It’s almost hard to believe that Monster Hunter World came out nearly two years ago. Capcom’s best selling game of all time did very well when we reviewed it last year, and they’re not ready stop there. After a few free updates and some added monsters, Capcom decided to do a full-blown expansion. Monster Hunter World: Iceborne continues the story of the base game, but also adds over a dozen new monsters as well as several variants. Most notably, it also adds a new area, the Hoarfrost Reach. Is all of this enough to bring hunters back into the foray? We surely think so.
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne can only be accessed after a player has finished the base game. They’ll need to reach HR 16 to begin questing to the Hoarfrost Reach, accessing a new story. The New World grows even larger as the various fleets explore this icy new destination. They set up a second base of operations, known as Seliana, and follow mysterious new events. These new events not only bring out variants of the current monsters, but even brings new monsters out of hiding. Most notable perhaps, is the icy Elder Dragon, Velkhana, who the story revolves around for a good amount of Iceborne.
The story of Monster Hunter World is easily the most accessible, boasting high levels of presentation. Iceborne is no different, adding plenty of new cutscenes, fully voiced dialogue, and tons of reasons to slay more monsters. Despite being a much higher presentation than others in the series, the story is relatively simple. Don’t expect too many plot twists that you won’t see coming a mile away. Regardless, this simplicity helps to pace Monster Hunter World: Iceborne at a rate that makes hours easily fly by. Fans of the base game may have spent well over 100 hours hunting monsters (or even 1,000). Iceborne will easily match the time you’ve spent in the base game and then some.
While there are a few new monsters, like the burly Banbaro, Iceborne welcomes several fan favorites to the New World. Monsters like Tigrex, Brachydios, Nargacuga, Glavenus, and more bring new challenges to World. With challenges like this, it made sense to add a while new rank of hunts. Iceborne adds Master Rank, giving a new tier of challenges suitable for veteran hunters. Not only do these hunts bring new monsters, but they also make older monsters more challenging too. Of course, with new challenges, comes new way to combat them.
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne adds several new mechanics to help hunters endure the new threats. Perhaps the biggest mechanic is the new Clutch Claw, a tool that allows hunters to grapple to a targeted part of a monster. Once attached, players have several options to proceed. Weapon attacks will perform a fairly powerful blow with one of the game’s 14 weapons. This will typically drop slinger ammo, making it a valuable resource for these useful tools. Players can also redirect monsters by performing attacks, setting them up for another new ability: the flinch shot. When a player is attached to the face of a monster, they can unload all their slinger ammo to run the monster into walls.
Aside from the Clutch Claw, hunters will also have new options with their weapons. Some weapons, like the Great Sword, have new boosts to attack power from successful strikes. Other weapons allow the use of slinger ammo in between attacks, as slinger ammo can now be used when weapons are drawn. Some weapons even combine the use of slinger ammo, like the Bow, which unleashes the new Thousand Dragons attack. This added complexity gives new capabilities to hunters, and it may even encourage trying other weapons.
It’s also worth mentioning the new Raider Ride feature. Players can now earn the ability to ride endemic life in each region. Not only will this automate some of the tracking, but it will give players a bit of a breather during a hunt. They can even use this feature to gather tracks and items fairly quickly. On top of that, players can even earn the ability to summon the various Tailrider Palicos in the world. This will allow them to help out in the field and improve relationships with the various tribes.
While the Hoarfrost Reach is the main new area, that won’t be the only new place to explore. We won’t spoil it for those that wish to discover it themselves, but even then, the Hoarfrost Reach is a great new area. Focused on snowy tundras and icy caverns, this new area introduces new hazards, methods of survival, and looks gorgeous doing it. It goes well with all the other regions, giving each area their own distinct look. Despite the new area, Iceborne makes plenty of use of the older areas too. New monsters emerge into the ecosystem, and it’s up to you to adapt and overcome it.
Obviously, with new monsters comes new armor and weapons to craft, and Iceborne brings plenty to the forefront. While I myself don’t take much issue with it, fans have shown disappointment in some of the weapon designs. Some returning weapons have altered designs from their original incarnation, leaving fans upset. While this may be an issue for diehard fans, plenty of newcomers to the series likely won’t notice. Luckily, the armor on offer gives even more fantastic styles for hunters to utilize. When going up against monsters in the Master Rank, it doesn’t take long to realize High Rank armor won’t cut it. Starting with a Beotodus set, I continued to change my set as I saw fit, catering to each challenge.
Aside from the new areas, attacks and monsters, Iceborne also introduces a few new features. The Surveyor Set is a camera given to players early on, allowing for taking pictures in the game. While it’s great to have a photo mode in the game, this new tool also adds a fun new scavenger hunt of quests. Various Lynians are scattered throughout the New World, and many of them are set for their lives to be observed on camera. Some of these quests are simple, while others show a high level of detail that can easily impress. It’s a nice change of pace for the game and gives more casual players added variety.
Another new feature is the new room in Seliana. Players can now customize their room even further, changing out not only pets, but also the furnishings. Over time, players will unlock decorations, giving them a lot of personalization for their room. It’s unfortunate that players can do all this customization, but they still can’t invite friends to see their room. Regardless, it’s a nice added feature for those that want to show off their efforts through screenshots and videos.
Finally, the Steamworks is a new minigame that allows players to collect fuel and unload it for items. It’s a very random minigame, but it can be fun to watch the Palicos dance while you’re guessing button combinations. It’ll be worthwhile too if you manage to guess correctly enough times, earning tons of items. It’s not as deep as the other new features, but it’s still fun to try it at least once.
Multiplayer works just as well as it always has. Players can squad up, join sessions and jump in a mission with ease. Even if you start out solo, sending an SOS flare will often bring players in to help. The new Gathering Hub is also a nice place to hang out, offering new interactive areas like the hot springs. It does seem like the load times are a bit longer, perhaps because of the added monsters or even just the extra details. Either way, it doesn’t bog down the experience enough to make it a problem.
When it comes down to it, Monster Hunter World: Iceborne isn’t just an expansion. It’s an overall improvement to what was already an excellent game. More monsters, more attacks, new strategies and challenges, and new distractions add tons of content to the game. It’s easy to lose track of time in Iceborne, as hunts will continue to keep you engaged. If you took a break or even if you never left the New World, Iceborne adds plenty to make the game feel fresh again.