Monster Hunter Rise only just released, but it is positioned to be one of the most popular Switch titles ever. With it, Monster Hunter returns to a portable platform, which some feared would undo many of the improvements made by Monster Hunter World. Instead, Rise seems to have streamlined even further than World ever did, prioritizing fast-paced action and mobility over all else. For many players, though, any new Monster Hunter title means just one thing: hours and hours of content to play together with a group of friends.
In Co-Op Watch, a weekly series investigating new hits, hidden gems, and classic titles, the goal is to find the very best games to bring two or more people together in jolly cooperation. Games will be considered based on how easy it is to play with friends or strangers online, how well gameplay is built around cooperation, and what makes each game's cooperative play stand out. Monster Hunter has always been a series with co-op baked into the formula, and Rise is no different, but it has plenty of new features to consider and a few downsides to be wary of.
Right off the top, Monster Hunter Rise lets players choose how to play. After an intro that familiarizes players with their home base, a long list of available quests open up and players can immediately start searching for an online Monster Hunter Rise session. The game doesn't force a lengthy tutorial mission before letting the player hop online; it just drops them off and lets them choose what to do next. There are some story missions that disallow multiplayer, but there is nothing wrong with putting them off for a while to focus on playing with a friend or three.
Accessing multiplayer is remarkably easy. In fact, the game tends to push towards playing online, and allows anyone to create their own lobby with a single menu option at the Courier, located right in the middle of the hub town. There is also an option for local play, which works great given the Switch's portable nature. Players can matchmake into any open lobby, or search specifically for a lobby that a friend is currently in. Players can also send out join requests mid-quest, and other hunters with a higher rank will receive rewards for helping out. Lobbies are limited to four people though, so larger groups may have to split up or find another game.
Once in a lobby, players will have the run of the home-base village together, able to show off pets, armor, and weapons, or just explore the quant ninja village with one another. It's clear Capcom put thought into player interaction, since there are entire sub-menus for group poses and taking photos with other people online. There's nothing more fun than spending twenty minutes finding a scenic spot, lining up the perfect fist-bump pose with a friend, then snapping a photo to add to both Hunter Cards or hang in the characters' houses.
One improvement from Monster Hunter games of yore is the fluid difficulty scaling for multiplayer. In past games, there were only two difficulties: one for single-player and one for multiplayer. This made playing with two people objectively more difficult than playing alone, and only with three or four players did the difficulty balance out again. Now when each player joins in, the monster's difficulty goes up a single tick, and if someone leaves, it goes back down again. There's no longer any reason to wait for a full group to start hunting, since playing with two hunters is no more difficult than any other number.
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