Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak's endgame stumbles at the finish line
The last thing I aspire to do when I review a game is to have thoughts left unsaid; yet with my Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak review, I was forced to do just that when it came to my thoughts and feelings on the new endgame loop for the expansion. Now that the expansion itself has been out for a few weeks, however, it feels appropriate to take a deeper dive into what Sunbreak’s endgame both fails and succeeds at – as well as what I hope to see for the future.
The first thing to acknowledge about Sunbreak’s endgame loop is how it’s completely separated from what players were used to from the basegame release. With Monster Hunter: Rise, players were expected to grind out Rampages to hunt Apex monsters for their materials, so they Ramp-Up weapons that had already reached the end of a weapon tree. This offered a certain degree of customization and allowed for players to tweak weapons to better fit what they wanted from their build. In practice, outside of the Rampages themselves, Ramping Up weapons were very similar to how players could enhance their endgame weapons in Monster Hunter World and Iceborne; though tweaked for Rise’s new mechanics and gameplay loop.
Ramp-Up is no longer available for Master Rank weapons, and in fact, the more granular approach to customization is now missing entirely. There’s a bit of a band-aid solution where some weapons might have Rampage Decoration slots, which allow you to add a selection of Rampage Skills to a weapon assuming it has the space to accommodate the required decoration – but there’s nothing like the customization that the basegame provided. Instead, Sunbreak goes to great lengths to ensure that nearly every weapon can be upgraded to Rank 10 with the use of Afflicted Monster materials.
With the absence of the Rampage, hunts against Afflicted Monsters have replaced the endgame loop for Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak. These monsters come with inflated HP pools, deal additional damage, attack faster, and come with the gimmick of needing to attack highlighted parts of their body to deal damage as fast as possible. If players are unable to attack the afflicted body parts fast enough, as well as deal enough damage overall, then the monster in question will send out a moderately large explosion around its body which is almost assuredly going to lead to a death or two, assuming your party isn’t careful enough to avoid it.
Hunting Afflicted Monsters feels like hunting a cross between an Apex (from Monster Hunter 4: Ultimate, not the Rise versions) and Hyper Monsters from Monster Hunter Generations/Generations Ultimate. While you don’t need to use any special equipment to deal with these monsters, there’s still the annoyance of having to target body parts in an effort to counteract a monster’s bloated HP pool. Much like with those monster types in question, I can’t say I’m a fan of how it feels to actually hunt these monsters as part of an endgame loop – and that’s not even getting into the core of how the endgame itself feels considerably more shallow as the result of the removal of proper Rampage Skills.
On the one hand, being able to upgrade nearly every weapon tree to Rank 10 is a godsend. One could argue that it makes nearly every weapon viable at the endgame, with the stats to match. However, in practice it’s hard to see how it adds any more variety to endgame builds than what Ramp-Up already provided; if anything, things are more restrictive with the new system, not to mention how it forces players to make more weapons from scratch than before. Not every weapon tree allows players to craft a weapon with Master Rank stats; and many of them require players to upgrade it every step of the way from Low Rank, to High Rank, and then finally to Master Rank and beyond.
To make matters worse, many of what appear to be the game’s best weapons don’t require engaging with the Anomaly Quest system at all; Furious Rajang weapons can max out to Rank 10 without any Afflicted Monster materials. It’s a similar story for other monsters such as Master Rank Narwa and Ibushi, too. Why should players engage with the frustrating Anomaly Quest system if they don’t have to? If the only purpose of these quests is to gather materials to upgrade some weapon trees to max rarity, but there are plenty of viable weapons that don’t require this at all, what’s the main draw for it? Unless you’re specifically looking to develop builds centered around a certain weapon, it’s harder to justify the long grind for what amounts to less payoff than before. As far as I’m concerned, it just doesn’t feel satisfying like some of the endgame loops of past Monster Hunter titles.
Looking ahead, it’s hard to see how the system might improve with upcoming Title Updates. Monster Hunter World and Iceborne already set the precedent to expect Title Update monsters to upend the end-game, and so far nothing of what Capcom has shown for Sunbreak’s updates seems to imply that anything will be different here. While it seems likely that our missing Afflicted Monsters might show up one way or another, it is inevitable that there won’t be enough reason to actually hunt them. Maybe that’s just my own biases talking, though.
Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak is one of the best titles in the series, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that in some ways it's stumbled at the finish line. Here’s hoping updates can manage to turn some of my issues around – as always, I’ll be in it for the long haul.