Tag Archives: capcom

Monster Hunter World Finally Adds Rajang, A Notorious Ape That Will Smack Your Teeth Out

Ask a Monster Hunter player to name a beast that evokes equal parts dread and excitement and you’ll get one name: Rajang. The freaky brute-ape is one of the series’ oldest and most difficult monsters, a perfect challenge for a cocky hunter. He arrived in Monster Hunter World today and is already kicking all kinds of ass.

I haven’t had the luxury of fighting Rajang yet since I’ve recently been stalking through Ghost Recon Wildlands, but I know that whenever we do face off, it’s gonna hurt. Rajang was first introduced in 2006’s Monster Hunter 2, with tons of terrifying variants throughout the years including the raging Furious Rajang. Fighting a Rajang and surviving is a rite of passage for players, often one of the toughest tests available. Monster Hunter World’s latest expansion Iceborne is a massive celebration of all things Monster Hunter. Alongside new creatures, it’s brought back fan favorites like the dragon-panther Nargacuga and the sword-tailed Glavenus. Players knew Rajang was coming for some time, and he arrived with a splash.

I still can watch this without screaming. Oh my GOD!

One of Monster Hunter World’s best mechanics is “turf wars” between monsters. If two beasts cross paths, they battle in incredibly detailed fights. These usually end with both monsters receiving tons of damage. WIth certain monsters, like the dinosaur pickle Deviljho, it’s been a chance to show off how freakishly strong high-tier monsters are. Rajang’s turf wars are absolutely bonkers, to the point that I gasped way too loud in my office today while watching them. There’s the moment where Rajang forced Deviljho’s jaw open and literally punches them inside the mouth. There’s also what might be the most brutal and shocking piece of violence in the entire game: Rajang grabbing the lightning horse Kirin and breaking their damn neck, busting off their horn as well. Oh my god, are you seeing this? Oh, I also haven’t mentioned that Rajang can power up and literally go Super Saiyan to smack hapless hunters around.

Advertisement

If you manage to take Rajang down, there are some great rewards. Rajang’s armor doesn’t just look good; it has some genuinely fantastic bonuses. Among these are the Mind’s Eye skill if you have two pieces, which prevents your weapons from deflecting off tough monster hide. There’s also a four-piece bonus that prevents weapons from losing sharpness for a time after you use your whetstone. There are also tons of attack boosts that increase damage when hitting weak points and boost attack whenever you have red, recoverable damage in your health bar. As a dual blades user who needs high attack and whose weapons run out of sharpness quickly, this set is a godsend. Farming Rajang means I will look fabulous and kick significantly more butt.

Iceborne’s really stepped up and brought new life to Monster Hunter World. While there’s always been new events and new monsters, the pace of updates had slowed down. Rajang offers challenge, old-school nostalgia, and powerful rewards. If all additions are as exciting as this, hunters will have a lot to look forward to as Monster Hunter World continues.

Source: Kotaku.com

Monster Hunter World’s Latest Update Makes It Easier To Wear The Armor You Want

Monster Hunter World is fantastic, and the most recent expansion, Iceborne, makes it even better. But there have been a few snags, including some pretty ugly weapons and armor sets that lost their original look. An upcoming feature for creating cosmetic armor will make it easier for players to look however they want.

In a video today, Monster Hunter World’s developers outlined a few changes coming soon. The terrifying ape monster Rajang is on the horizon, and there will be changes to the Guiding Lands, Iceborne’s endgame zone. There will even be tempered monsters including the Gold version of Rathian, the series’ flagship wyvern. But the most exciting feature, I think, was the ability to craft layered armor.

Advertisement

Layered armor is special cosmetic armor that has no stats but allows you to use that armor’s appearance while wearing whatever armor pieces you want underneath. It’s usually been limited to special quest rewards such as crossover events with Assassins’ Creed and The Witcher. In some cases, players were required to fight extra-difficult monsters to gain layered armor, as was the case with the tempered (read: very hard mode) Behemoth. That allowed players to unlock a set of dragoon armor from Final Fantasy XIV. Iceborne’s armor is pretty stylish, even if some of the weapons are ugly as hell. But they also have unique styles different from their lower-level counterparts. The new layered armor system would allow players to craft these sets and wear them without removing the stats of their Master Rank gear.

All of these updates are coming this week, including Rajang’s arrival tomorrow. While the new layered armor system won’t have every armor set to start, it’s a step in the right direction, giving players a feature they demanded for a long time. If you have a favorite early armor set but don’t want to ruin you carefully crafted high-rank gear, you’ll finally have a chance to look the way you want.

