Monster Hunter Rise Sunbreak is better than Rise in just about every way. But you’d expect that from an expansion, right? Thing is, Sunbreak doesn’t just give you more of Rise – not that more Rise would be a bad thing. Sunbreak builds on just about everything that made Rise great, whilst weaving in some essential new ideas that proves Monster Hunter has the scope, scale, and vision to keep on growing.
First up, let’s talk about the headline new feature: Followers. Followers and Follower Quests provide single-player only missions that see you heading into battle accompanied by NPCs from the world of Rise. Whether it’s the new hoity-toity bunch of royal apologists from the Elgado Outpost in Sunbreak, or your cosy little family from back in the base game’s Kamura Village, the aides that come to help you out on hunts add a whole new dimension to the game.
They’re introduced in a simple enough way; you churn through the Master Rank quests in Sunbreak as you would any other Monster Hunter setup, getting to fight bigger and more dangerous prey as you level up. Then, with one urgent quest, the definitely-not-a-dominatrix royal vanguard, Fiorayne, decides to accompany you – there’s a very dangerous monster out there, and some feckless newcomer surely can’t deal with it alone.
Here, you start to see what Sunbreak is doing. Rather than being glued to their one spot in the Hub, the NPCs now start to become dynamic – they take on more personality, they chat shit at other NPCs (if you pair them up on hunts). They almost all worship the ground you walk on – after all, you’ve saved the world twice by the end of Sunbreak. Of course they think you’re some kind of acrobatic Second Coming.
MonHun veterans know that there’s a lot of replaying missions in these games – you’re not going to get that Gore Magala Plate from just one hunt, right? Giving you the option to mix and match Followers, listen to them flex their egos, belittle each other, encourage you… it gives you something else to enjoy when going back and farming Astalos encounters. The same rich hunt-loot-craft-repeat gameplay loop remains – that’s always going to be the allure of Monster Hunter – but now, there’s a narrative edge to replaying hunts. Some 40+ hours into the expansion, I’ve yet to clear all the Follower Quests and see all the pairings you can have. I’ll save that for grinding out the end game gear.
Speaking of the end game, Sunbreak just.. doesn’t end! It’s like the director’s cut of Return of the King: it just keeps going. Ending after ending. There’s the fight with the cover monster, then something else, then something else that appears to keep on going ad infinitum. Master Rank monsters be damned, they’ve got nothing on what else Sunbreak is guarding from you. And here I am, main story finished, side quests getting tied up, and I’m gritting my teeth and diving back in to deal with whatever the hell comes next.
Luckily for me, I’ve got some stupid armour that does stupid things and makes me dive even deeper into the combat systems to get the upper-hand on the stupid monsters that wait for me. There’s a lot of focus on skills and passive abilities that force you to use the Switch Skill Swap – new to Sunbreak – and confer fascinating buffs and benefits for doing so. There’s armour that basically lets you play like a berserker (ideal for someone like me that mains Sword/Shield) that allows you to rethink encounters from Rise, to boot. Honestly, the way Capcom keeps finding opportunities to pluck holes in its tried-and-tested formula and expand the opportunities for experimental players is nothing short of genius.
I won’t spoil the encounters here, but the new monsters are fun, ferocious, and between them tick all the boxes you’d expect. It’s like the developers wanted to make a graph of all the different monster types in the game, then plonk a new one at the extreme end of every point; there’s a quick, punishing one, there’s a lumbering, powerful one, there’s an Elder Dragon, and there are… more. But I won’t ruin the surprise. These newcomers, on top of a rogue’s gallery of returning beasts that made my 3DS-loving heart jump for joy make Sunbreak and Rise maybe my favourite selection of monsters in any MonHun title. Yes, even more so than World/Iceborne.
The criticisms are few and far between; thanks to the setup of the new maps, some encounters will skew your camera awkwardly, and there are now so many combos and UI elements that the screen threatens to be overwhelmed with information. But that’s always been the case with Monster Hunter and – honestly – navigating the UI and learning the intricacies of the controls kind-of feels like part of the fun. If it’s good enough for FromSoft, it’s good enough for Capcom.
The localisation remains superb, too – from perfectly encapsulating the strained relationship between the highly-strung Kingdom lot to giving new Arena Master Arlow the most London twang, for some reason, Capcom’s translation team continues to nail it. Monster Hunter’s actual gameplay may be super serious, but its goofy humour remains in spades, and has never felt more part of the world than it does in Sunbreak. Perhaps that’s because the development team is feeling more confident than ever, or perhaps it’s because we get to spend more gameplay time getting to know the characters. Either way, with Sunbreak, Monster Hunter is in the best shape ever.
Yes, it’s a pricey expansion. $39.99 or £32.99 is a hard number to swallow for an expansion. But there’s definitely a whole honest-to-God suite of content here – the fact it’s glued to the base game also means you get some new tricks and perks in Kamura, too (new Endemic Life in the maps, updates to Wyvern Riding, and that delicious new Switch Skill Swap ability).
If you grit your teeth and pay out for the DLC, you won’t be disappointed: Sunbreak is an essential expansion for any Monster Hunter fan, and – paired with Rise – may well be the best entry point for anyone eager to learn more about this fascinating series, too.
Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak releases on June 30 for Steam and Switch.