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Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak isn’t loaded with content, and I love it for that

Returning to a game like Monster Hunter Rise is not at all like riding a bicycle. It’s a lot harder than you remember and muscle memory is not enough to save you from getting yourself knocked out.

However, I am a glutton for punishment and decided to get back into monster slaying with the newly released expansion Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak. It follows in the footsteps of live service expansions before it, including the excellent Monster Hunter World: Iceborne. The new DLC brings more monsters and story content to the Switch and PC game, but it lacks some of the essential hooks that this genre usually demands.

And surprisingly, it’s better off without them.

What’s new

After completing the main story in the base game, players are invited to Elgato, a European-inspired fort filled with knight-like chevaliers. The people of Elgato are struggling with monsters with strange afflictions that are causing the entire biome to go out of whack. Players are tasked with helping out Elgato and its chevaliers with solving the mystery of the land – and of course are compensated with various monster parts that can be turned into a hat or two.

Players look over a harbor in Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak.

Besides the narrative, the actual minute-to-minute gameplay of Sunbreak is an absolute treat. The expansion brings more monsters to fight, new armor skills to think about when creating a build, and an enjoyable hub to traverse. The story mode of Sunbreak ends with what might be the best final boss in a Monster Hunter game. It’s so good that it painfully reminded me of how bad the base game’s final boss fight is. Veterans of the series are certainly blessed with the content in this expansion.

But it’s a daunting expansion too. Sunbreak brings back a feature that was seemingly absent from the base game of Rise: difficulty. Sunbreak increases the health of every monster, raises the attack damage, and also adds one or two new attack animations. This concoction brings some much-needed challenge to the game. You will find yourself scratching your head wondering why on earth is it taking so many attempts just to hunt an Aknosom.

It’s not a huge list of features, but it’s everything the expansion really needs to be. And that’s a relief in the age of bloated live service games.

Expanding the monsterverse

Expansions for live service games like Monster Hunter Rise tend to shake up the usual format and give players something new to sink their teeth into. Developers want players to not only return to these games, but to stay with them for as long as possible. Sunbreak seems to be more concerned with the former than the latter. It doesn’t have any carrots on sticks that we see in expansions like Destiny 2: The Witch Queen. There’s enough new content in Sunbreak that will make players want to come back, but there isn’t any real obsessive reason to do so. No daily login bonuses. No battle passes.

The Monster Hunter series doesn’t exactly have the most substantial endgame content, and Sunbreak is no different. There’s stuff to do after completing the story, but you’ll mostly hunt the same monster hunts with slight variations. There are no raids, dungeons, ladders, or leaderboards to speak of. You are playing Sunbreak for one reason and one reason only: because you want to hunt monsters.

Hunter fighting against two new monsters

That’s one of the strengths of Sunbreak. This expansion focuses on exactly what the series is known for and does not stray away from it. It’s not concerned with forcing players to log in every single day in order to stay up to date. Many live service games entice players with content that can feel manipulative, hollow, and designed to keep players hooked.

Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak does not offer players countless hours and an endless commitment. The only thing it wants to give you is just another moment in Monster Hunter Rise. That can last a week or a month depending on the pace that the player sets. It isn’t terrified that the players will lose interest if they are not bombarded with new things to do or systems to learn. Sunbreak knows how strong the basic loop of Monster Hunter Rise is and does not try to challenge it.

Picking up Monster Hunter Rise again after months of not touching it has been incredibly refreshing. Sunbreak reminded me that Monster Hunter is one of my favorite game series out right now, and by adding a little more difficulty, it made me hungry for more. More importantly, it revealed that the rest of the live service games that I currently play do not really spark joy for me anymore. I am playing them purely out of obligation. That’s not the case with Sunbreak. I don’t need a lengthy road map of half-baked promises; I just need one enjoyable moment. Sometimes that’s enough, and in the case of Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak, it is.

Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak is available now on PC and Nintendo Switch.

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