Released on: September 6 2019 (Playstation 4 and Xbox One), January 6 2020 (Steam)
Available Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC
Price: $54.99 CDN ($39.99 US) (Has microtransactions) (Requires Monster Hunter World to play)
In my Monster Hunter World review, I promised to review the Iceborne expansion. That day has finally come, my dear readers. I thoroughly enjoyed Monster Hunter World and was excited when they announced the Iceborne expansion. Sadly, my financial situation didn’t permit me to get it on release day, so I had to wait. I finally got my hands on Iceborne as a Christmas gift and have been playing it since. Was Iceborne worth the wait?
Our story picks up shortly after the events of Monster Hunter World. The hunting guild sets off to explore a new uncharted area known as Hoarfrost Reach, a vast tundra where only the strong survive. The player and their handler are drawn to the area by a mysterious song heard across the New World. This eerie song also leads a herd of ice wyverns known as Legiana (who is a prominent monster in Monster Hunter World). Our intrepid heroes’ task is to solve the mystery of the Hoarfrost Reach, find out where that tune is coming from, and deal with any significant threats they find along the way. If the player likes the story of World, they will enjoy what Iceborne has to offer. What I especially enjoyed about Iceborne’s story is the part where the handler goes off on her own, and she is replaced by the serious handler, who is far less verbose and much more charming. Her only flaw is that the serious handler is crushingly temporary. While my feelings of the handler are neutral (forgetting she exists when not engaged in the story), I found the excited reactions of the usually tranquil serious handler charming, almost like the towering behemoths are supposed to be impressive.
One significant feature to Iceborne is the addition to Master Rank. Master Rank is World’s version of G-rank from the previous Monster Hunter games. When I found this out, I was elated. G-rank (or Master Rank in this case) means that weapons and armor get ridiculously powerful, but so do the monsters. Master Rank monsters hit harder, move faster, and are far bulkier than their High Rank brethren. Iceborne eases the player much better into its Master Rank mode than classic Monster Hunter games, in that the monsters won’t one-shot the player as soon as they are spotted. At least… not the first ones…
Another fantastic addition is the new monsters and returning favorites. There are so many more monsters in Iceborne that it is dizzying. My favorite monster/rival of the series, Tigrex, makes a return, and it is meaner than ever. There are also subspecies of existing monsters, giving the player so much to discover in Iceborne.
The big kahuna of improvements that Iceborne brings is in its gameplay. Combat in World already felt fluid and intuitive. Iceborne adds a myriad of moves to each weapon. Mastery of a weapon feels incredibly satisfying, giving the training area that much more of a purpose. What I find most impressive with the additional moves is that they feel natural. Iceborne also introduces the Clutch Claw, an upgrade to the Slinger that allows a hunter to attach themselves to a monster at a moment’s notice. My concern when they announced the Clutch Claw was that hunters could repeatedly use the Clutch Claw to completely nullify a monster. Thankfully, I quickly realized that a successful use of the clutch Claw requires stamina. Unsuccessful use of the Clutch Claw can leave a hunter open to attacks. Even if the hunter attaches themselves onto the monster with the Clutch Claw, they are still vulnerable to attacks. Clutch Claw use takes some acclimation, adding depth to an already deep gameplay experience. How were the developers able to add so many new gameplay features to World and still make it feel like it belongs? Mind-blowing!
In my Monster Hunter World review, I mentioned that the Gathering Hub was missing some essential features, like the blacksmith. That is no longer the case with Iceborne. It has everything a hunter needs without leaving it. Aesthetically, Iceborne’s Gathering Hub looks much better than World’s. It has a giant hot bath, where hunters can use unique gestures when they interact with it. Iceborne improves on World’s Gathering Hub by a country mile.
As much as I like all the new features Iceborne brings to the table, there are still a few things that they could have improved.
I’ll be honest; I often got confused with the layout of Seliana when I first booted up Iceborne. I was able to get used to the area and find every prominent vendor after a few hours, but my first experience with Seliana was a slightly confusing one.
Fights in Monster Hunter World feel more drawn out than the classic games of the series. With Iceborne’s inclusion of the Master Rank, the battles feel even more elongated. World’s open-ended design to its maps makes for a smooth gameplay experience, but they also make the area much larger, which is why I think the quests last longer (or at least they feel like they do). When I first started playing the Master Rank mode, I felt like monsters were taking forever to keel over. It is true that I was using weapons that meant for a lower rank, but the quests were to hunt the first monsters a hunter would beat in Master Rank. After I got better weapons, the quests didn’t last anywhere near as long, but they do still feel longer than previous games in the Monster Hunter series.
One thing I did forget to mention in my Monster Hunter World review is that it has microtransactions in the form of cosmetics and extra emotes. These are, by no means, essential to enjoying Monster Hunter World, or Iceborne. I often forget that they exist in the first place. Still, I do feel like I should let my readers know that microtransactions are present so that there are no surprises.
Iceborne is a fantastic expansion to an already excellent game. Additional gameplay features that feel natural, Master Rank, a vastly improved Gathering Hub, and a whole slew of extra monsters both new and returning favorites make Iceborne a must get for fans of Monster Hunter World.