Source: Kotaku.com

It Took 12 People To Make This Giant Monster Hunter Cosplay

Cosplay ShowcaseKotaku’s Cosplay Showcase is a feature that highlights the unique work of cosplayers, artists and photographers as they seek to tell new stories and push the boundaries of the craft.  

This enormous Grammeowster Chef is so big, and so detailed, that it took two studios—GSTQ Fashions (who we covered recently for their work on Dave Bautista’s final WWE outfit) and Wooden Leg Studios—to bring it to life.

The cosplay was commissioned by Capcom for the company’s Monster Hunter display at PAX West, and stands over 6.5 feet tall.

Advertisement

Legend of Micah shot this behind-the-scenes video, which gives us a fantastic look at just how much planning, work, technology and craftsmanship goes into building this kind of top-tier cosplay.

And here are some shots showing the whole thing being made and put together:

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Source: Kotaku.com

Resident Evil 4 Player Completes Game With 0% Accuracy

Straight speedruns and feats of skill are always impressive, but sometimes it’s just as impressive to see a game completed where someone has found an interesting way to make things hard for themselves.

That’s what Manekimoney has done here with a Resident Evil 4 playthrough that was completed with 0% weapon accuracy. That means using the knife, of course, but also a range of weapons that deal area damage but don’t count against the player’s accuracy rating, like rocket launchers, grenades, and the mine thrower.

While that might make it sound a bit easier than a knife-only run, it’s far from it, as there are sections of the game where you need to handle things remotely without harming other characters (like Ashley when she needs defending), so using weapons like the mine thrower takes, ironically, a great deal of accuracy, since you need to be dealing splash damage only to enemies.

Also notable are some of the tricks involved in gaming Resident Evil 4’s ammo system, like stocking up on handgun ammo so that dead enemies won’t drop more of it, and how other types of ammo needed to be protected at all costs, since they’re needed to clear certain parts of the game where more traditional means aren’t available as part of the challenge.

You can read more about Manekimoney’s run here.

Source: Kotaku.com

The New Resident Evil Is Good (So Far)

Screenshot: All images Capcom
Kotaku EastEast is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.  

I’ll be honest. When Project Resistance was announced, I was skeptical. A multiplayer Resident Evil? Surely, that cannot work, I thought. At the Tokyo Game Show, I got hands-on with Project Resistance, and from what I played, I realized that, yes, yes it can.

Project Resistance is a four-on-one asymmetrical co-op multiplayer game. Four players team up in hopes of solving puzzles and escaping from locked rooms. The other player does everything possible to make sure that doesn’t happen.

While Project Resistance is a temporary title, the game itself felt fully fleshed out. The four different Survivors each have a special ability. The character January Van Sant, for instance, can disable the cameras that exist throughout the rooms and hallways in Project Resistance. The character Tyrone Henry specializes in defensive moves; he’s also able to easily kick down doors and rally the others. Valerie Harmon can heal the injured, and Samuel Jordan is good on the attack. These are the Survivors. Each of these specialized skills means that players must work together to solve puzzles and escape from the rooms.

What makes Project Resistance interesting is that there is a fifth player who takes the role of the Mastermind, who tries to prevent the Survivors from escaping. The Mastermind can access the CCTV cameras to monitor the rooms and hallways. When a camera is selected, the Mastermind can then spawn zombies and creatures in that area as well as do other things to make life difficult for the Survivors such as lock doors, turn out the lights and set traps. Since the character January can hack the cameras, that means the Mastermind must toggle from camera to camera to prevent—or slow down—the Survivors.

The Mastermind can also take control of a zombie that’s been spawned, which keeps things interesting. When Mr. X is spawned for a limited time things get really interesting because he packs so much brute strength.

I found that playing as the Survivors was a solid Resident Evil experience, but with the added element of everyone working together, trying to evade the zombies and escape. Because the maps are cramped, however, sometimes it seemed like all the Survivors could get clumped up together in confined areas. The co-op experience is good, and there is the same sense of dread in traditional Resident Evil games. The way that is recreated in a multiplayer co-op was impressive.

What I really liked was how difficult the Mastermind experience was. Shooting a zombie in the face is satisfying in Resident Evil, but when you are the Mastermind, doing something as simple as turning out the lights was also equally satisfying—and for the players, unnerving and frightening. The Project Resistance demo understood what makes horror so effective for those who are being pursued and for those doing the persuing. What could be a deeper understanding of what Resident Evil is than that?

