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Monster Hunter World: Iceborne Devs On Difficulty

Before you can jump into Monster Hunter World: Iceborne’s new story content, you’ll need to have already completed the base game’s campaign. At first glance, that seems as though it would make balancing the game’s difficulty a little easier, since hunters who make it to the frozen wilds have some experience under their belts. After talking with the team during our cover-story trip, we gained a deeper appreciation for how challenging it can be finding the right difficulty balance.

Even though Iceborne’s hunters have some shared experience, it turns out not all veteran hunters are the same – and that means that some will face some growing pains when facing off against the tougher new master-rank monsters. 

“I think for players who are going straight from the end of the story from World it’s going to feel a little more difficult when they’re transitioning into the new master rank for Iceborne,” says Kaname Fujioka, Iceborne’s executive director and art director. “If it’s players who have been going in-depth into the content for Monster Hunter World and the updates, then they’ll feel a much smoother transition for difficulty than other players will.”

Hunters who have dutifully kept up with all the previous updates will have an advantage over those who may have taken time off since beating the campaign or raced through it to be able to group up with friends in Iceborne. The team says they did try to make it easier for those latter players. “[S]till, we’ve taken great care to make sure that players who are just transitioning straight from World have no fear and have an easy time of getting into the game and enjoying themselves,” says game director Daisuke Ichihara.
Getting players acclimated to the new region – and difficulty – is important, but the team emphasizes that it’s not coming at the cost of end-game challenges. These are going to remain tough, Fujioka says. “We’ve taken that feedback to heart from players who wanted more difficulty and more challenge and really delivered on that,” he says.

Going back to where we started, the team also wanted to make getting through Monster Hunter: World’s campaign a smoother process for those who hadn’t yet completed it – after all, people are going to want to race to experience the new content when it launches. Fujioka says they’re not doing anything drastic like cutting down on the number of required quests, but that some as-of-yet-unannounced features will help to make life easier for those players. One small example is how tracking animals has been streamlined, and players won’t need to spend as much time staring at the ground. Additionally, the new clutch-claw item makes it easier to kill some monsters, resulting in the potential for more efficient runs.

One welcome tweak is that the game now offers more granular multiplayer difficulty scaling beyond just solo and multiplayer. A new two-player difficulty option automatically kicks in when you’re teaming up with a buddy, offering a more reasonable challenge than World’s one-size-fits-all approach. When players drop in or out, the challenge will adjust on the fly, too, so you’re not completely out of luck if your buddy’s online connection craps out unexpectedly.

Ultimately, it all comes down to playability. Fujioka says that they wanted to be sensitive to the fact that Monster Hunter: World was going to be the first entry in the series for a lot of its player base, and that it would be easy to make it too tough. Now that players have had time to get used to its systems and challenges, the team is comfortable opening the throttle a little more.

“It’s not like players new to Iceborne will get into the game and feel a sudden challenge or difficulty spike that they haven’t been expecting at all,” Fujioka says. “One of the things about difficulty that was a point of feedback from players was about the number of options that they had, and that’s something we really adjusted this time around. There is a higher volume of difficult challenges they can take on in the game while at the same time observing a natural difficulty curve that will make it easier for players to enjoy that difficulty naturally.”

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