The first free update for Monster Hunter World, after its massive Iceborne expansion, launches tomorrow. It features a Super Saiyan gorilla and the ability to craft cosmetic armor. These are incredibly welcome additions. But they also coincide with a much more exciting proposition: a new volcanic for the Guiding Lands. In MHW, the Guiding Lands are a unique zone: a space where all the rest of the game’s biomes appear in one place. That way you can fight every single monster without resetting or sitting through a load time. And it’s one of the best new features in Iceborne.
Well, that’s partially true. At launch the Guiding Lands only represented the four initial regions from base Monster Hunter: the Ancient Forest, Wildspire Waste, Coral Highlands, and Rotten Vale. There was no equivalent to the Elder’s Recess, which players reach late in the original campaign, or the Hoarfrost Reach added in Iceborne. The “volcanic region” fills the first gap — allowing heat-attuned monsters like Lavasioth and Brachydios to appear in the Guiding Lands. At the time of this writing, though, we’re still waiting for a snowy corner to call home.
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Even so, the Guiding Lands solve some of the game’s most glaring issues. They allow you to continuously hunt creature after creature, inviting other players to join or leave as they wish, without penalizing you if they die. Any endgame MHW player can tell you that allies biting the big one — over and over again — stinks. That’s because everyone shares lives on a given mission (usually three, but sometimes more or less on special “Investigations”).
Whereas the Guiding Lands operate on the same rules as Expeditions. These were borderline useless mission types in the main game. Expeditions also let you explore areas without penalty, but restrict you to a particular zone with a particular subset of monsters. The beasts can run away very quickly, too, if you don’t subdue them fast enough. And if that happens you’re shit out of luck. It’s almost always better to just hunt the specific monster you need — and receive bonus mission rewards to boot.
In the Guiding Lands, MHW lets you report your hunts at any time to the Handler back at camp. At which point you receive rewards just as though you can completed a regular quest. The materials you get can go down. And the monsters you fight can run away. But the former only happens if you yourself get careless and die. The latter has occurred to me a few times, but only in cases where I was so preoccupied fighting one monster that I didn’t go after the other quick enough. As long as you fight normally, they don’t seem to get away.
Not to mention you can “bank” specific monsters. Searching for their tracks, or fighting other creatures often enough, will eventually produce bait. You can then spend these to bring out a particular creature that may not be appearing randomly. It’s an obvious play on the main purpose behind Expeditions — gathering monster tracks — but once again cuts out the middleman. You can roll out the bait at camp without returning to base. For console players especially, this is a crucial way to save on load times.
Because, let’s be honest, the load times on console are bad. MHW already has a lot of downtime; it’s part of the charm. You craft potions, pills, ammo, and the like and set forth to slay beasts with vary particular powers. Add a few minutes of loading into the mix, however, after every single mission, and it really upsets the delicate pacing.
The only other option is to play on PC. Except that’s not really an option (not for me anyway), because that version’s content is delayed by weeks and months at a time. Am I going that long to wait to get clobbered by Gohan inside a volcano? Hell no! Hell. No.
The Guiding Lands make a damn fine compromise. They tie together a lot of disparate elements from MHW that never totally worked on their own, and wrap them into a nice, little package. Capcom has made it clear this is the new MHW endgame for the foreseeable future, too. Specific monsters, like Yian Garuga and Zinogre, only appear to players there for the first time. As do variants like Gold Rathian and Silver Rathalos. Plus Guiding Lands versions of those and every other monster are required to craft augmentations for your gear. Whenever the next step on the endgame comes (likely Arch-Tempered Master Rank monsters) you’re going to want all that stuff.
I’m totally happy to keep at it, though. Stripping away the penalties for playing co-op, along with smoothing out the transition between hunts, is a tremendous deal. And setting the precedent of adding new zones to the Guiding Lands is tremendously exciting. I don’t necessarily expect anything beyond an icy area. That would require all-new assets. But we can always dream!
Either way, the Guiding Lands of MHW are a smart new direction for the series. You can catch me out there soon, looking for Rajang and who knows what else.