Source: Kotaku.com

Project Resistance Is The Latest Resident Evil Game

First teased earlier this week, here’s the first proper look at Project Resistance, an upcoming 4v1 “asymmetrical co-op experience” set in the Resident Evil universe.

Four players can team up as regular humans and play as survivors, where they can run around, interact with stuff together and try to escape a secret facility, while one player can take control of Nemesis Mastermind, the bad guy behind said facility, and just run around murdering everyone (with the help of security cameras, which he can use to track survivors).

There’s a beta next month in Japan. No word on a release date, but the game is coming to PS4, Xbox One and Steam.

Source: Kotaku.com

Some Of Monster Hunter World’s New Gear Sure Is Ugly

Monster Hunter World’s latest expansion, Iceborne, is a massive addition to the base game. It adds tons of new monsters and brings back old favorites. That also means new armor, and while plenty of it looks badass, a few pieces are bafflingly terrible.

Iceborne offers a lot of good armor sets. The Master Rank Tobi-Kadachi set is fabulous, and armor from from returning monsters like Glavenus and Nargacuga retain classic looks as chunky gear and sleek, ninja-style digs respectively. But some of the pieces are a little ridiculous, especially the weapons. Many of these have been changed from their classic designs, leading to some truly gnarly stuff. Chief among these are weapons and gear from the explosive-slime slibbering Brachydios. When I first saw these, I laughed my ass off. A video by Monster Hunter veteran gaijin hunter highlights some of the more perplexing armor and weapons.

The Brachydios dual blades are particularly egregious, to the point that gaijin hunter and some players on social media have compared them to KFC chicken drumsticks. Indeed, they’re a radical departure from how Brachydios blades looked in previous games. Those were pretty sleek, with neat glowing parts. These are something straight out of the Flintstones. Other changes include totally new designs for Nargacuga dual blades. Meanwhile, some Brachydios weapons keep their classic designs but only if they’re above rarity level 10.

Some of the lower-level items can have their appearances replaced (and layered armor sets also can hide some of the stranger designs) but that’s a small Band-Aid for a curious change to iconic weapons and armor. It’s not the end of the world, but when so many of Iceborne’s designs are high quality, the clumsier and less elegant weapons really stick out. It’s hard to say if anything will change or if new designs will be limited, but I know I might hold on to my Viper Kadachi dual blades and Shrieking Legiana set a little longer before bothering with Brachydios gear.

Source: Kotaku.com

What To Know Before You Start Monster Hunter World: Iceborne

Monster Hunter World’s newest expansion Iceborne is huge. There’s a whole new tier of monsters to face, a whole new catalogue of armor to craft. But if you’re returning after a long absence or hopping in for the first time, you won’t be able to play Iceborne right away. The good news is that there are a few tricks for gearing up and getting into the new Master Rank hunts quickly.

Capcom’s next-generation spin on its cult-classic franchise was initially broken up into two tiers: low rank and high rank. In order to access Iceborne, players need to have completed both of these tiers by fighting through story assignments. Low rank’s story focuses on the giant monster Zorah Magdaros, a mountain-sized beast who could destroy the new world. High rank challenges players to relive old hunts and eventually face off with the extraterrestrial dragon Xeno’jiiva. Both of these monsters need to be dealt with before Iceborne can be started. Thankfully, there are two new improvements in place that will speed progress through these early ranks.

The first is that Monster Hunter World is giving out a free armor set to anyone who logs in after yesterday’s patch. TheGuardian Armor boasts solid defense and bonuses that should make it usable throughout high rank hunts. These bonuses include an increase to the potency of healing items, increased health, and slower stamina drain. New players can access the armor at the character creation screen, while returning players can go to their room in the village of Astera and talk to their housekeeper.

It’s important to note that if you want to make the most of this armor, you’ll need to upgrade it with armor spheres gathered from defeating monsters. Having the Guardian Armor will cut down on playtime considerably, since you won’t have to circle around to re-fight old monsters in order to gather parts and craft new armor.

Just be aware that you will still need to upgrade your weapons. I advise weapons with high stats and less emphasis on elemental damage. As you progress, make weapons using parts gathered from hunting monsters like Zorah Magdaros or the terrifying Nergigante. If you really want something that will carry you in the early parts of Iceborne, make a weapon from the bonus monster Lunastra. Save extra parts and consider upgrading your palico cat companion’s armor if you can. Don’t get too attached to these things, as progressing through Master Rank will ultimately obsolesce these weapons and armors, requiring you to hunt new monsters.

