk to each other during a hunt, giving them a chance to flesh their characters out even further.

While the rewards for these quests seem reduced, they’re quite fun to do considering that you have AI companions that capably perform during the hunt, and it can perhaps serve as your practice runs for the real, more intense hunts when playing online. Follower quests have massively strengthened the single-player experience, for people that don’t have a lot of friends to play with, or actually just want whackier, crazier friends without having to deal with the aftermath.

The one thing I’m not too happy about is the talisman grind, while it has become easier in terms of resource use and having the option to speed up the process, doesn’t feel like what you’re getting is substantially better than the ones you were grinding for in Rise. I suppose this is by design so as not to completely phase out your previous RNG grind, though I would have appreciated it more if the chances for good slots were a lot better.

I’ve gone on and on about the content about Sunbreak but there’s still more to discover, there’s still more to do, and well, I’ll leave the rest for you to find out.

Features (3.5 / 5)

I can’t actually imagine if there are any new features to speak of for Monster Hunter Sunbreak. Online functionality is about the same. There is maybe some Quality of Life improvements here and there like radial menu shortcuts being bound to your inventory loadouts, but that’s about all I can think of.

Other than that, we can see that there’s a potentially healthy stream of new content coming in for the next set of months. Guaranteeing that those who really love to farm in Monster Hunter will have something to look forward to for a while.

Conclusion

I said a while ago that interaction seems to be the overwhelming concept for the design of the many new additions of Monster Hunter Rise. The Switch Skill Swap and new support options for your buddies increase make for many possibilities due to the sheer degree of customization you can make with it.

They’ve also designed monster attacks and movements to be able to match the hunter’s mobility and strength. And even tweaked their numbers so that players can’t just shrug off getting hit a few times as that could lead them to get carted quickly. The challenge is continuously engaging thanks to how they’ve designed each encounter with the monster, the map, and the hunter’s abilities in mind. It always feels like there’s something you can do regardless of the situation, and encourages you to think a few steps ahead.

Finally, they’ve added so much content to the game that it feels like there’s always something to do. In general, they’re all in the direction of grinding for something, but having this much to unlock, experiment and optimize with really shows off the strength of the Monster Hunter Rise’s systems.

To be honest, when I mentioned that the fanbase for Monster Hunter was divided, I was among those who preferred the experience we had in World. The sheer amount of content, the challenge, and the vast arsenal of builds you can toy around with was something I sorely missed from World. Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak has acted as a pointed answer to all the issues I had with Rise.

The Wirebug and Wyvern Riding feature felt like something excessively powerful in Rise, but with the Master Rank hunts and the post-game grind, it felt like having them at your disposal is necessary to be able to complete your hunts within a reasonable amount of time. What Capcom has done here is that they’ve grilled us a steak, cut off the excess fat, and refined the experience by adding flourishes like new skills, statuses, and a post-game that continues to be challenging even with end-game builds.

They have shown us that they know exactly what makes a good hunt, and if you were looking for that in Rise, look no further than across the horizon, for Sunbreak is here.

Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak presents a refined sharpness, scoring a 4.5 / 5.

Available on PC and the Nintendo Switch.

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