I have a love-hate relationship with Monster Hunter. Even if I prefer Monster Hunter World, there was curiosity and excitement over Monster Hunter Rise – along with the trepidation of what’s to come in Sunbreak. Even with plenty of praise for Rise streamlining several aspects of the hunting experience, it was hampered by a lackluster endgame. Does the new expansion “fix” this? Your mileage may vary on that point but if more Monster Hunter Rise content is what you seek, then Sunbreak will definitely deliver.
Story-wise, fans probably know what to expect. A new threat has emerged in a new region and it’s up to you to investigate and ideally stop it. Said threat, in this case, is the Three Lords – powerful monsters based on horror movie icons. Lunagaron is the werewolf; Garangolm is Frankenstein’s monster; and new Elder Dragon Malzeno is, of course, Dracula. After the fall of a kingdom under mysterious circumstances – save for Malzeno being spotted and a mysterious plague breaking out overnight – the outpost Elgado was set up near the outskirts. While the monsters themselves are in a frenzy, things become dire when they start making their way to Kamura Village’s neighboring areas.
"What you will be doing in the initial hours of Sunbreak is fighting old monsters in the new Master Rank. A lot of them, though one new monster and a new subspecies also rear their heads."
After speaking with Rondine the trader and meeting Dame Fiorayne of the Royal Knights, it’s off to Elgado to meet the rest of the Order. While the story itself is fairly predictable, it does present some cool mysteries. The new characters like Admiral Galleus, Chichae the Quest Damsel, Arena Master Arlow and so on aren’t as endearing as those back in Kamura but they’re fine for interacting with. Elgado, much like Kamura, is also compactly designed so you won’t be running pillar to post to speak to everyone, craft your armor and weapons, eat meals, and accept quests.
What you will be doing in the initial hours of Sunbreak is fighting old monsters in the new Master Rank. A lot of them, though one new monster and a new subspecies also rear their heads. While it’s initially a downer – especially if you’ve already spent dozens, if not hundreds of hours already fighting the likes of Kulu-Ya-Ku and Royal Ludroth – they are equipped with new moves. Pukei Pukei will now manically run around, flinging poison left and right; Tetranadon executes two giant ground pounds in a row; and so on. The additional damage they inflict, coupled with increased aggression and attacking just when you think it’s safe to Wirefall away, keep these encounters exciting.
They’re also central to earning new Master Rank armor, which provides increased defense along with new Level 4 Decoration Slots and added skills. As you complete various Hub Quests, new Urgent Quests will unlock, increasing your Master Rank and providing access to even tougher foes. Some of the newer monsters in Rise include series veterans like Seregios, a super-aggressive and agile Wyvern that can inflict Bleed, either through its claws or shooting scales from a distance. Shogun Ceanataur also dishes out Bleed damage and while similar to Daimyo Hermitaur at first, it possesses more extensive slashing combos and admittedly annoying swipes that seemingly hit out of nowhere.
"There’s nothing quite like switching skills, performing a fancy dodge and immediately punishing a monster (or at least avoiding a potentially fatal attack)."
Then you have the likes of Espinas from Monster Hunter Frontier which dishes out numerous status effects at once while charging back and forth for massive damage. If you find yourself relaxing during the base game’s hunts, then Sunbreak will reintroduce you to a world of danger. It can be frustrating, for sure, but it’s also more exhilarating once you get into the groove.
New Silkbind Attacks and Switch Skills also even the odds, though they can range from extremely good to just kind of there. I mostly relied on Sword and Shield and Longsword throughout my playthrough, with the former getting Destroyer Oil and the new Shield Bash in addition to the Twin Blade Combo. Destroyer Oil is useful for causing monsters to flinch more often, and can pair well with Shield attacks and stuns to keep them off balance. Shield Bash is great for closing the distance, and inflicting stun while also guarding against attacks. Sure, you’ll still want to master Metsu Shoryugeki for more serious damage and setting up for Perfect Rush but the new skills are great for added utility.
The Longsword feels even more potent than before with its new techniques (so much so that you’ll probably ignore some of the nerfs). Harvest Moon dishes out additional hits with each counter, which is insane when paired with successful Iai Spirit Slashes; Tempered Spirit Blade is a more immediate counter that rewards successful timing and raises your Spirit Gauge; and Sacred Sheath is just great damage all-around. Pairing the new and old skills together is even easier thanks to the Switch Skill Swap which allows for setting two skill loadouts and switching between them in combat. There’s nothing quite like switching skills, performing a fancy dodge and immediately punishing a monster (or at least avoiding a potentially fatal attack).
"Yes, there’s no new Rampage content of any kind. Even the ability to Ramp-up weapons has been tossed by the wayside in favor of crafting Rampage Decorations."
Other nice quality of life changes include having your Palamute “sniff out” certain materials and resources on the map, making them easier to collect. While mounted, collecting anything now goes into the Canyne’s temporary inventory, which is amazing when you’re full up on Potions, Herbs and whatnot but still want to grow your stockpile. Buddy Recon that sets up temporary fast travel points on the map are also great, as are the new Morphed Wirebugs which provide more materials from Wyvern Riding attacks or deal more Mounted Punisher damage.
There’s also Hopping Skewers which allow for enhancing two skills at the risk of lower activation chance and a less powerful third skill (which has a higher activation chance). Dango Tickets can offset the lower chances, and there are some nice possible combinations, like increased elemental resistance and recovery at the cost of, say, boosting one’s attack and defense at the start of a hunt.