There’s also a new Helper System and overhauls to multiplayer that make it easier to play with other hunters and speed through content. While it’s entirely possible to play by your lonesome, hunting with other players will speed things up considerably. The Helper system gives bonuses to hunters who help players in lower-rank tiers, meaning that it’s a pretty good idea to fire off SOS flares at the start of your hunt. This allows other players to leap right into your hunt and led a hand.

It used to be that having another player boosted the monster’s health considerably no matter how many players joined—there was a blanket “multiplayer” health value that monsters got boosted to. Now, monster health scales dynamically depending on the number of players. It means that you won’t risk fighting an absurdly tanky beast, and makes it all the easier for groups to succeed. Between a reduced grind and streamlined multiplayer, getting through both low and high ranks should be easy.

Iceborne is built for veteran players: those with well-stocked supply chests, bonus gadgets from sidequests, and a deep familiarity with their weapons. Guardian Armor, smart weapon crafting, and better multiplayer will get you to the start of Iceborne, but if you’re a newbie who is rushing to Master Rank content, please be aware that the monsters move faster, hit harder, and have difficult quirks to deal with. Your old armor will quickly become less useful, and you’ll need to truly embrace the grindy process of assembling higher ranked levels and gear.

Even if you make it to Iceborne quickly, there’s no substitute for having extensive experience playing Monster Hunter World. Take it slow in Master Rank, and embrace the challenge as a chance to improve as a player and really enjoy the Monster Hunter experience.

Source: Kotaku.com

Monster Hunter World: Iceborne: The Kotaku Review

2018’s Monster Hunter: World was a successful update to the long-running beast-slaying series. Fully functioning ecosystems and updated combat crafted an experience where each battle was a unique challenge even after hundreds of hours. World’s latest expansion, Iceborne, is massive. Building up a solid framework, it brings dozens of new monsters and ups the difficulty for a deeply rewarding adventure.

This piece was first published on September 4, 2019. We’re bumping it today for the game’s release.

Iceborne is set after World’s lengthy main campaign. The Hunter’s Guild and Research Commission, having traveled across the seas to the New World and bested unimaginable foes, encounter a new mystery. Massive flocks of flying creatures are fleeing for parts unknown, led by a legendary ice-encrusted elder dragon called Velkhana. Following these creatures and their mysterious leader leads to the discovery of a frosted island teeming with undocumented wildlife. All the while new monsters start to prowl familiar forests, and mysterious subspecies of old beasts emerge from the shadows. It’s up to the player, as a skilled monster slayer, to venture out into the wilds and face off against these new and deadly marvels.

The expansion can only be accessed after completing the main game’s story. Because of this, there is a rise in difficulty that results in some of the best fights in the entire series. These fights, which take place on a new “Master Rank” tier of encounters, reimagine fan-favorite monsters alongside entirely new fights. As in the rest of the series, the deadly trek through beast after beast is ambitious in scope and occasionally frustrating to play.

The first thing Iceborne did was test me. Its first creature, the strange Beotodus, is a sort of slithering wyvern that slides through thick snow the way a shark might prowl the ocean. I poured over 300 hours into Monster Hunter: World, and I immediately saw what Iceborne was doing. Beotodus shares a body shape and animations with the mud-slinging Jyuratodus. This meant that Beotodus moved like something I knew, it also could form a protective icy coating on its body—something a Jyuratodus or a different creature called a Barroth can do with sufficient quantities of mud. It was a crash course, a cleverly designed battle meant to reacquaint me with the ebb and flow of Monster Hunter combat while it’s increased ferocity acted as a warning that things would not be so straightforward this time.

That is, of course, the point. Iceborne is not built for comfortable, casual play. It is specifically designed to push players to their limits. Again and again it pulls out more ferocious monsters, creatures who move faster than anything previously seen and whose strikes can cause debilitating status conditions. Mistakes are costly: Monsters hit harder, your old armor will not save you here, and the environments themselves are harsher. While it is possible to speed through the early assignments, there is bound to be a moment along the way where a new foe puts up a hard roadblock in the way. When this happens, you are faced with a choice: Give up or bash your fist against that wall until you finally burst through in glorious victory.

