The core of Monster Hunter games has always been that putting in work pays off. There are no shortcuts to success in any of the entries in what’s now one of Capcom’s most popular series. So much so that it wasn’t always in the spotlight like it is now thanks to Monster Hunter World. It took almost a couple of decades and many revisions to hook the rest of the world onto what Japan already knew was a hit back in the portable craze days that the franchise saw in the early 2000s. Monster Hunter World made the whole process much more streamlined, but at the same time it kept that motto going, one of perseverance being the path to getting things done.
For the first time ever, Monster Hunter gets an expansion instead of an entirely new entry, and with it, what was an already approachable game becomes even more so, thanks to some smart gameplay additions and tweaks. Monster Hunter World: Iceborne introduces a brand new region called Hoarfrost Reach to the already sizeable map of the New World, and with it, a gang of new monsters to fight, carve and make even more gear and weapons out of, which is just about everything anyone like me, who’s been through and through with Monster Hunter World, could ask for. For anyone coming in fresh, it’s an even better proposal, given just how much was added to the core gameplay, allowing for more flexible approaches to fights, and most importantly, giving solo players more room to tackle challenges on their own if they want.
Iceborne picks up right where the main game left off, with the Fifth Fleet having made a big dent into the New World, they discover that monsters have started behaving erratically, and one species in particular, the Legiana, has started migrating in droves to an unknown region of the world, an icy domain, which up until now it’s been basically uncharted. It doesn’t take long for them to run into what could possibly be behind the bizarre phenomenon, a new elder dragon by the name of Velkhana, who’s decided to roost in the Company’s stomping grounds in the New World. Having such an unbalance in the ecosystem gives way for new monsters to pop up everywhere, and with them, new hunts for you to partake in during your investigation into just what brought Velkhana out of its natural habitat.
Hoarfrost Reach, which serves as Iceborne’s introductory arena as you face off against its initial monsters at the beginning of the expansion, is perhaps one of Monster Hunter World’s trickiest locales, since it throws you into the deep end quite literally from the very get-go. Its pockets of snow slow you down immensely as you attempt to trudge through it looking for a camping sight as you first make your way into the new region, and it doesn’t take long before you are accosted by a monster who, of course, is totally adapted to the terrain, a sort of shark/dinosaur/rhinoceros combo called Beotodus, whose horn you’ll learn to keep an eye on if you hope to survive that confrontation. And yeah, by the time you’re established in this new region, that thing will probably be a joke to you, but it makes for a tremendous first bout into the expansion.
While not all of the “new” monsters are entirely so to anyone remotely familiar to Monster Hunter, their presence in Monster Hunter World is more than welcome in the grand scheme of things, since let’s admit it, this is by far the best playing entry in the series to date. So even if a lot of these are being brought back from the previous games, having them be a part of an ever growing assortment of beasts in the first console Monster Hunter in years that also happens to be the most successful one to date makes for a good excuse, don’t you think? And to top things off, there are even subspecies to some fan favorites from Monster Hunter World proper, so if you miss being tossed around like a ragdoll by Anjanath during your first hours of the main game, you’ll like meeting its cousin, who along the others, throws a wrench into the attack patterns you so lovingly memorized and learned to avoid since last year. <3
As I mentioned at the outset, Monster Hunter World: Iceborne is chock full of tweaks to gameplay that you’re bound to like, especially if you hated having to sheathe your weapon in order to use the slinger, for instance. Now you can shoot it off your hip even if you have any of your armaments out, which helps make fights a little more manageable for some of the slower builds like the heavy bowgunner, and gives people who would otherwise depend on other team members or even their palicoes for monster weakness exploiting a lot more room to maneuver. Each weapon also gets a few different moves and abilities as well. Out of the fourteen different sets, my favorite, the Charge Axe, can now store energy on axe form by spending vials in an even more powered up version, and its elemental discharge attack can now be combined into a devastating upward slash that comes incredibly handy when fighting flying types, for instance. The aforementioned Heavy Bowgun and the Light Bowgun get new mods that buff up their special shots, too, and even the Bow, which rounds out the ranged weapon selection, gets its own new attack, a devastating blast that spends all available ammo, so the more arrows of a particular type in your quiver, the better. There’s something new for each and every one of them, so be sure to try them all out. You’ll be surprised.
But the best new thing to come with Iceborne is the Clutch Claw, a new tool that lets you sling onto different spots on monsters that you can hit and expose repeatedly without the need of mounting, making it easier to break off specific parts in their armor. By popping a Flinch Shot, you’re able to throw monsters wherever it’s heading, such as wall, making it much more likely for it to be open for free attacks, and like the Claw Attack, which lets you guide the monster in the first place, works as a nice tool to turn the tide of fights.
The new base that becomes your HQ in the new region is a lot more straightforward when compared to Astrea, the one from the main game. Although you’ll spend the majority of Iceborne slinking back and forth from both regions, there’s plenty of reason to stick by Seliana, the new HQ introduced in Iceborne, because it’s a lot more straightforward in terms of design, making popping into the many pre-mission preparation stages a cinch, plus its head cook is Grammeowster, a lovely lady who just happens to be the master of the burly guy who used to cook your meals back in the old base. How can you beat true home cooking?
But things don’t stop there, since there are a couple of different new mechanics to play around with in Seliana, such as keeping the furnace going by feeding it fuel, which in turn gives you a number of items as rewards for doing well playing its three-button minigame where you guess the order they need to be pressed. The other addition to the base is much less involved: you can now customize your room. New items are added as you progress through the story and satisfy gathering requests, such as drapes for your windows, chairs, tables, shelves, beds, the whole shebang. I’m not really into playing house in games, but hey, it’s an option for anyone who does.
Monster Hunter World received significant content updates throughout 2018 and 2019, such as the addition of Lunastra and even monsters from other game series like The Witcher and Final Fantasy, so it’s not surprising to see the amount of new stuff to do in the Iceborne expansion. It won’t convince you to love the game if you didn’t like the main content to begin with, though. The grind is still there, front and center, and the new monsters don’t pull any punches when it comes to defeating them, with fights still taking upwards to almost an hour to get through if you don’t come prepared. It’s definitely more Monster Hunter World, through and through, for better or for worse.
For those playing on PC, you’re probably already used to getting updates a little later than console players, and that’s the case for this expansion. It’ll be hitting Steam in early 2020. For now, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 hunters can start the new content as soon as it’s out as long as they’ve finished the main campaign and have hit Hunter Rank 19. Iceborne introduces a new rank called Master Rank, and it goes up the more quests you complete along the way, allowing you to partake in new challenges and join other hunters in their own missions. It’s worth noting that there’s an added difficulty scale to the expansion that now tweaks the challenge when an extra player joins in on your game, as opposed to only making things harder when more than one would come into your match like before. It sounds like a minor thing, but trust me, it made a big difference during my time reviewing the new content as I joined forces with fellow writers who were also checking it out early.
Monster Hunter World Iceborne is a great expansion, and further cements Monster Hunter World as the best way to enjoy what Monster Hunter as a whole has to offer. The returning monsters make their debut on the big screen and look absolutely bonkers, and the new ones provide plenty of new challenges for veterans of the series who may have seen it all already. I especially liked having the chance to go toe to toe with new variations of the monsters from the base game, and being forced to think differently on how to best defeat them. I can’t wait to join forces with friends and fellow hunters alike once the Iceborne is officially out in a couple of days. If you need a teammate, be sure to shout! I’ll come flying in ASAP!