Already a veteran hunter? Go buy Iceborne! New to the series? Buy the base game with Iceborne!
End of review.
Ok, not really, but it says a lot about how good of an expansion Iceborne is. The base game, which launched nearly a couple of years ago, was a massive undertaking that featured hundreds of hours worth of content, and even a few game of the year nominations and various awards here and there. It made its triumphant return to consoles in January of last year and the result was absolutely smashing.
We had spent a good chunk of the last week playing Iceborne from the moment it launched, even purchasing the Master Collectors Edition for some sweet loot. A small event got in the way of this review, you may have heard of Tokyo Game Show 2019 from the various articles we released over the weekend, so this is long overdue but finally, here it is!
It’s the griiiiiiind~
Monster Hunter World, simply put, is a game where you hunt massive monsters and use their parts to craft new weapons and wearable gear, which then allows you to hunt even more powerful monsters. It’s a simple core loop, really, but one that is very addicting and challenging. It is also very easy to sink hundreds of hours into this game, as evidenced by my measly HR150 hunter which logged in about 200 hours before I stopped playing quite a while back, around the time when Deviljho was released.
I’ll be frank and say that this is not a game you play because of the story. This is a game you play for the sheer thrill of the hunt, whether alone or with a group of friends or random people from the internet. The first time you dodge Nergigante’s dive bomb, the first time you step out of the way of a rushing Diablos, the first time you and your friends down Teostra before the supernova… It’s these things that make Monster Hunter quite the unique experience that is beloved by many.
Enter Iceborne, MHW’s first paid and massive expansion. It demands quite a price, at 40$ and nearly the price of a whole game, the amount is immediately justified if only for the number of hours you’ll be dedicating to it. We already know that MHW is good, but what does Iceborne do to elevate the experience?
Tools of the trade
If by any chance you’re new to the game, you’ll be glad to know that you won’t need to have access to the Iceborne Story Campaign to enjoy some of the improvements from the expansion. Access to the improvements, as will be detailed below, is open to new and old hunters alike from minute 1 to help speed things up a bit but if you want to take on the Iceborne storyline, you’ll have to finish the base game storyline first.
In Iceborne, you can now ride Tailraiders that your Palico companion befriends along the way. Not only that, but they can also assist you with tracking your objective while you go about sharpening your weapon or taking a drink, conserving your stamina along the way.
Mounting monsters is quite the task unless there’s elevated terrain or a slope to slide on but these Tailraiders can actually serve as jumping points to make mounting easier. Getting to mount a monster is an important part of the MH experience as it allows you and your party members to deal additional damage to the monster you’re hunting if you successfully knock it down, maybe even cutting a limb or two while you’re at it.
Another important addition is the Clutch Claw, a tool that lets you cling onto a monster and soften up certain parts, not to mention it gets you ammo for your Slinger too. All the weapons in Iceborne have been tweaked to accommodate the Clutch Claw, letting you pull some particularly awesome new moves. The Great Sword’s true charge attack now deals more damage provided the first part of your attack connects. For the Lance, you can now go into a Clutch Counter stance which acts like a parry, allowing you to automatically latch onto a monster with less chances of being knocked off.
Great additions, but by no means is the game easier for it. Remember how you used to just breeze through the first monsters in the game like Great Jagras and Kulu Ya Ku and then just get blasted by Anjanath? There’s a lot of that in Iceborne and you’ll need to constantly master your craft as you progress through the game. Anything can happen in a hunt and failure is potentially lurking in every corner even for veteran hunters. MHW demands you to git gud but as you do, the feeling of satisfaction of bringing down a challenging monster and/or getting that rare crafting material is next to none.
Oh, and how can we forget Fashion Hunter? There are now a couple of ways you can personalize your own look in the game. The first is by crafting layered armor (you get the Yukumo armor from pre-ordering) which is basically a visual palette swap of your armor while retaining you hunting armor stats. You can also customize the look of your weapons by crafting pendants that you can hang by the handle of your weapon. Who says you can’t hunt in style?
