Three years ago, pre-pandemic and at an entirely different job, I sat down in Capcom’s offices for the last time in a while to demo Monster Hunter World: Iceborne. The expansion to the incredibly successful Monster Hunter World was content meant to satisfy endgame players with new monsters, new weapons, a new area, and an expansion to the story. While I had not played Monster Hunter World in a few months by the time the Iceborne demo rolled around, I had played roughly 500 hours of the game and put a few hours into it every day for the previous year and a half. I was confident.
I should not have been. I absolutely embarrassed myself during that demo. I don’t know what the world record time for three instances of carting in a hunt is, but I must have set it.
This time around, in anticipation of a demo once again at Capcom’s offices for Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak, I decided I would polish off my skills. For this event, I actually practiced, got myself up to play Monster Hunter Rise, and came in thinking I was back. This would be my proud return — a bookend to the last time I was in these offices playing a Monster Hunter game. But this time, I was older, wiser, and better prepared.
I still got utterly destroyed — just not as bad as last time.
To a large extent, I think that’s good. I also played a ton of Monster Hunter Rise just as I did Monster Hunter World, and I feel like the power scale in that game tends to fade away the more you play it. As you progress, you learn more about the monsters, get better armor, and obtain stronger weapons; even the controller feels less like an input method and more of an extension of your hands. With the expansions, which take the place of the G-rank re-releases of previous Monster Hunter games, the new content adds difficulty beyond anything in the base game. The monsters are largely new and far tougher, and your weapons are basically like throwing toothpicks at a lion.
The main improvement to Sunbreak is for fans of the switch skills, which can now be doubled up with different sets. So you can have two switch skills focused on, say, a monster that is annoying in the air before switching to another set of two skills for when the monster’s on the ground or laid out with a button combination. It’s another layer of complexity to think about, but it works surprisingly well in the heat of battle to diversify your attack patterns.
This change came about because the Monster Hunter team reads community feedback and listens to their international partners at Capcom USA. The Follower Quests adding the single-player content, and the changes to how you mount monsters in Sunbreak, come from the team and leadership trying to figure out how people are playing Monster Hunter.
“We pored over reviews,” Monster Hunter Rise Director Yoshitake Suzuki told Fanbyte. “We try to listen to various voices from the community when deciding where to go.”
Ryozo Tsujimoto, Producer for the Monster Hunter series, stressed that they have to keep in mind what is possible and feasible when looking at feedback. There’s a lot of noise to signal in the Monster Hunter community, so just seeing a suggestion does not necessarily mean it can be implemented.
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During the demo, I did two missions. In the first, I fought the new monster, Lunagaron. I will admit that I was the first cart but not the last, so I consider this hunt a moral victory. The moment Sunbreak crystallized itself for me as G-rank content was when I took a tail swipe to the face at full health and died. “Oh right,” I said out loud. “They do that now.”
The second hunt was a single-player — but not solo — hunt against Seregios, a scaled wyvern from Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. While it was a single-player mission, it was labeled as a Follower Quest, wherein an NPC from the village joins you in the hunt. Their carts don’t count against you and they can heal you in addition to fighting the monster, so they’re more like large palicoes than AI-driven humans. It’s a good way to get to know the people in your village and even bond with them. While I also lost to Seregios, it was surprisingly close, and if I wire-bugged out of there one frame faster, I would have probably beaten him.
I went with the Long Sword for both missions, which worked really well, except for the part where I died a lot. When I asked Tsujimoto what his preferred weapon was, he admitted that he used the Hammer in the entire series — Sunbreak was no exception. Suzuki meanwhile used the Switch-Axe for the series, but keeps finding himself using Dual Blades for hunts in Sunbreak.
It’s easy to forget just how much of my life is consistently taken up by new Monster Hunter releases. When Sunbreak releases on June 30 on Switch and PC, I have no doubt I will be reminded of it once again.