I wasn’t too crazy about the new Talisman Melding techniques, especially since you can’t specify what skills you want. Then again, given the scam rates in the base game, it’s probably for the best and you can net higher Rarity Talismans with Level 4 Decoration slots here. It still mostly comes down to luck but at least Talismans aren’t the be-all, end-all of the endgame.
You’ve probably noticed a complete and utter lack of mention for anything Rampage-related. The tower defense mode from Rise had its fair share of detractors, both at launch and afterwards. So how does Capcom address it? By not doing so. Yes, there’s no new Rampage content of any kind. Even the ability to Ramp-up weapons has been tossed by the wayside in favor of crafting Rampage Decorations (which are pretty good, don’t get me wrong). On the one hand, I can’t exactly fault them but on the other, it does feel weird to just have this one significant chunk of the game there, not serving any purpose or tying into Master Rank in any way whatsoever.
"While you’ll spend a good 15 to 20 hours on clearing the story (depending on how much you grind for better weapons and armor), it’s all about the endgame in Monster Hunter titles."
Thankfully, the new Follower Quests are worth doing. These essentially allow for embarking on hunts with different NPCs who are controlled by AI. Initially, you can have Elgado’s NPCs like Fiorayne accompany you but the roster expands to Kamura Village’s residents as well. Ever wanted to hunt a Zinogre alongside Master Utsushi? Maybe work with Hinoa or Minoto to take on Rathalos? Now you can while earning rewards like their unique weapons and armor. It’s a nice little side-activity and one which can provide some decent armor and weapons as you work your way through the story (plus the AI is fairly competent).
While you’ll spend a good 15 to 20 hours on clearing the story (depending on how much you grind for better weapons and armor), it’s all about the endgame in Monster Hunter titles. So how does Sunbreak measure up? Upon clearing the story, you’ll gain access to new Anomaly Quests where you must fight Afflicted Monsters. These are tougher versions of existing monsters, dealing way more damage and having way more health. They can also inflict Bloodblight – a new status effect where you’ll slowly lose health but can regain it by attacking the monster. Dealing enough damage to specific points on an Afflicted Monster will eventually cause it to stop going berserk so you can inflict more damage for a brief period.
Compared to older titles, Anomaly Quests are more akin to the older G-Rank quests of yore. Yes, they can be soloed if you have an excellent build and are extremely good at the game (neither of which describes my current state). But they seem geared more towards multiplayer. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it’s something to keep in mind from the outset if you’re struggling.
Slaying Afflicted Monsters earns new Afflicted Materials and Anomaly Tickets which can be used to upgrade all weapons to Rarity 10. Given the sheer amount of weapons available, there’s a lot to grind, even if you’re sticking to a few best-in-slot items and select Weapon Trees. You can also earn new Outfit Vouchers for Master Rank transmog if the fashion game is your true pursuit.
"If you enjoyed Rise, grinding out everything from the Rampage to Crimson Glow Valstrax, then, well, you already own Sunbreak and everything is pretty much moot."
All in all, it’s a definite improvement over the base game but still kind of lacking compared to Iceborne. There are still dozens of hours of content to grind regardless, and there are plenty of other tougher challenges that await as you increase your Master Rank. As for the new areas, namely the Jungle and Citadel, they’re mostly fine. In terms of design, they fulfill Rise’s direction of not being too big to facilitate quickly pursuing a monster but not too small as to feel cramped (even if some areas felt a little too close for comfort). Sure, there are some secrets here and there, and a few spots that are out of the way, but they lack many real gameplay-changing features.
At least the Citadel had its castle remnants which looked cool and had that one which could be broken with Wyvern Riding for some buffs. Otherwise, the environments are more aesthetically pleasing, like the surrounding beach and ruins in the Jungle or the eerie evening sky in the Citadel, than revolutionary. You do have new endemic life which you can launch a monster into for more damage and another which deals additional damage when a monster is knocked down so that’s neat.
If I had to sum up my 30 plus hours or so with Sunbreak, it’s that this is more Monster Hunter Rise content for those who like Monster Hunter Rise. If you’re a big fan of World who couldn’t get into Rise and wonder if Sunbreak will help, then it may not necessarily be for you. However, if you enjoyed Rise, grinding out everything from the Rampage to Crimson Glow Valstrax, then, well, you already own Sunbreak and everything is pretty much moot. It doesn’t go out of its way to reinvent the wheel and takes some time to truly open up. Nevertheless, the new skills and gear, tons of new quests, challenging endgame and new monsters are more than enough to keep you engaged for a good long while.
This game was reviewed on PC.
New monsters and subspecies along with foes from previous entries are challenging and fun to fight. Existing monsters get new moves that keep encounters fresh. Switch Skill Swap and new Skills are fun to use. Follower Quests make for a fun side-activity while Anomaly Quests finally provide a decent endgame. Quality of life changes and new features like Hopping Skewers and Buddy Recon are excellent additions to the current formula.
Pacing can be a slow at the start, taking some time for the new monsters to appear. New environments are pretty but don't mix up the overall gameplay loop or add anything game-changing. No new Rampage content or any integration of existing content into the current game. Endgame is still kind of lackluster compared to Iceborne.