While Monster Hunter has been on a different trajectory since World’s release in 2018, you can always count on CAPCOM to deliver quality hunting no matter what platform you play on. After the success of World’s enormous expansion, Iceborne, Sunbreak feels like an inevitable addition to an already meaty game, but never one that feels out of place. It’s not perfect, a few of Rise’s core issues are still present here, new ones rear their heads, and others have been fixed, but what Sunbreak does have to offer is bound to please anyone who enjoyed the base game, and especially series veterans.
Set after the tumultuous events of Monster Hunter Rise, Sunbreak sees our hunters called to Elgado Outpost after the unexpected appearance of a foreign monster in the Shrine Ruins. You’ll quickly find out that Kamura isn’t the only territory being invaded by violent monsters from the Kingdom, and you team up with new character Fiorayne and the Knights of the Royal Order to uncover what’s happening.
What Sunbreak lacks in narrative unpredictability, it makes up for in its characters and setting. Elgado Outpost and by extension, the Kingdom are locales unlike any other in the series, more regal and medieval in design. There’s also a stronger focus on characters, and while it’s far from revolutionary for typical Monster Hunter standards, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a little fond of the likes of Fiorayne and Admiral Galleus. It’s a story with a tried and true formula that’s saved from stagnation thanks to its characters and fresh setting, giving Sunbreak its own distinct identity within the series.
Everyone knows that narrative isn’t the draw for Monster Hunter, though, its the thrill of the hunt, experiencing a roster of brand new monsters, deadly variants, and returning favorites. In this regard, Sunbreak is a true home-run. While monster preferences will always be subjective, I believe that Sunbreak has one of the best rosters of any mainline Monster Hunter game.
From the return of Gore Magala to the chilling introduction of Lunagaron and the vampiric Malzeno, every monster here feels like it has purpose, in some cases topping the fights from their original games. A special shoutout should go to Frontier fan-favorite Espinas, who’s unrelenting aggression and ability to inflict two status effects make for a fight that’s thrilling regardless of how many you’ve bested in your hunts.
Much like Iceborne did for World, Sunbreak brings along Master Rank for Rise, the highest difficulty of hunts that are meant to test any hunter’s mettle. While there’s a definite step up here from the relative ease of Rise’s High Rank hunts, it doesn’t quite reach the caliber of past games. That might be great news for some, but I constantly found myself craving the heightened challenge present in older titles, which lends more ferocity and intimidation to each monster you go up against.
With increased difficulty and new monsters, comes new tools, and Sunbreak brings plenty of new toys to play with. For starters, each weapon type has a plethora of new Switch Skills, allowing hunters to further customize and deepen their playstyle. The addition of Switch Skill Swapping, allows you to bring in two sets of Switch Skills into any given hunt, letting you swap them at will with a simple button combination. This can lead to some nasty combos that are as satisfying to execute as they are flashy to look at, and also creates room for further build crafting and loadout-tailoring for each hunt.
There’s also new Endemic Life found in both the new and old areas, and while they seem simple and surface level at first, it quickly becomes apparent that they’re much more than that. The Marionette Spider, for example, allows you to attach a Silkbind Strand to a monster and yank it in a particular direction, causing it to collide with a wall or even another monster as they get knocked to the ground. Wall-mounted wildlife changes the way you engage with Wyvern-Riding, as smashing into walls with these critters present can earn you extra damage or even a status effect.
Arguably the best aspect of these new Endemic Life is that they feel completely seamless within gameplay, never interrupting the flow of the hunt, while still introducing new ways you can engage with monsters and the environments you hunt them in. There’s a constant incentive to look for these critters as you move through an area towards a monster or as you give chase, further lending to that feeling of being in a living, breathing world that was established in the base game.
As we’ve moved on from the struggles of Kamura, Sunbreak doesn’t bring with it any new Rampages or Apex Monsters to hunt, and instead introduces Follower Quests and Support Surveys. Follower Quests are hunts you’ll go on with the supporting cast, as you work towards deepening their bonds so you can bring them along with you on Support Surveys. This includes characters from Kamura, as well, so you’ll be able to accompany the likes of Elder Fugen and Master Utsushi.
While they no doubt makes hunts easier as they split the aggression of the monster, they offer a sense of spectacle and camaraderie with the supporting characters that hasn’t been seen before in Monster Hunter. Nothing will match the rush I experienced when Fiorayne disappeared from the fight, only to return mounted on a Barioth to deliver unsuspected punishment to the unfortunate Lunagaron we had in our sights. You can even choose from a selection of weapons for followers to use on Support Surveys, allowing you to have them use something that compliments your own loadout.
To keep things spoiler free, there’s more monsters for you to experience once the credits roll, and a post-game progression system that is good in theory, but falls a bit flat in execution. Without getting into specifics, certain post-game hunts take far too long to complete, to the point of mundanity. I’m unsure how these play with more than one person, but I can only suspect the difficulty scales up. Thankfully, this isn’t the only form of post-game, but is absolutely something players will want to engage with if they’re into build crafting and maximizing stats, and it’s a shame they don’t deliver on their core concept.
Sunbreak’s brand new locale is the Citadel, and brings with it a more vertically designed return of the Jungle from past games. It’s nice to have new areas that are smaller in scale than those from the base game, yet still maintaining unique color palettes and design set pieces that help them to stand out amongst the rest. Rise is now a true melding pot of all the best areas a Monster Hunter game needs, with a bit of its own flourish for good measure.
The new hub, Elgado Outpost, is a refreshingly small and dense hub area that drops Kamura’s peace and quiet for a steampunk-style hustle and bustle. It’s tonally unique and a joy to explore for the first time when you eventually reach the Kingdom, and it’s nice to able to move between the NPCs you visit regularly for your pre-hunt rituals without having to sit through loading screens.
While we didn’t review the PC port of Monster Hunter Rise, Sunbreak was played via the PC version, and it goes without saying that much like the base game, Sunbreak performs incredibly well from a technical standpoint. In the roughly 30 or so hours I’ve spent with it, I’ve encountered zero technical issues, and only ever had the pleasure of buttery smooth framerates, which is especially remarkable with the context that base Rise was built for the Switch.
All of it is really brought to life by stellar monster designs, and continuing the trend of introducing slick new weapons and armor. While it might not be quite the looker in the same way World is in terms of sheer detail, I still think that Rise is the best middle ground of old and new in terms of environment design and color palette, retaining that classic feel of the old games with some of the modern sheen brought with World.
Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak takes an already meaty game an expands on it even further. Despite a few missteps, Sunbreak sports a roster bolstered by sheer quality, smart improvements to the Switch Skill system, and the introduction of Follower Quests which coalesce together to propel Rise into the upper echelon of Monster Hunter titles.
Renewed focus on characters and setting that keep the narrative formula from getting stale
One of the best monster rosters in the mainline series
New Endemic Life and Switch Skill additions deepen the gameplay loop
Follower Quests and Support Surveys are fun new additions
Gorgeous new zones, stellar monster designs, and slick new gear