Monster Hunter is one of those franchises that embraces the grind. Kill monsters, gather materials, craft badass new gear, and rinse and repeat as you move on to the stronger one. No one has quite mastered that formula as much as Capcom has, as was seen with last year’s Monster Hunter World.
Even after spending over 400 hours on Monster Hunter World, it still felt as if the game still had more to offer, that players were only scratching the surface of what could be – but only if the right expansion came along.
Sadly, slight tweaks in Monster Hunter World gave us nothing more than stronger versions of Elder Dragons we’ve fought before, without much incentive to continue playing since the monster roster is pretty much the same. Not even cool collaborations with the likes of Horizon Zero Dawn or Witcher could keep many longtime players entertained, leaving many to eventually grow bored and, inevitably, remove the game from their storage space.
But then came Monster Hunter World: Iceborne. This expansion took approximately one year and eight months to come, but it was well worth the wait. And for the seasoned veteran, it’s more than an expansion – it’s a breath of fresh, cool air.
The entire expansion takes place right after the events of the main story from Monster Hunter World, where the Commission undertakes a new quest to survey and explore the vast, cold unknown of the Hoarfrost Reach. In it, a new narrative juncture takes place as more secrets of the monsters that preside here are unveiled, as well as the reason for many more beasts migrating to the New World.
Narrative wasn’t exactly the strong suit in Monster Hunter World, and sadly, it still isn’t in Iceborne, but like the rest of the expansion, Capcom has made an effort in improving the overall quality of the story, to great effect. While the story is a little predictable, some of the story beats here are genuinely interesting, and may actually surprise some of you. We’ll leave that for you to experience for yourself.
While Iceborne’s story isn’t the most memorable, it’s the gameplay you’ll come and stay for. First things’ first: for the uninitiated, Iceborne is no cakewalk — it’s strictly high-level content, and not for the faint of heart. If you thought the base game was difficult, then prepare for a world of hurt in this one.
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne introduces the new Master Rank to the game. For veterans of the series, this will no doubt be a breath of fresh air to what feels like an eternity of being stuck in the now-mundane routine of High Rank quests and investigations back in the base game. Master Rank increases the health and damage of all the monsters, which instantly makes the game feel new, especially if you’ve been playing the base game for a while now.
If you’re coming into Iceborne with a year’s worth of religious playing, then you’re generally well-equipped to take on the new challenges the expansion offers. At least until a few quests in, when the stronger monsters start one- or two-shotting you. Get this – having a kit all decked out in fully-upgraded and augmented gear, complete with the rarest decorations at the time is simply not enough.
The difficulty spikes quite hard here, and soon you’ll find yourself having to ditch your trusty Drachen set for the newer tiers of gear. If you’re skilled enough, you can push until at least halfway through the story until you hit a massive wall, but even then, you’re encouraged to craft and use the new gear to survive the Master Rank hunts more. You might think this folly, but it’s actually an excellent way of making the game feel fresh again, and giving players more incentive to try out new builds or just staying ahead of the difficulty spike.
You’ll have to get used to seeing the carting animation quite a bit, especially if you’ve grown comfortable speed-running the Elder Dragons in the base game. By upping the difficulty, Capcom has given us more reasons to keep on playing and improving our game.
But what makes Iceborne so compelling to play isn’t just in the increased difficulty alone; it’s also the monsters that come with it. Iceborne brings to the fore some of the old guard in the form of the ultra-aggressive Tigrex, the speedy Nargacuga, the cold and cunning Barioth, the tail-bladed Glavenus, and the face-pummeling Brachydios.
Ever since the base game launched, fans have been clamouring for these beasts to appear, and though it took a while, Capcom did us a favour, and then some. They return with their familiar movesets, mixed up with some new ones so that fighting them still feels fresh (not to mention scary) after all these years. They even come with their iconic battle music when you fight them! It’s like reuniting with a bunch of old friends from middle and high school, and catching up over favourite pastimes in the form of hunting each other to death. Good times.
The new additions, especially the new poster boy (or girl), Velkhana the Iceborne Elder Dragon, are just as formidable, not to mention memorable. New subspecies of current monsters also make an appearance, which certainly add more value to the already large and diverse roster of monsters in Iceborne.
With all these familiar and formidable monsters entering the fray in Iceborne, surely the Hunter will need more tools in their kit to possibly best them all in the shortest time possible? In this aspect, Capcom has also delivered massively, with the introduction of new innate moves to some of the weapons, as well as the new Clutch Claw, which adds a world of complexity and depth to how you can approach monster fights, as it allows you to reach parts of the monster that are normally hard to reach. The new Rider tool allows you to hop onto a smaller monster as a quicker way to get around maps, which is nice if you’re looking to shave off a few precious seconds as you attempt to capture or slay that monster within the allotted time.
The new Master Rank, coupled with the new monsters, also adds a new slew of armour and weapon sets to craft. In addition, higher-level Decorations give you a new way to optimise your loadout, and the ability to add decorations to mantles certainly helps. Master Rank is no joke, so you’ll need to squeeze out literally everything you can get out of your equipment in order to survive in Iceborne.
Despite having a ton of shiny new weapons and armour to craft, one of Iceborne’s shortcomings is the lack of verve in some of the weapon designs. This is especially with those of the returning monsters in the game. Some of these monsters’ gear are just aspects of their look slapped onto the Metal or Bone base designs. Why weren’t their original, and visually superior, designs incorporated into the game? It’s a shame, because fashion is just as a popular component to Monster Hunter as min-maxing your stats. Hopefully, a future patch alleviates this, as it does hold Iceborne back from being a perfect expansion.
With the gameplay loop well in place in Iceborne, you’ll be looking at a solid 30 to 40 hours of gameplay. That’s just for the main story alone. And if you thought that was the endgame, you’re mightily wrong. The true end begins once you’ve completed the main story, in which you’ll be awarded with a couple of interesting surprises that will certainly keep you playing for a good while. Newcomers may be put off a little at the mountain of content to climb, but as we mentioned previously, embracing the grind is part and parcel of playing any Monster Hunter game.
And with more (free) DLC and events planned along the way, Monster Hunter World: Iceborne is certainly the best version of the game yet.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Monster Hunter World is already a really good game. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, Monster Hunter World: Iceborne comes along, and expands on it with expanded gameplay, gear, tons of cool (geddit?) monsters, and most importantly, replayability.
Gameplay - 10/10
Story - 9/10
Presentation - 9.5/10
Value - 9.5/10
User Review( votes)
Marion has a serious RPG addiction. Sometimes it bleeds into real life; he forgets to sleep because he thinks he has a Witcher’s body clock. Forgive him in advance if he suddenly blurts out terms such as “Mind Flayer” and “Magic Missile”, because never once does he stop thinking about his next Dungeons & Dragons game.