The first time that happened was when Iceborne’s Master Rank quests really clicked for me. I was assigned to slay or capture a Tigrex, a sort of mixture between a tiger, dragon and velociraptor. The first time I fought it, I could not believe how fast it moved. A single leap, even from the furthest distance, could close the gap and knock me on my ass. This was immediately followed up with claw swipes and tails whips that were less the action of a dangerous creature and more akin to a force of nature like a lightning strike or tidal wave. It was gorgeous and terrifying all at once. The Tigrex had a habit of charging around the battlefield for what felt like an eternity at a time, rushing in harried rampages that kicked up stone and from which no amount of running or dodging could save me. I quickly failed.

Thus began a grind to slay previous monsters for higher-quality armor. When I returned, I faced the Tigrex with confidence, rushing in close and matching its aggression. I unleashed furious flurries with my dual blades that lashed at its legs and webbed arms. I dodged the madcap dashes that previously sealed my doom until the beast, thwarted by its zeal, tumbled over and offered me an opening. I slashed again and again and I broke its face first. As it reared a claw, my blade smashed into it and shattered bones off. The Tigrex fled deep into some caverns where a pack of girros—small lizards whose bites have the capacity to induce paralysis—swarmed the Tigrex. While it was paralyzed, I attacked again and broke more and more fragments from its body until it regained control and fled to its nest, where I captured it with tranquilizing bombs.

Creating these moments is Monster Hunter’s greatest strength and, paradoxically, its largest weakness. Iceborne’s fights are not simple 10-minute sojourns; they are 30 to 40 minutes of intense adaptation. Failure—which comes after being knocked out by a monster three times—is devastating. That failure sometimes comes because you lack proper equipment and supplies. This means circling back to battle old foes multiple times until you kill or capture them enough to gather the materials required for new armor. In other cases, it might mean expeditions to gather honey for creating better potions or bugs for the tranquilizing bombs that make it possible to capture monsters. It can bring pacing to an absolute halt. Of the 17 to 18 hours of Iceborne I’ve played so far, plenty was devoted to grinding monsters until I had everything I needed to best whatever new foe awaited me. It was exhausting. Still, it always felt good to achieve victory.

To help with this, Iceborne offers a variety of new gadgets and ways to fight. Chief among these is the Clutch Claw, a short-range grappling device that tethers you to a monster and immediately grips you onto whatever body part you snag. Used properly, it is possible to leap to flying enemies’ wings and slice them until they’re little more than tatters. If armed with ammunition for your slinger, you can latch to an enemy’s head and fire directly at it, sending it staggering into walls and writhing in pain. With certain weapons, you can add a claw swipe to the end of a combo. This launches you into an uppercut-like attack that, with the right weapon, is perfect for breaking appendages. These moves pair nicely with a host of additional attacks added to each weapon—for example, longswords get a samurai-esque iaijustu skill; gunlances can plant explosive mines on enemies. The clutch claw increases the pace of combat considerably, making it easier to get close to monsters, use these new attacks, and deal some goddamn damage. It ensures some equity between Iceborne’s ferocious monsters and hapless hunters. It works like a charm and breathes new life into World’s combat.

Iceborne’s new weapons, encounters, and environments produce fights unlike anything I’ve ever played. There’s an undeniable rush that comes when you manage to truly assert yourself over a monster. I once faced a Brachydios whose hide excreted an ooze that would explode after a short time. It barreled around the battlefield bashing bomb-like mines of slime into the ground. Yet as I attacked its strange, boxer-glove-like hands and shattered their scale plating, its threat waned until it was little more than another indignant beast, easily captured and claimed for research.

Iceborne’s increased focus on narrative and wide variety of jaw-droppingly animated monsters impresses upon the player how majestic and truly breathtaking the natural world can be. Its snow is lovingly crafted, depressing around the player as they trudge along. Each new monster offers fresh surprises that are awesome to behold. The characters continually proselytize about the glory of the New World and the twinkling beauty of the new region, the snowy Hoarfrost Reach.

In all of this, there is an undeniable tension. Each Monster Hunter is, at its core, a game of conquest and consumption. It is about asserting the worth and power of man over the natural world. It is about trudging into nominally exotic “new worlds” where you break monsters down until they are whimpering, pathetic shadows of themselves, weak enough to be killed and carved into bits or captured for the benefit of a burgeoning frontier society. And because of this, Iceborne’s platitudes about natural splendor feel hollow. Yes, the world is gorgeous, and it is a miracle that we were ever born to behold it. Now if you don’t don’t mind, I need to slay at least three more Glavenus so that I can finish my armor set.

