MHW Iceborne expansion releases Friday, September 6th (PC: January 2020)

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#1 Edited by AtheistPreacher (121 posts) -

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 monsters

"New" returning monsters from previous games:

Brand new monsters:

New monsters (reskins/variants):

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.

Balance Changes

  • 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.

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#2 Posted by AtheistPreacher (121 posts) -

Welp, they just today confirmed that Rajang will be in the first free title update in October:

Loading Video...

Another fan favorite returns...

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#3 Posted by DrM2theJ (259 posts) -

SO hyped for this.

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#4 Posted by AtheistPreacher (121 posts) -

Apparently the review embargo expired this morning. Critics seem to like Iceborne.

Also, Iceborne is now up for download for PS4 in the form of a patch to the base game that's 34.68 gigs in size, so if you've got a slow connection, you may want to start downloading it now. The expansion officially unlocks at 9pm Pacific / Midnight Eastern tomorrow.

I've gleaned a few interesting things from some of the reviews and recent videos. IGN's review is actually the best I've seen as far as giving details about what you can expect about the transition from High Rank to Master Rank. I'm pasting a bit of this below:

But let’s get into the meat and potatoes of Iceborne: the gear. This expansion picks up after the end of the base game’s main campaign, but I was curious how it would tempt me away from my High Rank armor and weapons, which were full of augments and synergistic skills I’d grown so used to. It turns out the answer is by looking you square in the eye and saying, “That fancy augmented Gamma armor you like so much? Yeah, it’s trash now.” I’m exaggerating here... but not by much.

Here’s a quick comparison for context: a typical piece of World’s best High Rank armor will give you 72 defense, which can then be bumped up to 92 if you augment and upgrade it to the max. Enter Iceborne’s all-new Master Rank missions with an entirely new tier of equipment where Bone and Alloy Armor – the bottom-of-the-barrel basic stuff – has a whopping 114 base defense. Master Rank gear offers a jump in power that truly leaves High Rank in the dust.

And, just so it’s clear, that’s the worst armor in Iceborne. I was able to stubbornly hold onto the High Rank armor I’d worked so hard to get for the first half-dozen quests or so, but when I finally decided to upgrade my total defense jumped more than 300 points in a single trip to the forge.

I'd recommend reading the full review, it's got lots of info that Monster Hunter World vets will want to know.

Also, four-slot decorations are now a thing. Previously we didn't know what these would be, but now it looks like they can be either decorations that have two points in a single skill, or combination decorations that have a single point in two skills. The great decoration hunt begins again.

Finally, IGN's video on the new Clutch Claw is worth checking out, because this looks to be an extremely important tool in the expansion, one that you ignore to your great detriment and peril. FWIW, I actually found myself completely unable to beat Velkhana in the recent beta/demo (I kept timing out, they gave players an artificially low time limit of 15 minutes), until I embraced frequent use of the Clutch Claw. Smart use of it has the potential to increase your overall damage by a whole bunch.

At the end of 2018 I was feeling pretty burned out on this game, to the extent that I wasn't sure how excited I'd be for the inevitable G-Rank expansion. Now that it's only 26.5 hours away from release, and after seeing the large roster of new monsters, all the QoL improvements, and other exciting changes, I am officially excited to start playing this thing.

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#5 Posted by AtheistPreacher (121 posts) -

For those interested, this review over at RPGsite spends a significant amount of time talking about how the new endgame works... it already sounds preferable to fighting the same half-dozen TEDs over and over again.

Also, leaks have confirmed the existence of about another half-dozen unannounced monster variants, bringing the total for new monsters up to about two dozen-ish.

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#6 Posted by MezZa (3058 posts) -

Played the last demo weekend with a friend and enjoyed it a lot. Got us in the mood for release day. Everything being detailed in reviews and leaks sounds great and sounds like its adding a much needed amount of variety to the base games end game. Just from the demo, the new combat mechanics like the claw felt refreshing and gave some new vital options to think about mid battle.

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#8 Posted by AtheistPreacher (121 posts) -

Well, Iceborne has been out for a few weeks now, thought I'd share just a few thoughts.

First, the base game struggled to keep the endgame varied and interesting. Iceborne's answer to this is the introduction of a map called the Guiding Lands, which unlocks right after you beat the "final boss" of master rank.

To explain the Guiding Lands a bit, it's a map that's split into quadrants that resemble four of the existing zones (Ancient Forest, Wildspire Waste, Coral Highlands, and Rotten Vale). Each of the four zones can be leveled separately from 1-6, with higher ranks spawning tougher monsters... and leveling one tends to decrease the level of the others. There are about a half-dozen monsters that are exclusive to Guiding Lands at first, though you can later get them for investigations. Moreover, each of the individual monsters when fought in the Guiding Lands drops a material that is unique to them there, it can't be gotten when fighting them in normal missions. These parts seem to be used exclusively for augments, so far as I can tell.

As far as how I feel about it, well, as an endgame I do like it better than the base game, because the way the High Rank endgame was set up, it encouraged you to fight a very small pool of monsters (tempered elder dragons) over and over again ad nauseam. The nice thing about Guiding Lands is that it encourages variety; if you need to level a particular zone, you're going to end up fighting whatever monsters happen to show up there, including the lower-rank ones--who also drop materials that get used in even some of the higher-rank augmentations. Basically, they're making better use of the monster roster they've got.

It is a little frustrating that they lock certain monsters behind a relatively high "Master Rank," which is a whole other experience meter that they added on top of Hunter Rank. Four important endgame monsters don't show up in Guiding Lands until MR70, and a final one at MR100, which just seems like too much grinding even for a game that's all about the grind. You shouldn't have to fill an experience meter just to access all the content, that stuff should just be gated by missions only.

The new multiplayer scaling for two people is really a godsend. Before you were grossly handicapping yourself with a two-person party, but now that there's a whole different set of scaling for two people, it's just not a problem anymore. That QoL update went a long way.

Also, the Clutch Claw as a mechanic has been huge and mostly positive. It allows you to weaken individual parts of the monster for short periods of time (something like 2 minutes) so that they'll take more damage from all sources, and also run monsters into walls for a knockdown. It's a whole other layer of strategy that really adds to the experience when you get used to it.

But in short, it's been a good time so far. I expect I'll still be playing it for a while, but we'll see how long I last.

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