Sunbreak, like its predecessors, added the typical fare for the new Master Rank the expansion carried: new monsters, new weapons (alas, no new weapon types, goodbye my Tonfa and Magnet Spike dreams), new Wirebug moves, a new story, and a difficulty level that tests patience, sanity, and likely the strength of your Switch after you hurl it to the wall in frustration (please don’t do this). Let’s go in-depth and figure out if Sunbreak is worth its price tag, and your time. And even though the expansion has been out for a while, I’ll do my best to keep things as spoiler-free as possible.
As is standard Monster Hunter fare, a new story was added to the expansion. After defeating base Rise, you’re called upon by none other than Rondine, your faithful Argosy trader who mentions that her homeland is in trouble (the specifics of which you’ll have to find out yourself). Naturally, they call on you for help. You’re then whisked away to Elgado Outpost, the front door of the Kingdom, where what awaits you are all sorts of new characters, and new monsters to tear limb from limb. And thus the hunt begins anew!
It’s a tale as old as time. A wee Hunter, with dreams of adventure, gear, and rampant, wholesale slaughter ventures out into the big bad world. You hunt monsters, get materials, maybe save the world on the way, as you do. You learn the mechanics through Low Rank, and play the big leagues in High Rank. You craft your ideal armor, fashion your perfect drip, and become a force to be reckoned with. You feel powerful.
This is the part where Master Rank comes along and says “We don’t do that here.” and batters you like eggs, flour, and two cups of sugar. Happiness is fleeting as you take on your first Master Rank quest and run into a monster you’ve taken down plenty of times before, for fun and profit. “Easy!” you think. “What the hell!?” you say, when one attack deletes half your health bar. Welcome to Master Rank. This world has been reset.
A major staple of Master Rank is that all the monsters, even the lowliest of bosses, have now become actually dangerous. You’re going into MR with HR gear, and it will show. That set you love and likely spent hours tinkering over? It’s not gonna cut it in the new difficulty. Monsters have increased attributes (especially HP), new attacks, and are much more ferocious, giving you very little breathing room to maneuver. So like them, you need to level up, too.
I mentioned your old armor isn’t going to cut it. That’s not entirely true. You can maybe make it through a quest or two with your old gear, but its shortcomings will become apparent the more you get hit and the more you deal damage. That’s how it works; all the previous armor now has Master Rank variants that you need to hunt these new monsters for to get parts to make them. It’s basically base Rise, but with a much higher degree of challenge.
Thankfully, you’ll have your knowledge to get you through as you slay/capture the roster to get more and more powerful. And Sunbreak has been very generous in the sense that some armor sets, as in whole sets, come with everything you need to make the transition easier, with excellent skills, a fair (but not unbalanced) slot count for decorations, and, most important, a high defense score better suited for Master Rank. Veterans will know what to do since they’ve done it plenty of times before, but a tip for newbies; focus more on survivability rather than trying to recreate your High Rank set. The time will come when you can, and make it better than ever, but you need to stay alive long enough to kill the monsters and make it happen.
What would an expansion be without new monsters to bring to the table? We have old favorites from way back in the day like Daimyo Hermitaur and Shogun Ceanataur, two crab-like monsters with surprising agility, a long-range water attack, and unique playstyles. Daimyo is more defensive-based, but Shogun is all about the attack, its katana-like claws inflicting Bleed if you’re unlucky enough to get hit (but a simple crouch for a few seconds will fix you right up).
Also returning is Astalos, the electrified jet plane with serious anger issues, the infamous Seregios, an invading species that can shoot its razor-sharp scales, and Espinas, who veterans will recognize from Tri. Really, no one saw that coming.
Also joining the roster are three story-centric monsters, the Three Lords. The ice wolf Lunagaron, the groundshaking ape Garangolm, and the mysterious and deadly Malzeno. You’ll come across these threats as you make your way through the story, each tougher than the last.
New Wirebug Moves
The introduction of Wirebug Skills definitely made Rise the flashiest Monster Hunter in the series, and certainly the most fast-paced. Akin to Hunter Arts of Generations fame, each weapon has their own kit of skills to use for a variety of situations. With so many options, customization took a new leap. You could play with a dozen randoms using the same weapon and not see the same exact play style twice.
Sunbreak took things a step further with not just the inclusion of more Wirebug skills, but the Switch Skill Swap. You can put two different collections of moves onto a Red Scroll and Blue Scroll, and swap between them in battle, mixing up your gameplay even more! With the right spread, you could want for nothing, and while initially complex, with a few hours of playtime, it’ll become second-nature.
