I’m further along into Iceborne, with a lot of sidetracking along the way
- I’m only missing 2 canteen ingredients now. Having more food choice is a major benefit
- I’m still with Charge Blades, but I’ve moved from Blast to Poison. That required a half dozen other hunts to get the pieces for a Rank 10 weapon.
- I’ve upgraded a bunch of mantles and boosters. This increases the effectiveness of items (like being able to take 50% more damage, or heal duration).
- Velkhana is down. I should have invested in more Ice resistance to simplify this fight, but hey, it’s down.
Going through this, I’ve come to a realization that this expansion requires a different level of thinking than the base game (or Dauntless for that matter). It instead requires you to plan ahead of time, research the enemy, learn their tactics, then exploit them. Sure, that sounds simple but it’s not in practice. Some examples.
One of the first enemies you find in the base game is Great Jagras. You can pretty much button mash and take him down. Anjanath is a few bits later, and he shoots a ton of fire. You need to learn to dodge roll. Diablos comes along, and now you need to learn to guard and counter. Nergigante shows up a bit later, and now you need to learn to evade dive (or you will be 1-shot). Teostra/Lunastra teach you the benefits of resistance. Along the way you learn that food buffs are super important, you need to use palico gear for damage/support, and that decorations can make a huge difference in end-game gear.
End-game is the base game was about perfecting skill builds, with both gear an decorations. Hunting the perfect decorations was a very long process. Some are so rare, I never found them in 100 hours of play.
Iceborne assumes you’ve mastered all of that before hand. It doesn’t hold back, and throws a massive amount of preventable damage your way – but only preventable if you’ve been paying attention. It assumes you know how to use the radial wheel, that you understand that resistances are a big deal, that instant use items (max potions, herbal medicine) are essential, that you always need slinger ammo, that you need to keep a farcaster at all times, and a dozen other bits.
When I started Iceborne, I had forgotten a fair chunk of that. My first fight against Banbaro (the big moose) was a trainwreck. I remember barely winning that fight, and then taking some time to re-assess what was going on. MHW doesn’t ever provide any feedback as to what’s working or not – it just leaves you to it. The player needs to discover what works, what doesn’t, and how it all intermingles. I found I could just shoot a rock at the Banbaro when it has something to charge with, and it would just drop it. That the head took way more damage than the legs. That I could Clutch mount it after specific moves, but not after others. The best times where I could pop a potion to heal, or lay down a healing booster. All these bits together allowed me to take down a tempered version with barely a scratch.
There’s just a sheer breadth of things to take into consideration in this game.
In Dauntless, you consider the weapon type, the damage type/resistances, the passive skills, and then the enemy attack patterns. There are some consumables, but they really don’t have a huge impact unless you’re speed running. They are a pain to craft, and battles are so quick you feel like you’re farming more than playing.
In MHW you have the above, as well as:
- Palico gear
- Environment (reduce stamina or health)
- Other monsters (turf wars)
I could (and likely will) write something about the seemingly insane depth of weapon combat, but for simplicity I’ll talk about Terrain, since it seems rather simple. Each map has multiple places to have a fight. Maybe movement is restricted (water/mud/snow). Maybe the area causes damage (spikes/fire/poison). There are small creatures around that are likely to join the fight against you. There are minor traps (poison/sleep/paralysis) that you can lure the monster. There are large traps that cause major damage to the monster. There are walls to jump off and attack, ledges to roll off and hit the monster on the head. Heck, there are places where the floor just gives way. Some monsters are just miles easier to fight on one map vs. another.
Each category of things has a high level of variety and inherent complexity. When it all comes together, it looks like a cakewalk. Reminds me a bit of people speedrunning something like Celeste on 1 life, when I went through a few hundred to complete the game. Each hunt you undertake, even if you fail it, provides valuable information for the next one. It’s a rare game that provides that level of challenge and reward – and dramatically improves the “stickyness” factor.