The much anticipated expansion to Monster Hunter Rise is finally here with Sunbreak, bringing with it new locations and monsters, a brand new story to experience and, most importantly, a new challenge and endgame content in the return of Master Rank from Monster Hunter: World.
Sunbreak takes place in Elgado, and after successfully stopping the Rampage and defending the Village of Kamura, you’re asked by Rondine to help her Kingdom defend itself against Malzeno, the new Elder Dragon and main antagonist of Sunbreak. You can play the new main story either single-player or online in a group, hunting various new and old monsters in new maps, like the Jungle (a returning map given a fresh update) and the Citadel, as well as finding the whereabouts of the Three Lords: Garangolm, Lunagaron and Malzeno. As per traditional Monster Hunter storytelling, there’s a big reveal near the end, leading to the re-introduction of some of the nastier monsters from High Rank, as well as new beasts to challenge.
Whilst I managed to spend hundreds of hours hunting monsters in Rise, it does lack that challenge of previous games in the series, particularly the likes of Monster Hunter Generations and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. Sunbreak fixes that by ramping up the difficulty from the get-go. Monsters hit harder, have new moves and combos, and their tracking has greatly improved, so those precision tail slaps and stabs are faster and more likely to hit you. All the MR monsters are tougher and faster than their High Rank counterparts, which is to be expected, but it really helps balance out the Hunter’s wirebug and movement abilities.
Monster Hunter’s main gameplay loop of fight monster, carve materials, make gear, is made all the more fun by the engaging and unique combat system of the series. There are 14 weapon types that all play uniquely and are all available to play both online and off. Your strikes and blows have weight to them, and encounters often turn into you dodging the monster’s attacks by rolling or side-stepping out of the way before landing some quick blows. Hit the enemy weak spots enough and they’ll topple over, giving you plenty of time to unleash your powerful combos and moves. Games like Bloodborne, Dark Souls and Elden Ring have really popularised the more deliberate and methodical styles of combat that see you rolling about everywhere and fighting huge bosses, but the Monster Hunter series has been doing it for years, and Rise+Sunbreak is probably the best the combat has felt so far. So, for any Souls fans out there looking for a new fix, Rise+Sunbreak could be the answer.
When you do make the jump from Kamura to Elgado, it’s immediate there’s a shift in aesthetics as gone are the Japanese-inspired visuals of Kamura, and the more European/Medieval themes have returned, with armour sets and NPCs looking more like traditional knights. Elgado itself is very reminiscent of the first player gathering area of Astera in Monster Hunter: World. I think the overall look and feel of World in terms of visual design is possibly something Capcom is keen to press on with in future Monster Hunter entries, and it’s really interesting to see the two visual styles blended together in Sunbreak.
What doesn’t follow you to Elgado in Sunbreak are the Rampage missions that were new to the series and first introduced in Rise as an attempt at doing something more unique with the series’ siege missions. Before the game came out, I was sure we’d see them evolve the Rampage mission types into some sort of castle defence against monsters. Instead, the developers did something more unexpected and dropped the Rampage mode altogether and introduced Follower missions, where NPCs would accompany you on hunts instead of other real players. This is something fans of the series have talked about for years, and with you being able to summon other NPCs in Rampage mode, like Fugen and Utsushi, it was a natural step to have them come with you on hunts as well.
I think they’ve handled this mode perfectly as well, for Sunbreak it’s basically the majority of the single-player only content whilst still being Master Rank in terms of difficulty. Your NPC hunting partners do a fantastic job consisting of various members of the cast from Kamura and Elgado, and you can take up to three with you on various hunts, with each of them interacting with one another and really helping to build some characterisation.
One of the side characters, Luchika, for example, comes across as stern and bossy, causing you to assume the other hunters dislike going out on hunts with her for this reason. Instead, it turns out she’s just a full-on maniac on missions, never healing and always attacking. As I said before, the NPCs are really good on a hunt, and after using a sleep toad on a monster successfully, she quickly proceeds to plant a barrel bomb in the same place I’m placing mine, only to then run away and blow up her barrel, along with me and my barrel all at the same time. I like her spirit, but sometimes patience is a virtue.
The Follower missions have no impact on the story, so you’re encouraged to go about them at your own pace or ignore them completely, if you wish, but completing them all comes with its own rewards, and they are definitely enjoyable experiences, particularly the ones where you can mix and match companions. Whilst many fans and players are split on opinions about Rampage mode, right now it feels like the Follower missions have received far more positive feedback and seem like a genuinely good gameplay and story mechanic that can help push the series forward in future titles.
Even with all the new good stuff Sunbreak brings to Monster Hunter Rise, a lot of players will only care about one thing: the endgame experience. It was an area that Rise was lacking in, mostly consisting of grinding your Hunter Rank to 999 and getting a decent charm from the RNG melding pots. Whilst you can still do both those things, Sunbreak brings back the classic Monster Hunter trope of “infected” monsters, such as the Frenzy virus, or Hyper Monsters from older games that see you fighting monsters that are usually different in appearance from their regular counterparts in some way, hit harder and have even more health. As always you hunt these big boys down and carve materials to craft the strongest weapons in the game.
Once you finish the main story quest of Sunbreak, you’ll end up at around Master Rank 10, then more and more monsters show up all the way up to MR100, where you’ll encounter the game’s toughest enemy yet. Future free DLC has already been announced promising new monsters showing up, like Lucent Nargacuga, but the developers also announced recently that the first title update will include new crafting options to further min/max and upgrade your armor to have better resistances, skills and armor slots, potentially opening up thousands of different armor combinations for players to create.
I’ve always appreciated how in Monster Hunter your character’s strengths and special abilities are all dependent on what gear you have equipped, the new MR gear and weapons, and with the new crafting options being introduced, players are going to have even greater opportunities to build their characters to their liking with many different sets of abilities to choose from. The developers have done a brilliant job expanding on the story of Rise and have given us an expansion and endgame comparable to Monster Hunter: World – Iceborne and G rank in Monster Hunter Generations. You can tell Capcom and the developers really listened to feedback from the fans, increasing the difficulty, expanding on the weapons and gear, dropping Rampages and letting us quest with NPCs, and it’s a brilliant experience from start to finish.
Platforms: Switch, PC
Release Date: 29th June 2022