This tension is not enough to rob Iceborne or any Monster Hunter game of its excitement. I would not have spent hundreds of hours of my life enraptured by its battles if there were not a fantastic game here. But as Iceborne ramps up the production value and takes time to show characters basking in its truly gorgeous world, it’s worth noting just how freakin’ strange it feels when characters start claiming the New World as their home. This isn’t just an expedition anymore; it’s explicitly colonization. It is expansion, onward into new lands that are, by some vague right, the domain of man. But a Monster Hunter that explores this tension would not be Monster Hunter, so Iceborne’s wide-eyed nature-loving ultimately feels half-baked.

Still, Iceborne is a remarkable celebration. In bringing back a slew of fan-favorite creatures (including two of my favorites: Glavenus and Nargacuga) it’s clear that this expansion is as much a nod to series veterans as it is a chance for fresh-faced hunters to cut their teeth and become truly elite hunters. For some fans, World felt extremely limited and lacking in variety. Iceborne seems laser focused on addressing these complaints. There’s still some repetitiveness, and some additions are uninspired, simply adding new elements to old creatures: a lightning-spewing Anjanath here, a sleep-inducing Paolumu there. But every now and then, there’s a true surprise. Holy shit! Did that Coral Pukei-Pukei just suck water into its tail and fire it like an industrial-strength water jet? Why yes, it did.

The party lasts for far longer than I imagined. Time and time again, I found myself gearing up for what felt like the final battle. Surely, I would defeat the elder dragons and be a hero once again. Each time I thought I’d reached the end of my journey, Iceborne would pull the rug from under me and offer a whole new tier of monsters to fight. Well done, hunter, but we just heard there’s an acid-coated Glavenus and some kind of frost-armored Legiana out in the reaches. Go handle that and then maybe we’ll be ready to finish this. Iceborne’s scale can be frustrating—sometimes you just wanna fight the damn dragon—but it’s also genuinely impressive.

There is so much here, so many monsters to face, that even after almost 20 hours, I’ve still yet to encounter many of the creatures shown in Capcom’s reveals. With enough time devoted to grinding out armor sets and truly focusing on battles, my 17-18 hours could easily expand to 25 or 30 hours, to say nothing of the time higher-level fights, special events, and playing with friends will take. That’s daunting, but players fearful that Iceborne might be a simple sprint will be pleased to know that it’s actually an intense climb.

Iceborne is one of the most ambitious expansions I’ve played for any game, and it largely lives up to those ambitions. The snow-swept forests and glacial caves of the Hoarfrost Reach are breathtaking in their beauty, and Iceborne’s extensive catalogue provides plenty of challenge. Old-school fans will find a triumphant return to the difficulty they love while those who started with World will clash with some of the franchise’s best creatures. Iceborne picks up the pace without altering the core spirit of what made the series great. And while its narrative and truisms never reconcile with the core gameplay, the experience is consistently exciting. It can be a grindy slog at times, but that’s Monster Hunter. And more Monster Hunter is always welcome.

Source: Kotaku.com

Monster Hunter World: Iceborne: The Kotaku Review

2018’s Monster Hunter: World was a successful update to the long-running beast-slaying series. Fully functioning ecosystems and updated combat crafted an experience where each battle was a unique challenge even after hundreds of hours. World’s latest expansion, Iceborne, is massive. Building up a solid framework, it brings dozens of new monsters and ups the difficulty for a deeply rewarding adventure.

Iceborne is set after World’s lengthy main campaign. The Hunter’s Guild and Research Commission, having traveled across the seas to the New World and bested unimaginable foes, encounter a new mystery. Massive flocks of flying creatures are fleeing for parts unknown, led by a legendary ice-encrusted elder dragon called Velkhana. Following these creatures and their mysterious leader leads to the discovery of a frosted island teeming with undocumented wildlife. All the while new monsters start to prowl familiar forests, and mysterious subspecies of old beasts emerge from the shadows. It’s up to the player, as a skilled monster slayer, to venture out into the wilds and face off against these new and deadly marvels.

The expansion can only be accessed after completing the main game’s story. Because of this, there is a rise in difficulty that results in some of the best fights in the entire series. These fights, which take place on a new “Master Rank” tier of encounters, reimagine fan-favorite monsters alongside entirely new fights. As in the rest of the series, the deadly trek through beast after beast is ambitious in scope and occasionally frustrating to play.

