Game: Monster Hunter World: Iceborne
Consoles: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne code provided by publisher
You would think that I would have had enough of Monster Hunter World after playing for nearly 250 hours (at least that’s what my game file says). But it’s expansion, Iceborne, has given me a great excuse to come right back, and boy am I glad I jumped right back in. Thanks to a wealth of content and new features especially for most DLC expansions, Monster Hunter World: Iceborne is an must buy to get more out of a game you already love. However, don’t expect it to fix everything.
The hunters of the New World discover a new world they call the Hoarfrost Reach, a region full of snowy forests, hot springs, icy caves and windswept glaciers. The ecology is once again out of whack as Legiana start migrating out of their natural habitat for an unknown reason. Once base is set up in the Hoarfrost Reach, new subspecies of classic monsters and even brand new beasts start popping up all over the New World. It’s up to you to get to the bottom of this mystery and ensure the safety of the New World… well, at least as safe as a land with fire-breathing, flying wyvern can be.
Hoarfrost Reach is a wonderful place to explore. From the serenity of the snow-covered forests to the foreboding, ice-covered cliffs, the locale provides atmosphere rivaling that of the Coral Highlands. It’s also a fun place to fight in, with tons of opportunities to interact with the environment to give you the edge over monsters like causing an avalanche or shooting into the air with a thermal vent.
But let’s not forget about the main attraction: the monsters. Iceborne adds an all new rank one step above High Rank: Master Rank. Fans of past Monster Hunter games will find similarities with G Rank here, where the monsters are even stronger than ever before without being ridiculous like their Tempered and Archtempered versions can be. All of the new monsters in Iceborne along with all of the older ones can be fought in Master Rank quests, and you can even take on a Master Rank quest with a Tempered monster if you’re either crazy powerful or just crazy.
While the initial few fights in the story campaign are pretty pedestrian as they’re based mostly on monsters you’ve fought dozens of times before, things really pick up when the subspecies are introduced. They almost feel like fighting different monsters, especially the Coral Pukei-Pukei whose moveset is almost entirely new with it shooting streams of water instead of poison. Then you get to the more original monsters and oh are they great. Standouts include a monster that spits explosive slime and a dinosaur-like creature with a bladed tail that glows red hot. They really do test your abilities as a hunter.
Nearly every fight has you staring in awe of the monster that stands before you as you wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into before you slowly but surely feel your confidence building as you learn their behaviors and weaknesses. Nothing compares to the elation of finally conquering a monster after being so terrified of it.
Just like the campaign in the base game, the new campaign for Iceborne merely provides context to what you’re doing. Aside from a few standout cutscenes from the new Canteen and Steamworks, the story is not going to be something you remember. Really, your most memorable moments are going to come from the fights themselves, and that’s what we all really need.
Adding to the joy of hunting are all of the new pieces of equipment that you can craft. The Master Rank weapons are filled with awesome new weaponry and armor, with armor skills that mesh well with each other. I have a build with Rathian parts that increase the duration of the poison status that I pair with Artian armor that adds status buildup with critical attacks. The new Master Rank armor pieces incentivize you to revisit older monsters to get their useful, cool gear. It’s almost like you’re restarting the game without having to erase all of your progress, hunting easier monsters before you get to the tricky, new ones. Whenever I defeat a monster old or new, I always run back to the workshop to see what awesome new gear I unlocked like a kid running to the candy shop after getting their allowance. However, just like with the base game some of the upgraded weapons just look like the base iron or bone weapons with the monster parts stapled onto them, and their ugliness really stands out compared to the more original and cooler looking weapons.
While the threats are even bigger than before, Capcom has introduced two new features to help you fight them that are game changers: the Clutch Claw and Raider Rides. The Clutch Claw launches a claw from your Slinger that lets you latch onto monsters. Once grappled on, you can fire all of your currently equipped Slinger ammo into the monster to make it fly in the direction that its facing, allowing you to slam it into walls or topple it off of ledges. You can also attack it with your weapon to wound whatever body part you grappled onto, making it take slightly more damage and break easier. Depending on your chosen weapon, you can also make the monster drop Slinger ammo. For melee players, this opens up so many different opportunities to further damage the monster. You can, for instance, fire the Clutch Claw before a monster escapes to deal some damage and hopefully prevent it from running away. The Clutch Claw has also been integrated into some of the different weapons, such as the Lance getting a new counter stance where it shoots out the Clutch Claw instead of just counterattacking. This combined with the ability to fire your Slinger even with your weapon unsheathed (not just the Sword & Shield) adds a whole new layer of fluidity to fights.
Raider Rides let you summon a Small Monster and ride it to a location on the map, even directly to the boss monster. You can also use items, gather stuff off the ground and even shoot your Slinger while riding. It’s awesome to be able to sharpen my weapon without having to sit on the ground to do it while the boss monster runs away. It’s also much faster than sprinting on your own. It’s so useful that I wish that the feature was unlocked for all maps by default.
There’s a bunch of other smaller but still very welcome additions added with the expansion. Your Palico Gadgets are upgraded to provide more features such as the Vigorwasp reviving you if you faint in battle the first time. The Training Area adds a dummy monster that won’t attack you but will react to Clutch Claw attacks just like a monster would. A new dynamic difficulty system has been implemented, adding a separate difficulty scale for two player battles to make them more manageable and lowering the difficulty if players drop out of a battle. You even get a cute, little clicker game with a twist with the Steamworks in the new headquarters; you press different combinations of three of the face buttons to hopefully get the right combination and build up steam to win different tiers of rewards. Every new addition from the expansion adds to the game, and now that I have them I can’t imagine playing the game without them.
Unfortunately, this makes the problems from the game that haven’t been addressed stand out all the more. When you accept a quest to fight a new monster for the first time, you still have to watch a cutscene before you can invite other players to join you. The game is still vague in telling you how its mechanics work, leaving players clueless as to how certain crucial weapon attacks work. It’s also still super annoying to pick stuff up from the ground; if I had a monster tail part for every time I went to pick up a dropped monster part only to pick up some useless Slinger ammo, I’d have a lot more weapons crafted.
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne Takeaways
Despite not directly addressing complaints from the original game, and in fact leaving some stuff completely unaddressed, Monster Hunter World: Iceborne still offers so many awesome additions that the game as a whole still feels improved. The fights are even more interesting with the added flexibility brought in with the Clutch Claw and the new monsters, and there’s a ton of content and things to collect. While some may be disappointed that the combat mechanics are still a tad clunky and and vague, the expansion offers so much to an already excellent game that it’s hard to get mad.
Basically, if you love Monster Hunter World, this is more Monster Hunter World. If you don’t like Monster Hunter World, this isn’t going to change your mind. As someone who falls in the former category, I am so happy for this expansion and I can’t wait to pour even more hours into this game than I already have.
Our Monster Hunter World: Iceborne Review Score: 9 out of 10
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