Monster Hunter World: Iceborne is an expansion that rivals that of the base game and then some with a new area to explore and monsters to fight.
Platforms: PlayStation 4 (version reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Release Date: September 6, 2019 | January 2020 (PC)
When Iceborne was first formally announced last year, I thought we would just be getting a new location to explore with just a few monsters, an Elder Dragon, and new weapon trees and armor. Man, was I highly mistaken.
Sure, there is only one new explorable location with new materials to gather and monsters to hunt and capture. That’s okay given the context of the story; each playable area in Monster Hunter World is already very sizeable.
Here’s the thing: there are plenty of new and returning monsters from previous Monster Hunter games to encounter. They aren’t all ice-themed, and they’re not exclusive to the new area either. So there is a good amount of variation and places to revisit for more hunts.
Speaking of ice and the new area, it’s called the Hoarfrost Reach. It’s a near uninhabitable place for humans, but it’s rich with endemic life and breathtaking sights to behold. Sure, there are some icy parts in the Coral Highlands, but this new place is riddled with snow, ice, and frosted caverns.
The icy temperatures of this arctic biome are no joke either. Being in the Hoarfrost reach is like being in the molten underbelly of the Elder’s Recess. Instead of gradually losing health and having to consume a cold drink to prevent such effects, your stamina bar slowly withers away from the sheer cold. In order to keep warm, you have to consume hot drinks every now and then.
Luckily, you can collect hot peppers from the flora to easily craft them. You can also cultivate them in bulks from the Chief Botanist to have excess reserves. Alternatively, if your hot drink inventory is low, you can find hot springs in certain areas to combat the cold. It wouldn’t be too bad of an idea to have certain loadouts catered to defending against ice status effects either. This whole area is stamina hell.
This new locale is only accessible after having purchased the base game and the Iceborne expansion, along with clearing the story of the main game and being at least Hunter Rank 16. Unless you’re a seasoned Monster Hunter veteran, I would suggest to craft rarity 7 and 8 gear and hone your skills until you’re a higher Hunter Rank before taking on Iceborne.
You also have a new hub world similar to Astera but more compact, called Seliana. Most of what’s in Astera can be accessed in the new headquarters. The Elder Melder, item box, quest board, smithy, resource center, and others are available there. You can even customize your personal room in Seliana with all sorts of decorations and fill it with the endemic life you capture out on quests. A neat addition certainly, and I might look into it if I have the research points to spare.
Seliana also houses this new facility called the Steamworks. It essentially acts as the powerhouse for the entire HQ. As you complete more quests, the fuel increases. You can also add fuel by using up different types of ore in your inventory. You can use this fuel to partake in this mini-game where you press three different face buttons in a random order to generate a bunch of items ranging from armor spheres, traps, curatives, and other consumables.
When I first went into the Hoarfrost Reach, I was at HR 54. Luckily, most of my gear was top-notch and equipped with decent jewels, so I put up a fight at least for the first few missions. In the base game you go from Low Rank to High Rank quests, with a star rating (1-9) denoting difficulty. However, in Iceborne, it starts at a new difficulty— Master Rank. I’m not the greatest player, but having proper gear does certainly help in the early hunts.
Right around the time I got to a Master Rank 3 quest to hunt a Barioth, that’s when I knew my gear became obsolete. The monster hit me a bit too hard, making me use up all of my curatives. I also ran out of time on the mission four times.
As there are low and high rank gear, there is now Master Rank gear. Unless you’re a masochist or just know how to dodge every telegraphed attack from enemies in games like this, I suggest crafting armor pieces in that category. Like I said earlier about having rarity 7 and 8 gear to start off Iceborne, you would have hunted a few monsters and collected enough resources to hopefully craft rarity 9 gear by then, making future hunts less of a pain.
Here’s the thing about Iceborne: the level and rarity caps of all hunter and palico gear have been raised. Armor and weapon rarities now go from 9 to 12. Even though my pre-Iceborne gear was top-notch, the defensive and offensive stats were wildly outclassed by the higher rarity gear.
Not only is the higher rarity gear just better, they are also very cosmetically pleasing. The art style of the armor and weapons already look very cool in the Monster Hunter franchise, but the new sets are on a whole new level of awesome. The aesthetics are on par with the Drachen armor.
Not only are there higher gear levels and overall raised stats from the gear, but each weapon class has gotten sizeable quality of life changes, rebalancing, and more moves added. I’m primarily an insect glaive user while periodically switching to charge blades, but after seeing some randoms joining me on my hunts with different weapon classes, I may have to reconsider.
Many weapons do feel sluggish for me in some regard, and with the addition of the new clutch claw mechanic, it allows for more than just speed and closing the distance with monsters. A successful clutch claw attack on a monster guarantees some kind of potent singer ammo drop. Use it to your advantage in follow up clutch claw attacks or shooting at their weak spots, or even trigger flash flies with them. The combat was already quite complex, if you utilize traps, the slinger, and even your environment to your advantage.
These quality of life changes go beyond just with the weapons. There is also a new option to ride the tailraiders and have them track whatever you set your scoutflies to seek. It makes tracking elusive monsters much less of a headache when vertically scaling parts of the different locations. It’s quite hilarious being out in the Ancient Forest and riding on a Jagras. It’s even funnier when I’m riding on it like a horse and it climbs up vine walls.
The only downside to using these is that they strictly follow scoutfly tracks. They’re running on a rail, so any sort of ore deposit, other monster tracks, and flora you want to pick up can only be done if you manually get off or press your action button fast enough if they are in that specific path.
I’m purposefully being vague about the story and what it contains because it actually feels more memorable than what the base game delivered, and I don’t want to spoil too much. The story is focused mostly on the new Elder Dragon— Velkhana, and its impact on why there are new monsters found in the old locations.
Revisiting the older areas and seeing the new monsters appear refreshes the Monster Hunter World experience, especially when they clash with the preexisting monsters. Seeing the Tigrex give the Odogaron a run for its money was not only a mini show to behold but something really scary if you’re caught in between that turf war.
The content of Iceborne is not as shallow as I thought it would be. I feel like I’m only scratching the surface here and I am slowly making my way to facing the simultaneous monster hunts, special arenas, and higher Master Rank quests.
*As of completing this review, the first free title update of Iceborne will include Rajang, a fanged beast from Monster Hunter 2.
A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.