Monster Hunter World: Iceborne PC Review
After a second extended period of patiently waiting, PC players are again ready to pick up their Great Swords, refill their Slingers, and prepare some Hot Drinks as they set off into the Hoarfrost Reach in Monster Hunter World: Iceborne. Iceborne is a massive expansion, one that we think very highly of, and it's no less true on PC. Chock full of new surprising environments, changing up how entire weapon sets feel to play, adding more mechanics and outright whole new systems such as a room decoration feature, there's no short-changing here of stuff to do.
Alongside the release of Iceborne on Steam is a free update for all PC players titled Update Ver. 10.12.00. Independent of the expansion, this is another in a long series of free updates and tweaks that Monster Hunter: World has received since its PC debut in August 2018. World has been through a bit of a wringer on PC over the last year-plus. While the original PC release was generally competent though marred by connection problems, Capcom has put no shortage of effort in supporting the release with features such as adding Ultrawide and HDR support, supporting technologies like DLSS, and even an optional High-Resolution Texture pack in exchange for a hefty chunk of hard drive space.
It is, in a way, disappointing that all of that is overshadowed by another tardy release where the playerbase has to again operate on two separate schedules.
Independent of the release situation for now -- booting up Iceborne and immediately faced with a whole cast of new enemies, new items, and even a slight tick up in the quality of story-related cutscenes and dialogue, I was instantly reminded about why I had sunk 400 hours into the original release in the first place. Monster Hunter: World was a hugely successful gambit upon its first unveiling, one built on an endearingly robust foundation of skill-based gameplay, emergent storytelling, cooperative hijinks, and, yes, some light RPG flavor alongside the endlessly addictive progression systems of crafting new gear. It's a formula that's been proven, and Iceborne is simply an excuse for players to just further indulge themselves. For those wanting to really dive into the new experiences, game modes, and everything else to look forward to in Seliana and the Hoarfrost Reach, I strongly suggest giving last year's console version review a look.
But back to the elephant in the room -- the PC version of Iceborne is in a pretty unique place when it comes to the whole situation all considered, and that honestly comes to reviewing it as well. The PC version has been available to play for over a year, and most anyone looking ahead to Iceborne already knows their situation when it comes to running the game, setting their control preference, and the like. Sure, the free update alongside Iceborne does tweak a few things, but not on a scale significantly more grand than any other update from the past year. Reviewing the tweaks here is essentially reviewing a series of patch notes. There's some neat stuff to talk about, admittedly, but it feels a bit weird nonetheless. As a service-heavy game, Capcom plans to fast-track the PC version so that parity is reestablished quickly, but that's a small condolence for the delayed start in the first place.
The first change available to anyone booting up after the update is a new Gamepad Button Icon Selection option available from the Interface section from the title screen. Here, you can select between three different sets of icons: Xbox 360, Dualshock 4, or Xbox One, to match whichever set you're using or most familiar with. It's a simple and somewhat obvious option to have, one that hopefully becomes standard practice over time. A second nice change not found in a control menu is that the mouse cursor can now move outside of the active window when playing in Windowed or Borderless mode -- a huge quality-of-life update for those of us with multiple monitors. I never had issues with my computer hanging or having any sort of unintended hiccups from moving between Iceborne to my web browser or chat window -- not something that can always been counted on.
The last major change is the addition of DirectX12 support, which should help with performance on machines operating on CPUs with a high number of threads. Personally however, I did not see any major gain in fps when toggling between DirectX11 and 12, only about 5 fps at 1440p and no notable shift at 4k. Of course, it goes without saying that the benefit will depend highly on the hardware being used and the combination of resolution and refresh rate being played at. Other minor tweaks include adding support for AMD's FidelityFX CAS (similar to NVidia's DLSS, which had already been supported) and new advanced graphic options such as one for Snow Quality and several new tweaks relating to keyboard shortcuts for those playing with a mouse and keyboard.
All told, Monster Hunter World's PC offering is in a much better place than it was initially, and even then it was never a slouch. There's a lot of credit to be given to all of the support that the title has received over the last year and a half, but also a lot of headache that comes with the staggered release. In a burgeoning era of cross-platform play, having a delayed release here feels a bit out of time. With that considered however, Monster Hunter World: Iceborne is a game that's easy to recommend without hesitation. Those that have yet to dip their toes into Monster Hunter at all have perhaps the most to look forward to, with a polished and updated total package alongside with new stuff still inbound over the next few months. I know I'm eagerly anticipating what's next.