The cold never bothered me anyway
Exploring Iceborne’s new area, the Hoarfrost Reach, is not going to be easy with the icy terrain and bone chilling temperature. Luckily your Hunter has a new base to call home. Seliana will be your new base of operations and I’d have to say that I like it better than Astera. While there is nothing majorly wrong with MHW’s original hub base, Seliana has a couple of new features that makes it slightly better.
This time around, bigger isn’t exactly better. By virtue of its smaller size, the shops aren’t too far apart, and some of the NPCs now hold multiple functions, like one NPC being both the Argosy and Botanical Garden. Some of the rooms are also connected, like your personal room leading straight to the gathering hub, promoting ease of travel. You’ll also be able to customize the appearance of your room as you progress through the game by adding wallpapers and carpets, giving your room that personal touch.
Speaking of Seliana’s gathering hub, you’ll find a couple of new additions that make more sense in a chilly environment such as this. There’s now a hot spring, a footbath, and a sauna room where you can stay in, because well, a Hunter has to keep warm for… hunting reasons.
Let the storm rage on
The Hoarfrost Reach is a treacherous new area where you will be spending most of your time in, due to the fact that you’ll need to familiarize yourself once again. There are still quests that will require you to hunt in previous locations so you’ll be doing a lot of jumping back and forth between areas a lot.
A stark contrast to the Ancient Forest or Wildspire Waste, this area is covered in deep snow and you’ll find yourself constantly needing to consume Hot Drinks to keep your stamina from decreasing. Luckily, Hot Peppers are generously scattered throughout the reach for your quick fix. There are also natural hot springs that provide the same effect, so it’s wise to use them to your advantage as you explore.
A new area like the reach also means new pets to capture and bring back to your room for added decorations, including a new group of Grimalkynes that your Palico can befriend. Like before, you’ll need to fully explore the reach to collect them all.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a new area without new monsters. The game is literally called Monster Hunter, last I checked, and there are quite a number of them to greet you as soon as you set foot in the reach like Banbaro and Beotodus. With this expansion, Capcom totally turned up the fan service dial, bringing back favorites like Nargacuga and Tigrex, and even the vicious Rajang in a future update. Don’t let the “favorites” tag fool you, the term is meant in the most sarcastic of ways, and you’ll find out why as you try to conquer Iceborne.
Lastly, while playing, you’ll quickly notice that a new hunting rank has been added. Dubbed as Master Rank or MR, this is basically the next difficulty level in game, where everything (including old monsters) has been jacked up. Your HR armors, no matter how upgraded they are, will pale in comparison to even the basic MR set, so it’s another round of the grind and I hope you’re ready for it. Hunting old monsters is a worthwhile task even in Iceborne as they have new MR sets as well, which makes slight tweaks to their overall look along with higher defense.
- Insane amount of new monsters added and will be added in future updates
- Various quality of life improvements that makes the hunt more exciting
- Difficulty walls that forces you to swallow it up and git gud
What we didn’t like:
- Massive time sink that demands your attention
- PTSD from the upcoming Rajang update
Verdict: Buy it!
Iceborne will do nothing to players who are not fans of the MH series to start with, unfortunately. If you weren’t interested in the game in the first place, that probably still won’t change. This expansion was built for the fans and the players who have sunk countless hours killing and crafting and killing again. Iceborne sets the bar high for how much content an expansion should contain, much like how Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine did for the Witcher 3.You not only get new monsters but you even get improvements to the base game and further free updates down the line that will surely make the $40 plunge worth it. If you are a new player that is looking to jump into the world of monster hunting, you’ll be glad to know 2 things – you’ll be playing this for a very long time and you’ll be saving a lot of money because you’ll have no time to play anything else.
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne was reviewed on a PS4 Pro via a review code provided by the publisher.