Like many of you, I started playing Monster Hunter Rise over the weekend, and like a smaller (but still substantial) subsection of you, it was my first real foray into Monster Hunter. I had dabbled in World, but after its brilliant character creator, it just never really clicked with me and I dwindled the hours away mostly talking to the cats and admiring the food rather than actually hunting monsters in the world. When I dove back in for Rise, I still had a few of the issues that bugged me during World, but I persevered and started to figure it out a little bit more. I’m still not an expert, and I wouldn’t even say I like the game yet, but what has really impressed me so far is how much the game respects its weapons.
After clicking through approximately 17 billion tutorials, I was off on my first hunt, but not before yet one more tutorial explained how the tent worked. In here, I clicked through the different options and found that – contrary to my expectations – I was starting with a full arsenal. The hammer sounded like the most brutal, so I armed myself with that, and away I went.
Here’s the thing though – the hammer sucks. But that’s actually a good thing. The hammer is far too weighty, relies on a good understanding of each monster’s weak spot, and moves with a slow thump. If you land it, it’s devastating – but if you’re anything like me, most of the time, you miss. I trudged on through this early mission, killed six squirrels or whatever it was, then returned to my tent. On my next exhibition, I tried out the dual wield blades, and I discovered the hammer didn’t suck – I did.
The blades are much quicker and more agile, and they’re (literally) death by a thousand cuts. They don’t rely on pummelling the monsters with one blow, they’re about diving in quick, getting in some wild attacks, and rolling away to safety. I was actually pretty good with the blades for a newcomer, getting through the mission with ease, barely getting hit and never needing a potion or feeling like I was becoming overwhelmed. My playstyle suited the blades, so I excelled with them. It did not suit the hammer, so I sucked.
This is what I mean when I say that Monster Hunter Rise respects its weapons. There are loads of games that offer a range of weapons, but a lot of the time the difference is hard to gauge and it feels like a minor tweak or an aesthetic choice. You can still play the game your way, regardless of your loadout. I see the fun in that, and the reasons why games decide not to put barriers in the way of player enjoyment – in raw ‘is this fun?’ terms, it’s probably the approach I’d prefer. But as someone who didn’t care for World, I wasn’t expecting Rise to be my favourite game of 2021, so I’m happy to see it doing something intriguing rather than playing it safe.
You don’t play the weapons; they play you. If you’re playing the game wrong, the weapons aren’t going to go along with it. They’re going to drag you kicking and screaming until you start playing the game properly, or until you give up and swap them for a weapon better suited. It could be seen as disappointing, that I have a huge range of weapons and only ever get to use a couple, but it’s also rewarding to know that I’m using the dual blades because they’re right for me, not just because I picked them first and they look cool.
While the dual blades became my ultimate go-to, I did nibble on a few other treats at the buffet of weaponry too. The axe was too similar to the hammer for me, while the swords were better, but still too heavy for the speed I wanted to play at. I think I was probably just as effective with the sword as I was the blades, but it was nowhere near as fun, so it got shuffled out after a couple of quests. The glaive meanwhile was very quick and gymnastic, and felt reminiscent of Cloud’s combat style in Final Fantasy 7 Remake, although admittedly I haven’t found the rhythm here yet as much as I had there. There’s even some ranged weapons in the form of the bowgun, which is especially helpful when shooting mosquitos – or whatever they are – out of the sky during some of the village quests.
I’m not sure how this will work out long term. I’ve already upgraded my dual wield blades, having gone through the arsenal and decided that they’re the best fit for me. How all that works when I come up against a strong creature that has a good defence against my blades, I have no idea – maybe I’ll be reduced to clobbering them with my hammer and I’ll decide that I hate the weapons in Monster Hunter Rise, actually. Even if I do though, I’ll still defend the way the game treats its weapons with respect.
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Stacey Henley is an editor for TheGamer, and can often be found journeying to the edge of the Earth, but only in video games. Find her on Twitter @FiveTacey
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