The PC version of the Iceborne expansion for Monster Hunter World came out today. So last night I decided it might be an idea to jump back in and see if I could perhaps shake off a little of the rust. You know- basic stuff. Relearning what buttons did what. How to string together attacks with my chosen weapon. In general — how to not die horribly should a monster give me much more attention than a wet sneeze.

It probably would’ve been a good thing if I’d started this process earlier than the day before the expansion comes out. Particularly given two friends are still needing to get through the original main story still. One of them is a seasoned veteran for MHW, but on console. The other is brand spanking new.

One of the first things I noticed upon logging in — and it sparked a certain degree of heated response from me initially — is that at some point between when I last played and now, they’ve added in a ‘Defender’ set of armor and weapons.

These things have very low material requirement but are comparable to near end-game gear.

They’re a catch-up mechanic, basically. To allow for newcomers to speed through the original campaign and get into the Iceborne content alongside their friends ASAP.

I don’t have a problem with catch-up mechanics in general. In fact, I typically love them. My worry though is that Monster Hunter World’s campaign is a journey of learning. When to attack. When to dodge. When to just sheathe weapon, turn tail and run. Not enough? When to superman dive, too.

Give someone armor powerful enough that mistakes end up resulting in only the tiniest chink of health? Iceborne might become something of a very rude awakening. It may become a huge difficulty spike perception issue, rather than the more gradual curve the original game allowed.

Maybe it won’t be an issue. It isn’t like there is no hunt gating behind the upgrade chain. You will for example need to have successfully completed the Anjanath hunt before you can get past a certain threshold. To hit the max ranks, you will need Immortal Dragonscales from the Elder Dragons to max it out.

The main difference I suppose being that a single hunt of whatever is gating you should be enough to get through. The ‘grind’ element is gone if you play through the Defender weapon and armor sets. And that, I’m actually pretty comfortable with.

In any case, I wasn’t going to shake off much rust hunting low rank monsters with my friends. For much the reasons I went into before — mistakes were barely punished given the gear I had. So after they went to bed, I decided to check into what the blue exclamation mark quest was all about in town…

Wait… What’s Geralt Doing Here?

So I knew that there had been a Witcher / Monster Hunter World cross-over. But I thought I’d missed it. I don’t know if this is a returning event, or whether when I thought I’d missed it — it had just been the console versions. (The releases of content and events have remained staggered, unfortunately.)

In any case! Geralt was here! Through a portal — complaining about portals, as he does.

Then it put me on a mission as Geralt, and it was so superbly done. The fonts changed to match, dialogue trees in the style of Witcher 3 opened up. There was even a basic version of the monster investigation mechanic. There are side quests. You can choose how to handle certain events and your choices will result in different outcomes.

However you choose to approach it though, you’ll eventually come up against this guy.

A Leshen! In Monster Hunter World! (In the Ancient Forest, to be more precise.)

By default, Geralt comes along with his own sword and ‘shield’ (He uses Quen in bubble form, hah) — but you can equip him with any of the MHW weapon types for this hunt if you like. Given I was attempting to relearn how to play, I equipped him with a Long Sword.

And it was about the best thing ever, seeing Geralt swinging and rolling around a sword at least as big as he is.

The fight is tough, I might add. Or at least it was for me. You can also use the Igni sign which is fortunate. Because one of Leshen’s favourite tricks is to surround itself with a wall of impassable roots — while it then fires a swarm of crows out at you.

It also probably didn’t help that I completely forgot how the Bleed mechanic worked in MHW initially. (You need to stop moving for it to clear — if you keep moving you’ll take more damage and it’ll never run off.)

After a good while of dealing with roots popping out of the ground in various forms, crows being flung at me, bleeding, having local enemies summoned to join in the fray and carting (being knocked unconscious — you are carried by cart back to the nearest camp) twice I finally got the bugger down.

One more cart and it would’ve been all for naught — mission failure. I’m not entirely sure I wouldn’t have rage quit (at least for the night) at that point if I had. xD

But as a learning experience it was fantastic. And as it turns out, you permanently unlock the ability for your hunter to (effectively) use Igni which is pretty awesome, I must say, as a flavour thing if nothing else.

And Iceborne?

I’ve done the introduction and setup the new expansion’s base of operations. It’s far too early to give any real impressions of the expansion as a whole — but I am hearing that there are technical issues plaguing the performance of the game for some people.

If that’s you, switching between the DX11 and 12 renderers may provide you better results while you await a full fix.

So far (fingers crossed) no such impact for myself.

I’m also going into this completely blind. I’ve not looked at any reviews or spoilers from the Playstation 4 release earlier in the year. I don’t know what monsters are here, what new sub-species we might have, what new armor sets or weapons — nothing.

What I have seen though is that the gear (particularly with regard to Armor) is night and day between the new Master Rank and the previous High Rank stuff. It’s an old-school WoW expansion level of gear reset. You’ll be replacing very quickly.

But I’m actually OK with this — I’ve replaced a few pieces of armor already, and look forward to seeing what else is out there. I won’t lie — the gear collection and upgrade aspect is a large part of the fun for me.

There is already so much that I’ve seen though — it’s really going to take some time to wrap my head around it all. But I’m very much excited to get started. :)