I remember playing Monster Hunter Portable 3rd (yes, 3rd) with three friends during my college years, which was around 2010 or so. We would all gather at either friend A or friend B’s house and have a monster hunting session. The long nights of constant monster slaying, getting carted back to camp, gathering of resources, dipping in the hot springs, crafting all kinds of armor and weaponry, more monster slaying and all four of us getting carted back to camp again. Nostalgic.
Now Monster Hunter Portable 3rd was released for the PlayStation Portable on the 1st December 2010 and on the 25th August 2011 for the PlayStation 3. The game was mainly available only in Japanese, although there have been unofficial translations done by fans of the game. This would be the last Monster Hunter game I would play.
Or so I thought.
To keep things short, Monster Hunter traces its roots back to the PlayStation 2 era in 2004. It is basically a fantasy-themed action role-playing video game where the player takes on a role of a ‘Hunter’. Players would take on quests to slay or trap monsters across a variety of environments. The general gameplay element is players would use loot gained from slaying or trapping monsters, gather resources and other items (like potions, gadgets, etc). This would be used to face even more powerful monsters. While playing solo is possible, multiplayer is where it really shines (up to 4-player coop).
Monster Hunter: World was released globally for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on the 26th January 2018 and later for the PC on the 9th August 2018. This would be the first time a Monster Hunter game from the main series would release on PC (excluding Monster Hunter Frontier Online, which is a MMORPG spin-off).
A major expansion called Monster Hunter World: Iceborne was released globally on the 9th September 2019 for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One with a later release for the PC expected early next year, in January 2020.
So what brought me back to Monster Hunter you ask? Well….
This bad boy right here, Zinogre.
The Zinogre is the flagship monster of Monster Hunter Portable 3rd and my favourite monster of the Monster Hunter series. It makes its return in the Iceborne expansion. Have I fought it? Yes. Did I love it? Absolutely!
If you have played previous Monster Hunter games, you would know that the story is ‘meh’ at best. In my opinion at least, the same could be said for Monster Hunter World: Iceborne. Monster Hunter games are not really story driven and more towards the exploration and the monster slaying business. Without being to spoiler-ish, you basically fight Monster A, to eventually find out about Monster B, which then leads to Monster C. And you slay them all. That is all there is to it.
However for players wanting to get on straightaway into Iceborne, you would need to clear the story of the base game first before being able to access the expansion.
Gameplay and Content
The Hoarfrost Reach is the new region in the Iceborne expansion. Covered in snow, inhospitable terrain and cold climate, it would prove challenging even for the best of Hunters. The local residents would not make things easier as well. With the introduction of new monsters like the Velkhana, Banbaro, Beotodus and returning monster Barioth, Hunters would need to be on their toes to survive the new region.
But as hostile as it looks, the snow-covered region teems with unique endemic life, home to the ever so cute Pearlspring Macaque who love to dip in the hot springs.
Iceborne brings the Master Rank (referred as G-rank in previous games), which is the highest tier of difficulty. The base game only has Low Rank and High Rank which are somewhat challenging but nothing in comparison to Master Rank. In Master Rank, monster would have higher HP, are larger in size, more aggressive, hit harder and gain a variety of new attacks from the existing move set. One misstep and you would be one shot back to camp.
With harder hitting monsters comes better armor and weapons. While end game High Rank equipment are amazing, it is nothing compared to the Master Rank ones. Having higher damage, defensive stats and better skills, even early game Master Rank equipment outshine most endgame High Rank equipment. Not to mention the design of the Master Rank armor sets which are specifically made to resemble the monster it originated from.
Iceborne still stays true to the Monster Hunter World formula. In fact, it adds something quite interesting with the introduction of the Clutch Claw. In its basic form, you could fire the Clutch Claw onto monsters, latching onto them and perform attacks that would soften the hide. Attacks on these spots would deal tonnes of damage. The true power of the Clutch Claw comes when you latch onto a monster and unleash the full arsenal of your Slinger Ammo to send the poor monster on a head-on collision into a wall. End result? Everyone is having a party on said monster. Use it whenever you can, otherwise others will.
All weapon types get new skills for monster slaying. Personally I have only tried the Dual Blades (favourite of mine), Long Sword and the Light Bow Gun. Dual Blades get a new evasion move called Slinger Burst which involves shooting Slinger Ammo to evade while in the middle of a combo. As if the nimble Dual Blade user needed another evasion move. In this case, more is better! For the Long Sword, you get to fire Slinger Ammo between attacks and the best is the addition of the Iai Slash (a two hit attack which fills the Spirit Gauge if the hit connects, that is performed after sheathing your sword and pressing the Medium Attack button) and Iai Spirit Slash (another move performed after sheathing your sword where timed correctly, perform an anime-like counter slash). I will refrain going into each and every weapon as it is a long list, so try it yourself and explore the possibilities.
Post-End Game Content (Minor spoilers)
This is it, after spending over 100 hours of gameplay, the ending credits. you have done it. Surely you have slain all the monsters and seen everything, right?
Once the ending credits is over, a new region of the world map is unlocked called the Guiding Lands. The Guiding Lands is basically a combination of the regions from the base game, Ancient Forest, Coral Highlands, Wildspire Waste, and Rotten Vale. By slaying the various monsters as well as collecting ore and bones, the level of each area can be increased which in turn will unlock hidden monsters and better resource collection. Also, there are materials which are exclusively found in this region only and are not obtainable elsewhere. This should provide the post-game enthusiasts out there their fill of extra content.
Capcom are also planning multiple events in the coming months which includes an additional monster called the Rajang and a collaborative event with Horizon Zero Dawn. Yes, THAT Horizon Zero Dawn.
Other collaborative events include The Witcher, Street Fighter, Devil May Cry and Final Fantasy.
While in general Monster Hunter World is toned-down compared to past entries with quality of life changes, Iceborne is targeted for the hardcore fans of the series. Newer players of the series would find the sudden difficulty spike challenging with one shots coming out of nowhere from almost every large monster. Being cornered by an Acidic Glavenus, Fulgur Anjanath and Savage Devilho all together is not fun at all. However, it is manageable with practice, upgrading gear and sufficient research on monster movesets and weak points.
With the inclusion of the expansion, Monster Hunter World turns out to be one of the best if not the best Monster Hunter game to date. I highly recommend it for people who likes exploration and fighting big ass monsters. Just don’t tell PETA.