The Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak Digital Event in May provided a good preview of what to anticipate from the next paid expansion. Sunbreak’s new locations, debut monsters, and gameplay adjustments were all highlighted in the 16-minute presentation. We also saw new varieties of well-known monsters that fans would be able to confront in the new experience. While this provided us with something to think about, we couldn’t wait to experience all of the new developments for ourselves. We recently met with Sunbreak’s development team and received a hands-on preview of the expansion, which included two separate quests, a look at unique places, characters, and, of course, monsters.
Our journey in Sunbreak begins at Elgado Outpost, a European-inspired site described by Director Yoshitake Suzuki as a “former fortress that is now being used as an outpost by the hunters and groups that you’ll meet in the game.” As an early build of a work in progress, the preview’s aesthetics may not have been as polished as the final product. The town’s numerous Western influences, on the other hand, swirl together to give it a dynamic identity. The new outpost, however, does not deviate altogether from Rising’s architecture, as residents of Kamura Village make their imprint on the settlement.
One of the first things we’re told to do is visit Elgado’s booming in Sunbreak, a conspicuously situated pop-up restaurant. The Dango selling store is a new franchise opportunity given to the outpost by the purveyors of the Kamura Tea Shop. It provides hungry hunters with all the stat-boosting treats they could want before going out monster-slaying. Monster Hunter’s culinary sequences have always made us smile. Though Elgado’s setting isn’t dissimilar to its Kamuran cousin, the antics, like the excellent Dango, prepared us for the challenging task ahead.
Sunbreak’s cover monster is Malzeno, an Elder Dragon whose design is greatly influenced by Vampire mythology. While we didn’t get to face this life-draining monstrosity, our first monstrous opponent nonetheless sent shivers down our spines. Unfortunately, we leave the task out of sequence, which separates us from our comrades in this multiplayer search. We have to hoof it across the Citadel map with the support of our well-armored Palamute companion, but this offers us some time to explore the hilly environment and new gameplay features.
First and foremost, wall running is more enjoyable in Sunbreak than ever before without the need to burn a Wirebug that could have been saved for combat. The numerous environments we see during our time with the expansion emphasize verticality, allowing players to enjoy freer traversal and providing them with interesting ways to approach a hunt.
As we make our way back to the rest of our group, we come across a cave – the entrance glitters with frost, revealing the identity of the beast inside. “The other creatures in Sunbreak have a variety of themes and motifs that draw heavily on Western mythology and monster iconography,” Suzuki continues. “So, with Lunagaron, you’re seeing a sort of Werewolf/Wolfman pattern.”
In the demo, its frost-tipped body easily blocks many of our party’s greatest strikes, and its keen lupine claws may end a hunter’s mission in a single direct hit. Even though it is not a simple effort, the party defeats the beast, thanks in part to the ability to Switch Skill Swap mid-encounter. This allowed each member to access two distinct sets of Wirebug attacks without having to return to camp. We choose to create two completely separate skill sets, giving ourselves access to every trick in the book. Swapping is simple, especially since we can switch between skill loadouts while fleeing, which is ideal for fast-paced gameplay.
We have little time to celebrate our team’s success because we are told to begin a single-player Follower Quest. As our ultimate goal is to take on Seregios, the flagship monster of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, this quest combines a little bit of the old with Sunbreak’s new features. The soaring wyvern appears on the Sandy Plains, a sharp contrast to the frost-bitten cavern of our first quest. Seregios’ razor-like talons haven’t softened with time, and the monster’s diving strike, often conducted back-to-back, can annihilate the unwary. Both diving for cover and launching a Wirebug out of the way help to avoid the devastating divebomb. The creature’s lacerating, projectile-like scales, on the other hand, are more difficult to evade. We obtain the bleeding effect from one of the catastrophic attacks, which drains our life every time we move to avoid lethal hits or attempt to harm the beast.
Fortunately, we weren’t up against Seregios alone. Master Arlow turns out to be our hunter’s Follower. The hunting tactics instructor, who specializes in the Gunlance, puts his knowledge to good use on our hunt for the flying opponent. Though we wish he was a little faster at giving much-needed healing, he does set traps for the beast and inflicts a lot of useful damage. This was especially true when he rode in on another beast and attacked the Seregios with his freshly tamed mount. Master Arlow angrily gets aboard a creature we’re about to ride in a particularly zealous show of beast-riding. Even if our Follower steals it from us, having a powerful monster to carry into battle is quite beneficial. However, this does not guarantee victory over the fearsome monster. It was difficult enough to keep from fainting throughout the difficult hunt, so we were relieved to learn that if Arlow fell victim to Seregios’ talons, we wouldn’t fail the job.