Monster Hunter Rise may be the easiest instalment in the series to jump into, but that doesn't mean it's a simple game. The new expansion, Sunbreak, doesn't just add new features: it also kind of backpedals on some older ones, changing the way they work and what they can provide.
It's a lot to get used to, but puzzling out what new mechanics can offer is part of the fun in every Monster Hunter. There are new monsters, armor sets, weapons, skills, forms of endemic life, buddy abilities, and—*deep breath*—brand new switch skills and the highly-anticipated switch skill swap. If you're already feeling a little overwhelmed, then maybe I can help out.
Having spent an unhealthy amount of time in Elgado now, here are 7 entries that summarise the key changes that Sunbreak brings to Monster Hunter Rise, as well as some things that you might want to look out for when you start playing yourself. Happy hunting!
1. The environment is your best pal
Monster Hunter's world was never exactly the friendliest of locations, what with all the rampaging monsters and such. But more often than not the environment proves to be a useful ally when battling big bad creatures. Sunbreak pushes this even further with new types of ensnaring and endemic life like the spear squid, which deal lots of damage if you can lure a monster into their path. The environments are more dangerous, too, with rocks and towers that you can collapse, or swamps filled with Thornytoads that attack any creature that comes near.
Most important of all there are two new types of wirebug in Sunbreak. The golden variant grants extra material drops when you're wyvern riding, while the red version makes mounted punishers deal significantly more damage. In general Sunbreak provides far more versatility in terms of turning the world to your advantage.
2. Buddies are even stronger
Both buddy types get some significant upgrades in Sunbreak. Palamutes now have pouches that carry excess materials you gather, and can also unlock the amazing Palamute Silkbinder: a back-mounted wirebug ballista that restrains monsters. On the other side, you can earn powerful Secret Support Moves for your Palicos by completing quests with each type, and you can even swap them and regular support moves at the buddy dojo.
You can also now increase buddy skill memory using Eurekacorn, a new material you gather through The Argosy and the Meowcenaries. Finally, there's Buddy Recon, a new pre-hunt ability that lets you set up fast travel points without having sub camps.
3. Characters actually fight with you now instead of just talking about it
For those that plan to play through all of Sunbreak solo, you'll actually have a little help this time around. Followers are NPC hunters that you can join up with, and once you complete their quests you'll be able to create a party with those available and head out on Support Surveys to hunt monsters. Best of all, the knight Fiorayne will join you for all significant story quests and she's actually incredibly capable.
I was expecting Followers to be a bit janky in terms of their monster hunting abilities, but they're great; they even heal you with support items and run off to mount other monsters and bring them back to fight the one you're hunting.
4. You can now play Monster Hunter like Bloodborne
Sunbreak's new armor skills are strong. Seregios' Bladescale Hone lets you regain sharpness when evading. Astalos' Chain Crit can deal more damage with successive hits. But out of all of them, Malzeno's skill is probably the strongest. You can get the Blood Rite skill from the Malzeno chest and coil armor pieces and it lets you heal yourself when you deal damage to a broken area of a monster.
While not so useful at the start of a fight, if you equip up to level three of the ability and also have Partbreaker, before long you can effectively negate most of the damage that's dealt to you. Honestly, it's refreshing as hell being able to heal by attacking rather than having to back off and quickly drop a first aid med.
5. There are new hidden armour sets and rampage decorations
On top of the skills, there are some new hidden armor sets you can get through the Meowcenaries or The Argosy, including master rank variants of those that were available in the base game. Armor Decorations have also been upgraded. Rather than ramping up weapons like you used to, it's now possible to craft a Rampage Decoration with a specific effect that you can slot into your weapon.
A lot of these are weapon-specific, and range from buffing Demon Mode to increasing affinity when you land lots of hits in a short window. The best part is you don't actually have to do any rampages to get them: just defeat their namesake monster in master rank and you'll be able to craft the relevant one. You can also now get level four decorations, which provide even higher skill levels.
6. Switch skill swap and its related skills are very powerful
As you probably know, Switch Skill Swap is a new ability that lets you alternate between two different Switch Skill loadouts, letting you change your playstyle mid-hunt. What you might not know is there are skill types that grant your switching action an additional effect. Quick Breath and Redirection come from the level three decorations of the same name, while Furious comes from the Grand Divine Ire armor set.
Quick Breath lets you remove some status effects and heal yourself slightly when you perform a skill switch, while Redirection turns a well-timed switch into a guard ability. Level two of Redirection nullifies incoming damage completely, recovers wirebug gauge, and performs a special evade. This skill is very powerful for weapons that don't really have effective guard abilities, and as an insect glaive player I found it incredibly useful at times. Furious, on the other hand, buffs defense when you are using your red switch skill set, and temporarily grants infinite stamina when you switch to the blue set, which is pretty darn strong.
7. Defense is king
I feel like I underestimated how hard Sunbreak's monsters would hit. I kind of ran into a wall when I had to fight the Espinas and it one-shotted me with its first charge. This is master rank, so I guess it shouldn't be surprising how much damage the monsters deal, but even as someone who already had an endgame hunter, it felt like a big jump. Definitely craft some master rank armor as soon as you can and don't neglect those Mega Armorskins and Demon Drugs. The Chainmail X set is a great choice since it has strong defense and stamina recovery and you can get it very quickly for low cost.