Monster Hunter World: Iceborne, the first and only expansion to Capcom’s 2018 smash-hit, has been unleashed upon the world. The expansion takes the already fantastic base game to new heights while retaining what made World such a special game. A massive new area, two-dozen new and reworked monsters, new features, new weapons and armor, and quality of life changes equal the weight of a Barroth: Iceborne is without a shadow of a doubt an expansion did right.
The story of Iceborne follows a familiar pattern. The ecosystem is being upset, monsters are behaving strangely, a new elder dragon has emerged, and it is up to our trusty Research Commission to figure everything out. Along with all this, a new landmass has also been discovered, called Hoarfrost Reach. I might be in the minority here, but I enjoyed World‘s story and had a blast with Iceborne‘s as well. It reminds me of yesteryears action movies my dad and I used to watch. It contains no-nonsense, and mostly serves as an excuse to the protagonist’s actions. Even with that said, I enjoyed it, soaking in the dialogue and cutscenes as I encountered them. Some characters have proper story arcs in Iceborne too. This makes them stand out, and by default, makes their stories more engaging.
The loot you spent hours obtaining in the base game quickly becomes obsolete, making way for their superior cousins.
The story picks up immediately after the events of World, leaving little room for you to enjoy your High Rank armor in the all-new Master Rank difficulty. The loot you spent hours obtaining in the base game quickly becomes obsolete, making way for their superior cousins. After a few hunts and a visit to the smithy, I managed to scrape together new armor to make my assignments more bearable. Some armor pieces also have the ability to push existing skills beyond their limits. The new level 4 decoration slots provide interesting skill combinations, some of which seems less useful until you try them in an actual hunt. A Free Meal/Speed Eating decoration caused me to finish a mid-game hunt with 8 Mega Potions left in my item belt, although I was chugging them like a Feisty Fiver during the assignment.
My favorite level 4 decoration thus far is an Offensive Guard/Attack decoration. Offensive Guard is a new skill which increases your attack power when you execute a perfectly timed guard (think parry in other games). Getting used to guarding at the last minute was a pain, but the increased attack power was a well worth reward for my mastery. Pairing Offensive Guard with the weak spots I create with the Clutch Claw netted me huge damage numbers, all the while not even having proper endgame gear yet.
The new gear, weapons, skills, level 4 decorations, and Clutch Claw breathes new life into the loot grind.
Speaking of, the Clutch Claw is a difficult tool to get used to, but once you are, provides an array of options in combat. Grappling onto a monster allows the hunter to either create a weak spot for future attacks or steer the monster and send it running into an obstacle, creating an opening for attack. Each new weapon also received a new move. The lance, for instance, has a guard stance which lets you automatically grapple onto the monster when attacked. The new gear, weapons, skills, level 4 decorations, and Clutch Claw breathes new life into the loot grind.
Chasing the newly added Rarity 12 weapons in the weapon tree is sure to enthrall hunters across the globe for many hours. Though chasing the high of Rarity 12 weapons is mandatory, the design of some equipment left me wanting. It is not bad, per se, some just look to have received more attention than others. This issue, unfortunately, holds true in both the weapon and armor departments. This would not have been a problem, but every hunter knows: fashion is more important than stats.
The loot grind would be nothing without interesting monsters to hunt; thankfully Capcom has given us ample creatures to track, slay and carve up. Sporting almost as many monsters as the base game, Iceborne serves up a bunch of interesting and wonderful beasts. Retreading older grounds to collect materials from World‘s monsters felt exciting, largely due to them receiving a new move or two each. Introducing new monsters, variants, and sub-species spices up the roster enough to warrant a purchase alone.
Monsters like the Coral Pukei-Pukei got a new element, new moves, and new parts to obtain, and the same goes for the Nightshade Paolumu. These variants are fun to fight but don’t match the excitement of the later game ones. Tigrex, Nargacuga, Bracydios, and the likes are fun, frantic and memorable fights, but even these fights can’t hold a candle to the endgame fights you come across. I wish I could describe these endgame fights in detail, but alas, I don’t want to spoil them. Let me end the paragraph section by saying – the showdown with Iceborne‘s elder dragons had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. The successful conclusion of these fights saw me jump for joy.
Spending less time staring at loading screens and more doing what matters ensures the pace between hunts are rarely a slog.
After the adrenaline-fueled hunts, hunters return to the new homebase called Seliana. Stationed in the Hoarfrost Reach, this snow-covered camp simplifies a host of features, including accessibility and recreational activity. Where Astera was a multi-layered settlement, Seliana is a horizontal camp where everything is only a few steps (and even fewer loading screens) away. Spending less time staring at loading screens and more doing what matters ensures the pace between hunts are rarely a slog. The hot springs, where you can leave your gore-sticky armor behind and soak, is an unnecessary addition, but one that the developer treated us to nonetheless.
Splash, dive, frolic or play with your Palico in the hot springs to emerge yourself in the New World. Within Seliana you will also find your new room. This is not the boring old room you had in Astera, no. This room can be refurnished, customized and suited to your desire. Paintings, rugs, decoration, shelves, a bed, table, chairs, all these can be customized to your heart’s content. I had to constantly remind myself to play the game (for review purposes) instead of just buying and tweaking my room.
Capcom even managed to keep the endgame shake-up a secret for many months.
A lot of players were concerned about the marketing approach of Iceborne, feeling the developer is showing off everything the game has to offer ahead of its launch. Thankfully, this was not even close to true. Capcom even managed to keep the endgame shake-up a secret for many months. Hours after you’ve bested the campaign, new monsters are still introduced at a steady pace. Some are terrifying, while others are downright maniacal. Wherever you are during the campaign, the endgame is waiting for you, and what a joyous horizon it is. It might be confusing at first, but through exploration and dedication, hunters will feel right at home in no time. That is if you are brave enough to tackle those fearsome foes which await you.
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne is a special kind of expansion. It takes everything that made World fantastic and makes it even better. The epic grind for more powerful gear is still here, but this time you have more than two-dozen monsters, and by definition, their armor and weapons, to choose from. The boatload of quality of life improvements coupled with the complex Clutch Claw ensures hunters will stay on their toes more often than not. Losing hours while customizing your room is another addition to play around with. As already mentioned, Iceborne features a staggering amount to do and see, in both hardcore hunting and casual play. I sank about 600 hours into World, and from what I’ve seen in Iceborne, I’m pretty sure I’ll spend another 600 hours in it.
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne is an absolute powerhouse of an expansion, and a fine example of why Capcom reigns supreme this year as the one of the best in the gaming industry.