Armor skills have always been important when making a good set in Monster Hunter. If there’s something you want your build to do, you need to know what skills actually allow you to. Using Lance/Gunlance and want more defense? Guard and Guard Up are your mainstays. Want more bang for your buck as you Bowgun through a brawl? Spare Shot gives you chances of not consuming ammo and letting you make it rain bullets. Base Rise introduced some new ones, and took a few away (goodbye, Health Boost) and even changed up the decoration count for a few.
Sunbreak was not to be outdone. Sixteen new skills were introduced to the plethora we have. While some fly under the radar, more than a few have sent hunters scrambling back to their loadouts to try and get in on the new hotness, like the defensive version of Agitator in Defiance, or the hyper-aggressive Chain Crit.
Whether you like more damage, a boost to your weapon element, or even removing traveling the map for Spiribirds from the equation, there’s something for everyone, improving the power and craziness of any set you might’ve made, or plan to make.
When you’re in multiplayer in Monster Hunter, you have, at most, three other people who want this particular thing you loaded up a quest for dead. And even though you’re likely to not get much out of them beyond preset chat messages or whatever Saturday morning cartoon callouts their character generates. It’s not much, but it’s something. Solo is another story. Just you and your animal companions. And the thing(s) trying to kill you. Follower quests, however, have shaken things up. There’s certain single-player only quests you can undertake, but not truly alone. You’ll be joined by NPCs from Kamura or Elgado, each with their own playstyles and weapons. The merchant Rondine is a support virtuoso, healing frequently and making sure you can last long in the fight. Luchika, an Elgado hunter, is the definition of unga-bunga, dishing out ridiculous damage on her own, at the expense of never using recovery items. Even if she or her teammates are approaching death.
Doing their questlines doesn’t just enable them to be brought on the special survey missions to fight monsters, but you can also earn special weapons and gear in the process. It’s arguably the best addition to the series, especially so because the Follower AI is so damn good. Your allies will actively contribute to the fight by battering monsters alongside you, healing (if that’s their thing), even heading to other areas to lure monsters to the fight to trigger a scrap/Turf War, if they haven’t, y’know, ridden it there themselves. If enough damage is done, they can even cut off severable monster tails, a great plus since the tails are an extra carve and can get you lucky with a gem or a mantle.
The light at the end of the slaughtering tunnel. The thing that keeps you coming back. The carrot at the end of the stick. When the story is done and the credits roll, it’s the endgame that draws you back in for more mayhem. And Sunbreak offers two big ones. Though it’s up to you to determine just how much they truly deserve the title of “endgame”. Two major aspects stand out: Qurious Crafting and Investigations.
I don’t want to reveal too much of what’s going on with this since it’s connected to the story, but Qurious Crafting adds an interesting twist to how to improve your armor. By using certain materials, you can augment it, not unlike how you were able to augment weapons in Monster Hunter World/Iceborne. However, there’s a catch; it’s random each and every time, and you have zero control over what you get. In some cases, you can even LOSE a skill point in favor of a potentially big payoff, like bolstered defense or an increase to skill slots. Is it worth it? That’s up to you. Thankfully, choosing the new stat changes is optional, but materials used and money spent are not refunded. Them’s the breaks. What makes it even harder to deal with is that the materials to augment are found in only one mode; the newly-added investigations.
I’ve purposefully left out a word from this mode because, like before, it’s story-related, and you’ll get no spoilers from me. Investigations pit you against ultra-tough versions of monsters with extreme attack and HP increases, putting them on par with Apex monsters. Maybe even stronger. But taking them out nets you strong rewards, especially the ones needed for Qurious Crafting. They also serve a great test for just how tough you really are. Two words: damage checks.
Graphics & Sound
The sound remains relatively unchanged from base Rise; it’s an expansion, not an entirely new game. But with new monsters come new themes for each of them, in particular Malzeno’s theme. Which feels like something straight out of Kingdom Hearts or Castlevania. Pairing nicely with the new, eerie Citadel map, it’s a treat of a tune. Though it would be more enjoyable if not for the fact Malzeno seriously wants you dead.
Follower missions have brought some new audio wrinkles; while out on missions with your Follower(s), they’ll have their own callouts, voice lines like actual players, even interactions with you or other Followers, making the experience seem that much more alive, and considerably less lonely.
Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak was reviewed on Nintendo Switch.