The first thing Iceborne did was test me. Its first creature, the strange Beotodus, is a sort of slithering wyvern that slides through thick snow the way a shark might prowl the ocean. I poured over 300 hours into Monster Hunter: World, and I immediately saw what Iceborne was doing. Beotodus shares a body shape and animations with the mud-slinging Jyuratodus. This meant that Beotodus moved like something I knew, it also could form a protective icy coating on its body—something a Jyuratodus or a different creature called a Barroth can do with sufficient quantities of mud. It was a crash course, a cleverly designed battle meant to reacquaint me with the ebb and flow of Monster Hunter combat while it’s increased ferocity acted as a warning that things would not be so straightforward this time.

That is, of course, the point. Iceborne is not built for comfortable, casual play. It is specifically designed to push players to their limits. Again and again it pulls out more ferocious monsters, creatures who move faster than anything previously seen and whose strikes can cause debilitating status conditions. Mistakes are costly: Monsters hit harder, your old armor will not save you here, and the environments themselves are harsher. While it is possible to speed through the early assignments, there is bound to be a moment along the way where a new foe puts up a hard roadblock in the way. When this happens, you are faced with a choice: Give up or bash your fist against that wall until you finally burst through in glorious victory.

The first time that happened was when Iceborne’s Master Rank quests really clicked for me. I was assigned to slay or capture a Tigrex, a sort of mixture between a tiger, dragon and velociraptor. The first time I fought it, I could not believe how fast it moved. A single leap, even from the furthest distance, could close the gap and knock me on my ass. This was immediately followed up with claw swipes and tails whips that were less the action of a dangerous creature and more akin to a force of nature like a lightning strike or tidal wave. It was gorgeous and terrifying all at once. The Tigrex had a habit of charging around the battlefield for what felt like an eternity at a time, rushing in harried rampages that kicked up stone and from which no amount of running or dodging could save me. I quickly failed.

Thus began a grind to slay previous monsters for higher-quality armor. When I returned, I faced the Tigrex with confidence, rushing in close and matching its aggression. I unleashed furious flurries with my dual blades that lashed at its legs and webbed arms. I dodged the madcap dashes that previously sealed my doom until the beast, thwarted by its zeal, tumbled over and offered me an opening. I slashed again and again and I broke its face first. As it reared a claw, my blade smashed into it and shattered bones off. The Tigrex fled deep into some caverns where a pack of girros—small lizards whose bites have the capacity to induce paralysis—swarmed the Tigrex. While it was paralyzed, I attacked again and broke more and more fragments from its body until it regained control and fled to its nest, where I captured it with tranquilizing bombs.

Creating these moments is Monster Hunter’s greatest strength and, paradoxically, its largest weakness. Iceborne’s fights are not simple 10-minute sojourns; they are 30 to 40 minutes of intense adaptation. Failure—which comes after being knocked out by a monster three times—is devastating. That failure sometimes comes because you lack proper equipment and supplies. This means circling back to battle old foes multiple times until you kill or capture them enough to gather the materials required for new armor. In other cases, it might mean expeditions to gather honey for creating better potions or bugs for the tranquilizing bombs that make it possible to capture monsters. It can bring pacing to an absolute halt. Of the 17 to 18 hours of Iceborne I’ve played so far, plenty was devoted to grinding monsters until I had everything I needed to best whatever new foe awaited me. It was exhausting. Still, it always felt good to achieve victory.

To help with this, Iceborne offers a variety of new gadgets and ways to fight. Chief among these is the Clutch Claw, a short-range grappling device that tethers you to a monster and immediately grips you onto whatever body part you snag. Used properly, it is possible to leap to flying enemies’ wings and slice them until they’re little more than tatters. If armed with ammunition for your slinger, you can latch to an enemy’s head and fire directly at it, sending it staggering into walls and writhing in pain. With certain weapons, you can add a claw swipe to the end of a combo. This launches you into an uppercut-like attack that, with the right weapon, is perfect for breaking appendages. These moves pair nicely with a host of additional attacks added to each weapon—for example, longswords get a samurai-esque iaijustu skill; gunlances can plant explosive mines on enemies. The clutch claw increases the pace of combat considerably, making it easier to get close to monsters, use these new attacks, and deal some goddamn damage. It ensures some equity between Iceborne’s ferocious monsters and hapless hunters. It works like a charm and breathes new life into World’s combat.

