Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t get into Monster Hunter Rise. Fans of the kaiju-killing series are legion, and this latest entry, out last week for Nintendo Switch, is arguably the buzziest game in the world right now. But it sure doesn’t make things easy for newcomers.
For all intents and purposes, I am new to Monster Hunter. I played about an hour of Monster Hunter World, which one colleague described as “nothing.” Given the apparent scale of these games, yeah, 60 minutes might as well be zero. (Howlongtobeat.com pegs a completionist run of World at 355 hours.) But I’d heard Rise streamlined Monster Hunter’s intricate systems, and that it’d be a blast as a multiplayer game.
So, about that: Setting up multiplayer in Monster Hunter Rise is not as simple as popping into a Halo lobby or queuing up in Destiny. First, my roommate and I each spent one metric eternity going through all the character creator segments. We both went online, a process that involved not navigating menus (as it would be in any other game) but talking to a palico. I didn’t see where my friend’s invite went, so I opened up the list of open lobbies and just so happened to stumble upon his. I was able to pop into his game in a snap, which was a pleasant surprise, particularly given Nintendo’s notoriously wonky connection issues. Starting a mission, though, was a different beast.
My friend started an early quest—“Shady Monster,” the one where you’re tasked with taking out an Aknosom, whatever that is—which we figured would bring me along for the ride automatically, seeing as I was in his party and social hub. Not so. I tried to join his session by heading to the quest board, and very sensibly clicked on the “respond to join request” menu, which pulled up a list of missions I could join. I selected “Shady Monster” and ended up in a match with three strangers. Uh, what the hell?
Turns out, my friend should’ve just waited, and I should’ve just hit the first option on the quest board, “join hub quest.” By the time we actually started, y’know, hunting monsters, an hour had passed. Frankly, I don’t know if the wait was worth it. It turns out Monster Hunter Rise is still quite confusing.
We successfully queued into “Shady Monster” together and immediately got lost. My dog attacked some peaceful herbivores who were doing nothing but minding their own business, munching on grass. This started a fight, which forced me to put them down, which made me feel guilty. Eventually, my friend and I found the monster we were supposed to kill. Notably, it did not have a health bar, so gauging progress was impossible. I died. Several times. We ended up failing the mission. Oops!
Next, Rise tasked us with taking down a Kulu-Ya-Ku, which appeared to be a flightless bird-lizard beast the size of an albertosaurus. Finding the thing was simple enough. (Pro tip: Head to the massive question mark icon on your map. Not sure why we didn’t do that the first time.) But once again, the lack of a health bar proved maddening. After taking an indeterminate beating, the Kulu-Ya-Ku would run away, thus forcing a brief chase sequence. Three chases later, it still wasn’t dead, a clear violation of the Video Game Rule Of Threes. Eventually, two other random players spawned into the mission and helped carry us to victory.
But it felt, to me, a hollow victory, completely unearned on account of the fact that I had no clue what the fuck I was doing. I’m so used to “Y” being the heavy attack button that I accidentally consumed all of my potions—that’s the action button for any equipped item—before I needed to use them. Holding down “L” and using “A” to cycle through items, rather than the directional pad, as one might expect, threw me constantly. I’m sure the veritable treasure trove of items I picked up along the way can all be used for crafting, or selling, or trading. I haven’t popped into those systems yet, overwhelmed as I already am by everything else.
Here’s the thing: I would very much like to get into Monster Hunter Rise. There’s so much to love here. The art, while fuzzy on Switch, is gorgeous, all vivid and inspired. Every corner of the game just oozes charm. The fact that you can ride your dumb dog absolutely rules. The music—my god, the music. Monster Hunter Rise is, on paper, my jam. And yet...as a newcomer, this one might take a moment to click.
Next I think I’ll give single-player, complete with all its tutorials, a fair shake. Truth is, I’d really, really like to fall in love with this long-running series that is beloved by so many people. For any series veterans reading this, perhaps you have some tips that could help a newcomer get up to speed? Or at the very least hit the point where I can convince my bosses to give me a day off to play? That’d be swell.