The Monster Hunter Series are Adventure RPGs (Role Playing Games) from the Japanese company CAPCOM. For this analysis I will write on the latest installment of the series, Monster Hunter Rise Sunbreak, which I will hereby refer to simply as ‘Sunbreak’. The game follows the player, a world-renown hunter of high regard, as he tries to uncover the mysteries behind the strange harrowing phenomenon afflicting monsters across the world.
Lens #7: Elemental Tetrad
- Quest System
- Players go on quests where they usually have a target monster to slay or items to gather and deliver within a time limit.
- Each quest can be seen as a single ‘level’ in the game, where players have to complete before they can embark on another quest.
- Players can choose between 14 different weapon types, with 11 being melee weapons and 3 being projectile weapons.
- The different weapons all have different movesets and combo attacks, and different strategies as well.
- Monsters will move between areas in the map throughout the duration of the quest, and the players will have to travel to the different areas to continue the hunt.
- Monsters have their own movesets and special attacks which players can learn and master dodging or blocking them.
- Rewards System
- After completing quests, players will receive in-game money, known as Zenny, as well as other consumable items or items used to forge new equipment.
- Monster slaying quests will allow the player to ‘carve’ materials off the fallen monster as well as receive monetary and more monster material rewards.
- Players will receive more monster material rewards if they manage to break certain monster parts during the hunt.
- Equipment Forging and Upgrading
- Players can forge new equipment or upgrade existing equipment using the monster materials they have received after completing quests.
- Each monster has their own separate armor and weapon design, as well as different perks which will enhance the player’s abilities.
- As monsters get progressively more challenging to defeat, players are advised to forge new equipment or upgrade existing equipment to level the playing field.
- While the player can choose to finish the whole game on his own, the series offers online multiplayer. Players can go on quests together, up to a party of 4.
- Monster health will scale accordingly to the number of hunters on the quests, to be fair to the single players.
- Players can gift consumables to other players in game, so they can help each other out if they are low on health or stamina.
- Certain consumables and equipment are able to provide buffs for teammates, to enhance the team’s abilities.
The player plays as a legendary monster slayer who has helped many a village (and of course, the whole world) with their monster problems. It is set in a fantasy world where the inhabitants are not as technologically advanced as us, as they are still using technology such as ballista cannons and spearguns instead of modern warfare technology. The series’ main storylines revolve around an unknown large boss monster or phenomenon, that riles up smaller monsters which endanger the village dwellers. The player’s job is to hunt the smaller monsters and slowly uncover information about the final boss monster causing all this havoc, and eventually reach and defeat the final boss. After defeating the final boss, the players complete the story but are able to replay quests and gather more materials for more powerful gear.
Sunbreak and the other Monster Hunter games are set in a technologically less advanced world, which may invoke a sense of calling back to the past. Speaking to the villagers will also uncover that the world lore is rich and well-thought, and they sometimes reference older games as well, which gives loyal players of the franchise a sense of continuity. They also showcase many beautiful locales where the player can hunt monsters in, for example, the Lava Caverns in the above gameplay video. There are also many different monster designs in the game, each with their own special movesets. As mentioned earlier, each monster has their own separate armor and weapon design, as well as different enhancements for the player. Players are able to interact with many different entities in the world, such as gathering consumables from gathering points, activating natural traps or aids to weaken the monster or buff the players. Certain events in the game will trigger the Switch controllers to vibrate as well, giving the player a small sense of immersion into the game.
Sunbreak was made using CAPCOM’s very own RE Engine, or Reach for the Moon Engine. It was created in 2014, originally for the purposes of developing Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, as the team said that a “highly generic engine developed by another company would not be appropriate” for a game like Resident Evil 7. RE Engine includes tools to make animation faster, such as modular rigging, motion matching, procedural animation and motion retargeting, and also allows for more realistic debris. This is helpful in Sunbreak since monster as well as player attacks are quite fast and require lots of detailed animation, and the fast engine will allow for a more seamless player experience.
Lens #20: Pleasure
The game gives the player pleasure in a few areas.
- Defeating large monsters: the player gets to repeatedly defeat large powerful monsters, which gives the player a sense of power and satisfaction that they are able to accomplish such a feat.
- Amassing loot: the player accumulates more and more equipment as well as materials, and it gives the player the pleasure of owning more advanced equipment as the game progresses.
- Helping those in need: by completing quests, players are helping the relevant people requesting assistance with those monsters, and eventually when the player defeats the final boss and stops the phenomenon, they are pleased that they have ‘saved the world’.
Lens #21: Flow
The game has a relatively clear sense of flow, with the overarching story as the main goal, to defeat the final boss. However, as there is sometimes more than one way to progress through the story. There are certain key quests one has to complete before getting an urgent quest which unlocks more tiers of quests, eventually leading to the final boss. Here, players are at the danger of sidetracking to other non-key quests, which will delay them from completing the urgent quests, and so on. However, these other quests may also be seen as a chance for players to amass more specific gear from monsters that are perhaps not available to hunt in the key quests, before they go back to the key quests and urgent quests. Therefore, these ‘distractions’ can be tied into the game goals which is to defeat higher level monsters, and getting better equipment will surely make it easier for the player.
Lens #23: Motivation
The game motivates players to progress through the tiers of quests by making each monster somewhat harder than the last, giving the players more challenge when they fight these monsters. Players are also motivated to get better gear when they realize that their current loadout is not effective enough against the monsters which they are fighting, and it may be referred to as a ‘pain avoiding’ motivation. Moreover, as the storyline slowly uncovers more and more of itself as the player progresses, the players are motivated to discover the mystery behind the phenomenon and go through the quests faster. However, the motivation to get better gear may be in conflict with the motivation to progress through the story, as players would have to focus on a single monster repeatedly before they can forge armor and weapons using the monster materials.
Lens #28: The State Machine
For this lens, I will be discussing it in terms of during each hunt. During the quests, monsters have different ‘states’ throughout the hunt. Firstly, they are in a dormant state, moving around the map peacefully before noticing the hunter. Once the fight starts, after taking a certain amount of damage, the monster will become enraged, which is the first obvious state change during the fight. The monster hits harder, moves faster, and has a few more special moves. The monster’s appearance also changes over time, if the player deals enough damage to certain body parts. These body parts will appear broken or mutilated, and for most monsters, their tails are able to be cut off by the player, introducing even more ‘states’ of the monsters. Some monsters primarily use their tails for attacks or other body parts such as legs or arms for balance, so it is very interesting to see them lose their balance as those body parts are broken. Eventually, when the monster is weakened, its state will change again to a limping state, where they will try and escape to another area of the map to recuperate their health.
Lens #44: Cooperation
Since multiplayer is available for Sunbreak, there are elements of cooperation in the game, and players are able to enjoy the game more with other friends. Players can devise strategies before going on hunts, to improve the process and make the hunt more dynamic as well. However, one major drawback is that the Monster Hunter games do not have live chat, so players are constrained to emotes and (editable) instant chat messages to relay information to each other. Another drawback of multiplayer is that there are more ways that the hunt may go wrong, as there is now more space for human error, up to 4x, since parties have a maximum size of 4.
In conclusion, Sunbreak is an overall great game, in terms of its interesting mechanics, lovely aesthetics and rich lore. Although the base mechanics may be somewhat repetitive, the progression of more challenging monsters with different movesets and new locales to explore continuously give the players fresh experiences. As a loyal fan of the franchise who has played practically every installment of the series, I may be biased when I say this, but I highly recommend this game!