If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that Monster Hunter: World is one of my favorite games of all time. Be it the graphics, sound, gameplay, or a combination of all that good stuff, there are very few games that have caught, and held, my attention the way Monster Hunter has. Iceborne carries much of the same spirit as the base game, but now it’s kicked up a notch with cool new monsters and a ramped up difficulty.
On that note, this game is no joke. By the second monster hunt it became very apparent that I was way out of my depth. I had barely scraped by in High Rank, and Master Rank exacerbates that difficulty. I would be lying if I didn’t say I shed a tear after chugging my last Mega Potion only to be crushed by a tree that Banbaro uprooted and rolled over my crippled body. And he’s an easy one in comparison. If you’re used to the difficulty level of base MHW, it’s time to pull up your britches because you’re in for a fight. That’s not to say Iceborne isn’t a blast. There is a huge catharsis after finally beating a monster you’ve been stuck on for too long, and if you stick to it you will win eventually. If you’re not very good at the game, there is still a chance to get through the story as the SOS flare feature is functional. When in doubt though, have a friend tag along. The game really shines when you team up with some of your closest mates to best the largest of beasts.
This is still the same game we’ve been sinking hundreds of hours into, albeit with a ton of new features added. The Hoarfrost reach is a brand new locale developed specifically for this expansion, and it is a winter wonderland. Seliana acts as the new hub accompanying the island that has just been discovered. The devs have added the Surveyor Set which, when boiled down, is a free roam camera mode for the budding photographers deep within us all. And if you wanted to ride a Jagras, you can ride a Jagras; something that nobody asked for, but is welcomed with open arms. As mentioned above, there is a whole new ranking of monsters served to us as “Master Rank” that proves how hard (and rewarding) monster hunting can truly be. Along with this new rank comes a whole new plateau to upgrade weapons and armor, increasing the statistical ceiling. Last, but definitely not least, there is now a “Clutch Claw” new function for your slinger that allows you to climb up on monsters and rain down a flurry of attacks. All of these new features increase the longevity of Monster Hunter: World and culminates in a ton of fun to be had. For the full Monster Hunter: World review, click the link HERE.
I never knew that a repetitive game could also have a ton of depth. It almost seems contradictory that so many layers can coexist with what would otherwise be mundane. Yet Monster Hunter: World strikes a balance between meaningful gameplay and looping advancement that never feels boring. There is no wonder that many gamers hold this game in high regard, it is simply a masterpiece.
I have invested over 120 hours into this game and have still only scratched the surface. MHW follows the story of a hunter accompanied by a cat and handler, as they track down the most powerful of monsters to gain intel on how and why they behave the way they do. The main quest line will take about 70 hours to complete if you do not get distracted by the plethora of side quests and captivating gameplay that ultimately makes you want to grind out the same monsters/locations until everything has been perfected. The most notable monsters are the Elder Dragons, the reason why the fifth fleet is even in the New World at all. The Research Commission orders your fleet (the fifth) to follow an Elder Dragon across the ocean in a ritual that happens about every decade or so, called the Elder Crossing. You are tasked with finding out why this phenomenon occurs and to better understand the monsters that inhabit the New World. You do this by tracking and slaying, or capturing a variety of creatures, big and small. The story plays out nicely, but almost seems like an afterthought as it takes a back seat to the enchanting gameplay.
There’s something so fundamentally fun about wielding weapons bigger than one can imaginably carry and slaying monsters that make those weapons look like butter knives. There’s immediate satisfaction with every broken part, mount, or trap targeted at a larger-than-life Kaiju. It all boils down to a pleasurable and addictive experience that literally has no end. It is not unheard of for some gamers to put over 1000 hours into this game, and that is because of the core gameplay mechanics. The game relies on a loop that has the player dropping into a world, hunting a creature to carve parts, returning to the forge to create weapons and armor from those parts, and rinsing and repeating. With every monster you slay you come one step closer to that elusive gear that can help you slay a different, more powerful monster. It all culminates in an unforgettable joy and satisfaction that I have never experienced in a game before. Grinding with immediate, noticeable rewards is almost unheard of in the video game industry. It just works so well and is one reason I can make the bold statement that MHW is perhaps my favorite game of all time. That’s right Ms. Pac Man, sit down.
When I say this game has depth, I’m really talking about the player statistics, skills, weapon classes, and weapon and armor variety. There seems to be no end to the variables that go into the strength of your character. Leveling is not as simple as most RPGs where you are given a level that determines your stats. Instead, all your strengths and weaknesses come from the equipment you choose to carry, making skill variety much more robust. You can adjust your skillset and statistics to combat specific monsters or fight at a disadvantage in the coolest armor like a fashionista. The choice is yours. And choice is what this game amounts to. You choose the quests among an extensive list of quest-types: assigned, optional, investigations, events, and SOS flares. There is a great deal of possibilities in this game, and it is up to the gamer to realize his path. You can choose to play solo, with up to 3 other friends, or with up to 3 other strangers; but this game is best experienced with friends. The one downfall to this feature is that you can only join friends’ quests that you have already watched the cutscene for, and only if your friend has also viewed the cinematic, resulting in a system where players must join quests in progress. This is but a minor gripe I experienced with the game, and for the most part is easily looked past. And what you look at past this is ravishing.
This game is a diamond among coals from a visual standpoint. Monsters and ecosystems are lively, almost looking better than real life. My jaw dropped when I first visited the Ancient Forest, and it stayed there as I unlocked more and more ecosystems to explore. The attention to detail is what truly enriches the experience. Every jagged cut in a coral wall, waterfall in a shallow river, and moss-covered tree have some of the most detailed surfaces I’ve seen from contemporary games. The monsters themselves look vividly real with each rigid, rough dip in their skin, cracking away as they are pummeled into oblivion. The one downfall I notice in graphics is how poorly weapons and armor interact with each other, with swords protruding through capes and fur. This is rather disappointing but is only seen in contrast to the beauty of the rest of the game. Truly, it is nitpicking at its finest.
The music includes some epic, awe-inspiring rhythms that fit perfectly with the heated monster battles you are sure to have. Opposing these beats are lighter, more campy tunes that reflect light-hearted tasks such as the chef preparing an unruly amount of food for you before a hunt. These songs are never misplaced, and the soundtrack has a nice balance of serious songs and playful songs alike. The battle music serves to pump you up during a fight, while the campy tunes allow you to relax and decompress when those fights are over.
This game had me consistently coming back for more, and much can be said about the addictive quality of it all. In terms of replay value, I don’t see why anyone would want to restart the story, as the further you are in the game the more depth there is. Again, the story seems to be put on the backburner and there is not enough incentive to trudge through it again. This is not necessarily a bad thing though, because the game is limitless, with enough content to sustain any gamer for over 100 hours. While it does not cater to people that want to repeat the story, I was hard pressed to find boredom with the one save file I did make. It is for this reason I will score that aspect of the game relatively high. Not because there’s value in replaying it, but because there’s a ton of value in continuing to play it.
Ultimately, Monster Hunter: World does a lot right, and should Capcom release another in the future, I will be very much inclined to throw my money at it. As hard as I try to remain critical of this game, I had so much fun with it that I’m finding it difficult to highlight its downfalls. This game is for anyone that likes never-ending RPGs with a lot of depth and not much explanation. MHW forces you to figure things out on your own, and that is brilliant; there is no hand holding. If you haven’t played it yet, what are you waiting for?