Monster Hunter World markedly changed the demanding action RPG franchise for the better. More than a year has passed since World launched, and I still think about it regularly. After playing Monster Hunter World: Iceborne at E3 2019, I’m sure I will be thinking about it daily until the expansion arrives September 6 on PS4 and Xbox One. With the help of a couple smart new mechanics and an alluring snow-covered region, Iceborne is every bit as enthralling and magical as the base game.
Though technically an expansion, Iceborne will boast the largest region yet, complete with a new headquarters named Seliana. Taking place directly after the events of the base game’s storyline, Iceborne has a new story and a drastically different region to hunt monsters in. Dubbed Hoarfrost Reach, the maps are covered with snow and ice. As such, wildlife isn’t as prevalent but I still noticed some native plants and docile animals.
The frigid weather adds a new layer to the already intense experience. Your stamina depletes continuously, but you can keep it replenished by sipping a Hot Drink. The snow can also slow you down, which causes running to siphon more stamina from your meter.
Neither of these new quirks feel overbearing and they are in step with Monster Hunter World’s meticulous but charming approach to everything. To speed things up and conserve stamina, you can ride smaller monsters to your chosen destination on the map. It’s a really cool new feature that can help you get places when a convenient fast travel camp isn’t available.
I played Iceborne cooperatively with three other players, so Palicos — the cat-like companions — weren’t present. However, my character’s Palico had a snowboard and super cool winter jacket on in the menu. So yes, Palico attire is as cute as ever in Iceborne.
Our first quest asked us to scour the icy terrain for a Banbaro, a brand new Brute Wyvern in Iceborne. Banbaro’s defining feature is his massive antlers that he frequently used while charging. Banbaro’s move set wasn’t particuraly complex as an early game monster, but his antler attacks made for some surprising, dynamic moments. Banbaro’s antlers let him plow through large objects similar monsters get stopped by. When he plowed into a boulder, he pushed it forward with him, chasing me down like I was Indiana Jones.
The new monsters don’t get to have all the fun; hunters also have new tactics to employ. Weapons have new combos and movesets to master. Using the Dual Blades, I pulled off a move in Demon mode that featured a quick series of slashes followed by a quick lunge forward, punctuated by a Slinger shot. Executing that new combo felt great. Monster Hunter often has that effect, since it consistently makes you work for even the small victories.
Beyond the added movesets and combos, two of the new mechanics substantially alter the methodical rhythm of combat in positive ways. Regardless of your loadout, you can now use the Slinger without sheathing your weapon. A modifier called Slinger Burst lets you fire a hard shot with particular weapons such as the Dual Blades, my personal favorite. The main reason for the Slinger changes seems to be the Clutch Claw, a grappling hook that lets you mount monsters by aiming at body parts.
Clutch Claw can radically change how you approach fights, especially if you play with a weapon that isn’t ideal for mounting monsters. A successful Clutch Claw mount allows you to hack away with both Clutch Claw specific and regular attacks. There’s a nice risk-reward dynamic with Clutch Claw. If all goes well, you can get a handful or more hearty hits in. But if you don’t time it up right, you can leave yourself exposed to a monster’s attacks. I found this out the hard way when abusing Clutch Claw against Tigrex, a ridiculously nimble wyvern. If a monster is enraged, using Clutch Claw will result in you getting tossed to the ground immediately upon mounting.
Clutch Claw isn’t the only new mechanic that changes the flow of combat. Flinch Shot lets you (violently) steer monsters into walls, traps, or even into thin ice that can break, sending the big baddie into a pit below for a massive damage hit.
Capcom has only revealed a handful of Iceborne monsters, which includes a mix of old (Tigrex) and new (Banbaro). Each of my hunts personified what makes Monster Hunter such a special franchise: Making you actually feel like you’re squaring off against larger-than-life monsters. I’m anxious to make my way through the frozen lands of Hoarfrost Reach in search of Velkhana, the new Elder Dragon and main antagonist in the expansion’s campaign.
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne may be an expansion, but it doesn’t seem like your average DLC. PS4 and Xbox One players can enter Hoarfrost Reach on September 6, with the PC version arriving this winter. Players can also try out Iceborne during the two beta weekends taking place on the PS4 in June.
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