Monster Hunter World was a huge release for Capcom, bringing their big-ticket beast slaying franchise to consoles and PC. After the original game’s release on the PS2 a whopping fifteen years ago, the series has been trucking along with mostly handheld offerings. While there is certainly something to be said about the carpal tunnel-inducing claw grip one had to employ on systems like the PSP, playing Monhun with an actual controller is definitely choice. The game’s first expansion, Iceborne, recently dropped, boasting a ton of new content, as well as changes and fixes to previously-existing stuff. At a price point of $40, however, one might understandably be skeptical as to whether or not it’s worth your hard-earned dough. Thankfully, I can assure you that if you’re a fan of MHW, you’ll be plenty happy you picked it up. Read on to find out why!
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne
Platform: Playstation 4, Xbox One
Release Date: September 6th, 2019
The story takes place after the main narrative in the base game has concluded. Therefore, you do have to have completed the game before getting into the new content. Just like the initial plot, it’s nothing particularly special, but I don’t expect a sweeping epic tale in my Monhun games.
Monsters are acting weird, and a new spooky elder dragon has been discovered, so you’re whisked away to a new area called Hoarfrost Reach. It’s an icy biome with hot springs nestled in hidden locales throughout, with plenty of environmental objects to use to your advantage (or disadvantage).
The narrative focuses a bit more on the characters this time around, who previously just served as window dressing that occasionally gave quests to the player. In Iceborne, they are fleshed out just a wee bit more, but it still didn’t do much to endear them to me. Maybe if they had actual names, instead of just being referred to by their job title all the time, I’d humanize them a tad more in my head.
Thankfully, the new areas are drop-dead gorgeous, and the monsters look as great as ever. I’m always a sucker for a good snowy landscape, and Iceborne delivers those in droves. Some old fan-favorite critters return, such as Nargacuga, Barioth, Zinogre, and even Rajang from Monster Hunter 2. There are also a couple new monsters to fill out the cast, like Banbaro, who looks like a weird giant moose-dragon.
All the returning monsters look amazing with their fresh coat of paint, though there are also variants of existing beasts from the base game who boast a few new tricks up their sleeve. All in all, I was more than satisfied with how many new wyverns I got to tango with, and each presented a unique challenge that tested my mettle as a hunter.
The musical score is, as expected, fantastic. The chill, more ambient tracks are beautiful and relaxing, and the bombastic boss music that kicks in when you’re facing off against an elder dragon gets you hyped for the fight. I’m not someone who often listens to OSTs from games when not playing them, save for a few exceptions, but Iceborne’s track list is too good not to slap on while I’m doing other things.
The most important feature of a Monster Hunter game, the big enchilada if you will, is always gonna be the gameplay though. How does Iceborne feel to play? Well, there were a number of new additions to the mechanics on offer, to start. Each weapon type was given enhancements, ranging from damage boosts to completely new abilities to use in your combos.
Another new feature is the clutch claw, which is essentially a grappling hook. It allows you to pull yourself onto specific body parts of the monster and hold on for dear life. You can transition to different bits of the beast, allowing you to focus your attacks where you want them. This makes damaging certain limbs much easier, though the wyvern is not a fan, and will try to buck you off at the earliest opportunity.
Iceborne also allows you to ride a monster around like a taxi to get to where you need to go. It will just wander around aimlessly until you set a marker for it to travel toward, or start tracking a monster. I honestly didn’t find myself using this feature much, but it’s certainly faster than running on foot, so I can see it being something people really enjoy for convenience’s sake.
The fights are all pretty great here, with Master Rank challenges (a new difficulty mode) offering even greater hardships to overcome. It definitely feels harder than the base game, which is a criticism I heard being leveled at Monster Hunter World initially. While I do see the merit of that argument, I can confirm that the battles in Iceborne are much more challenging. It seems like every monster wants to hit you with status effects, and your end-game gear from the base game is tissue paper compared to even entry-level stuff in the expansion.
That brings me to gear, an extremely important facet of any self-respecting Monhun title. There are a lot of new armor and weapon sets to choose from, and most of them look pretty sweet. They completely eclipse the best loot in the base game just about from the get-go, but it’s hard to be too annoyed about that when you’re getting new stuff as frequently as you will. As in every game in this series, there’s always gonna be a grind for the high tier equipment, but the fights are so entertaining in Iceborne that I scarcely minded.
There is some annoyance still with the weapon trees, as the newer tiers will require you to invest a lot of time into crafting them. This is due to the fact that the required materials don’t show up until later in the story, so the wait for upgrading your weapon is markedly slower than building new armor sets. Some of the newer craftable weapons are also just poorly-disguised recolors, which is disappointing, though the actual new models are extremely cool.
All in all, Iceborne is a great, feature-rich expansion that adds about twenty-or-so extra hours onto an already lengthy game. For those who accomplished everything in the base game and yearn for some more content to sink their teeth into, this is just about a must-buy. The new monsters, locations, and quality of life changes are extremely welcome, and while $40 is nothing to sneeze at, I definitely feel like you get your money’s worth with this one.