Knowing this was coming, I had pretty much stopped playing the game towards the end of 2018 after about 600 hours. Now I'm ready to dive back in and see how much the new content grabs me!
They released a new trailer today, and a bunch of info in a Developer Diary on August 20th. I'll try to summarize the high points below. For those interested, the Dev Diary goes into some truly excruciating detail on various mechanics changes and balance tweaks.
Note that a final Iceborne Beta featuring a Velkhana fight will be available this coming weekend only, August 30th through September 1st.
New difficulty setting: Master Rank
In previous Monster Hunter games this was referred to as "G Rank," but they've changed the name this time to "Master Rank," which is above High Rank and Low Rank. Master Rank features harder monsters that drop new materials for crafting new Master Rank weapons and armor.
"New" returning monsters from previous games:
Brand new monsters:
New monsters (reskins/variants):
- Shrieking Legiana
- Fulgur Anjanath
- Ebony Odogaron
- Viper Tobi-Kadachi
- Coral Pukei Pukei
- Nightshade Paolumu
- Acidic Glavenus
Not a bad list. It is possible that they are leaving a few monsters that are already in the game unannounced, but we'll just have to see. I expect that they'll announce some upcoming content updates at TGS 2019, which takes place a week after the expansion launches (specifically, from 9/11 to 9/15).
Some of these new monsters may only appear in Master Rank, while others will likely be given Low Rank and High Rank versions.
New locale: Hoarfrost Reach
There's a brand new icy zone called "Hoarfrost Reach," in some places featuring deep snow that will slow you down the same way that deep water will. The new zone is accompanied by a new base of operations and a new hotsprings-themed gathering hub. Also, it appears from various reveal videos that some of the existing locales may have new sections to them (personally, I don't recognize the forest area in the Zinogre reveal, for instance).
Mechanics changes and QoL improvements
- Facilities like the Resource Center (bounties, investigations) and Botanical Research Center have been added to the Gathering Hub, so you no longer need to leave it and travel to the base of operations to access that stuff.
- Squads are less of a pain to manage. Invites can be accepted when not in the same session, and sub-leaders can be appointed.
- Changes to multiplayer scaling. There are now different monster health pools for 1 hunter, 2 hunters, and 3 or 4 hunters. Moreover, if people drop out of a fight, the monster's health will now scale back down.
- Even more customization options for your room.
- The Slinger can now be used with your weapon drawn, and has a new feature called the Clutch Claw that allows you to grapple onto monsters. There are also new combos for each weapon associated with the Clutch Claw.
- The sharpness gauge now shows how much sharpness is extended by handicraft skills.
- More space for your item box, more item sets, more equipment sets.
- Layered armor can now be saved for each individual equipment set.
- New color blind settings, ability to always show health and stamina bars, ability to change default after-quest destination.
- In general, elemental damage and associated caps are being increased across the board, while certain skills that buffed raw/non-elemental damage (like non-elemental boost) have been nerfed, the goal being to get people to craft and use more elemental weapons, as opposed to building just one generalist weapon per category.
- There are a lot of individual weapon tweaks. For a detailed list of changes, see the above Developer Diary #2, starting at around the 17-minute mark. The only weapons that seemingly haven't been touched at all balance-wise are Lance and Sword & Shield (note that Gunlance changes coming in a day 1 patch are discussed at ~53:15). IMHO possibly the biggest change is that the Bow is seeing a big nerf across the board.
- The maximum duration of the Temporal Mantle has actually been increased, but each time it is used, the duration is reduced, meaning that it will expire more quickly than before if it's constantly activating.
- All monsters will now build up resistance to flashes, but the resistance will decay over time.
- Various skills have received buffs or nerfs, which looks like it may shift the meta for skills around quite a bit. A full list can be seen on the Dev Diary #2 from ~26 minutes to ~35 minutes. A few of the more important ones:
- Weakness Exploit has gotten a nerf from 50% to 30%. However, you'll still get 50% extra affinity when attacking monster parts damaged by the new Clutch Claw.
- To compensate somewhat for the Weakness Exploit nerf, Critical Eye has been buffed from 30% to 40% at max.
- As previously mentioned, Non-Elemental Boost has been nerfed.
- Maximum Might will only activate after stamina has been full for several seconds.
...and I think that's about it. Should be a good time! I look forward to seeing how long Master Rank keeps me occupied before I ultimately get bored.
One thing they haven't really discussed much is the end-game grind, other than to say that they've increased the number of investigations you can hold, and that they aimed to make the endgame harder in general. But I do wonder if Master Rank TEDs (tempered elder dragons) will once again be the focus, or if there will be more of a variety to the quests that are worthwhile for endgame players to repeat. One can hope. I got really tired of grinding TEDs exclusively after a while in the base game.
@unastrike, because he may be interested in this summary.
EDIT: I just realized I had forgotten all about Yian Garuga. Shame on me! I've added him to the list of returning monsters.