Iceborne’s new weapons, encounters, and environments produce fights unlike anything I’ve ever played. There’s an undeniable rush that comes when you manage to truly assert yourself over a monster. I once faced a Brachydios whose hide excreted an ooze that would explode after a short time. It barreled around the battlefield bashing bomb-like mines of slime into the ground. Yet as I attacked its strange, boxer-glove-like hands and shattered their scale plating, its threat waned until it was little more than another indignant beast, easily captured and claimed for research.

Iceborne’s increased focus on narrative and wide variety of jaw-droppingly animated monsters impresses upon the player how majestic and truly breathtaking the natural world can be. Its snow is lovingly crafted, depressing around the player as they trudge along. Each new monster offers fresh surprises that are awesome to behold. The characters continually proselytize about the glory of the New World and the twinkling beauty of the new region, the snowy Hoarfrost Reach.

In all of this, there is an undeniable tension. Each Monster Hunter is, at its core, a game of conquest and consumption. It is about asserting the worth and power of man over the natural world. It is about trudging into nominally exotic “new worlds” where you break monsters down until they are whimpering, pathetic shadows of themselves, weak enough to be killed and carved into bits or captured for the benefit of a burgeoning frontier society. And because of this, Iceborne’s platitudes about natural splendor feel hollow. Yes, the world is gorgeous, and it is a miracle that we were ever born to behold it. Now if you don’t don’t mind, I need to slay at least three more Glavenus so that I can finish my armor set.

This tension is not enough to rob Iceborne or any Monster Hunter game of its excitement. I would not have spent hundreds of hours of my life enraptured by its battles if there were not a fantastic game here. But as Iceborne ramps up the production value and takes time to show characters basking in its truly gorgeous world, it’s worth noting just how freakin’ strange it feels when characters start claiming the New World as their home. This isn’t just an expedition anymore; it’s explicitly colonization. It is expansion, onward into new lands that are, by some vague right, the domain of man. But a Monster Hunter that explores this tension would not be Monster Hunter, so Iceborne’s wide-eyed nature-loving ultimately feels half-baked.

Still, Iceborne is a remarkable celebration. In bringing back a slew of fan-favorite creatures (including two of my favorites: Glavenus and Nargacuga) it’s clear that this expansion is as much a nod to series veterans as it is a chance for fresh-faced hunters to cut their teeth and become truly elite hunters. For some fans, World felt extremely limited and lacking in variety. Iceborne seems laser focused on addressing these complaints. There’s still some repetitiveness, and some additions are uninspired, simply adding new elements to old creatures: a lightning-spewing Anjanath here, a sleep-inducing Paolumu there. But every now and then, there’s a true surprise. Holy shit! Did that Coral Pukei-Pukei just suck water into its tail and fire it like an industrial-strength water jet? Why yes, it did.

The party lasts for far longer than I imagined. Time and time again, I found myself gearing up for what felt like the final battle. Surely, I would defeat the elder dragons and be a hero once again. Each time I thought I’d reached the end of my journey, Iceborne would pull the rug from under me and offer a whole new tier of monsters to fight. Well done, hunter, but we just heard there’s an acid-coated Glavenus and some kind of frost-armored Legiana out in the reaches. Go handle that and then maybe we’ll be ready to finish this. Iceborne’s scale can be frustrating—sometimes you just wanna fight the damn dragon—but it’s also genuinely impressive.

There is so much here, so many monsters to face, that even after almost 20 hours, I’ve still yet to encounter many of the creatures shown in Capcom’s reveals. With enough time devoted to grinding out armor sets and truly focusing on battles, my 17-18 hours could easily expand to 25 or 30 hours, to say nothing of the time higher-level fights, special events, and playing with friends will take. That’s daunting, but players fearful that Iceborne might be a simple sprint will be pleased to know that it’s actually an intense climb.

Iceborne is one of the most ambitious expansions I’ve played for any game, and it largely lives up to those ambitions. The snow-swept forests and glacial caves of the Hoarfrost Reach are breathtaking in their beauty, and Iceborne’s extensive catalogue provides plenty of challenge. Old-school fans will find a triumphant return to the difficulty they love while those who started with World will clash with some of the franchise’s best creatures. Iceborne picks up the pace without altering the core spirit of what made the series great. And while its narrative and truisms never reconcile with the core gameplay, the experience is consistently exciting. It can be a grindy slog at times, but that’s Monster Hunter. And more Monster Hunter is always welcome.

Source: Kotaku.com