Review: MHW Iceborne is an essential expansion
Capcom’s behemoth series gets the mammoth upgrade it deserves
- Game Director
- Fujioka Kaname
- Key Credits
- Ryozo Tsujimoto (Producer), Takuro Hiraoka (Lead game designer)
Even if Monster Hunter: World wasn’t the global phenomenon it has become – it’s now Capcom’s best-selling title of all time – an expansion was always going to happen.
Virtually every Monster Hunter entry has followed with a ‘G/Ultimate’ version that expands upon the original. True to those roots, and as implied by the new Master Rank, Iceborne is for hunters seeking the next challenge in the New World, and as such, it goes in pretty hard. Fortunately, the initial hunts are expeditions rather than quests, meaning lapsed hunters can get back into the swing of things with no limit on time or carting.
The new Hoarfrost Reach area is a beautiful winter wonderland, though not without hazards. There’s the freezing temperatures that will sap your stamina unless you have a hot drink to hand, while deep snow can slow you down, leaving you in a tight spot when you’ve awoken the fury of the local wildlife.
There’s Beotodus, a shark and rhino hybrid that likes to burrow deep in the snow before leaping out to whip you with its icy tail. Or mammoth moose Banbaro, who not only charges at you with its massive antlers but can also use the environment to turn that up a notch, such as rolling up a massive snow boulder or widening its attack range with a tree trunk. The headline act is elder dragon Velkhana, giving the ice dragon from Game of Thrones a run for its money, its fearsome presence seemingly disrupting the ecosystem of the New World.
But just as soon as you’re enjoying acclimating to this new territory and setting up new hub Seliana, you’re also called back to investigate changes in the older parts of the New World. For while the Hoarfrost Reach might seem like the main attraction of Iceborne, it’s really just one area, which isn’t much bigger than the other hunting grounds you’ve visited, and far from the sole focus of the expansion.
“Hunting with others remains the most enjoyable way to play Monster Hunter, and Iceborne improves this experience with an all-new Gathering Hub in Seliana.”
This makes sense not only to remix expectations of existing areas but also to diversify the spread of other monsters. These include old favourites like Barioth, Tigrex, and Nargacuga, but also new subspecies. The latter aren’t just palette swaps either: the likes of Viper Tobi Kadachi or Fulgur Anjanath have different elemental attributes as well as completely new attack patterns – put simply, they’re a hell of a lot tougher than their original counterparts.
However, there’s just as much incentive for hunting ‘vanilla’ monsters, not just because they also put up more of a fight in Master Rank, but they’ll also reward you with new materials for forging new armour or taking advantage of the expanded weapon tree for all 14 weapon types. And you’ll want to get on this right from the off as even the most basic MR armour sets have stats almost double the value of your gear by World’s endgame – which explains why Iceborne’s initial hunts feel especially intimidating.
While Iceborne doesn’t introduce any new weapon types, every weapon has new movesets, allowing for new play styles and tactics. Perhaps the most useful new tool is the Clutch Claw that hooks you onto a monster making it easier to soften up a part of its body or even steer its movement to knock it into the environment, giving you another tactical advantage. Other quality of life improvements include being able to fire your slinger without sheathing your weapon, while solo hunters get an extra helping hand, as your Palico can now revive you the first time you’re KOed.
Hunting with others remains the most enjoyable way to play Monster Hunter, and Iceborne improves this experience with an all-new Gathering Hub in Seliana. It’s essentially a hot springs resort where you can get some much needed R&R after a long day’s hunt, which includes some fun costume changes and emotes – finally, you can pet your Palico.
“Just when you reach what seems like a perfectly satisfying conclusion to this new story, the challenges only escalate from there with even more fearsome monsters to absolutely test your hunter’s mettle”
More importantly, whereas you still had to traipse all around base for preparations, meaning hunters rarely actually hung out together, this new Gathering Hub is much better integrated. Besides signing up for quests or eating at the canteen, it’s also got its own provisions stockpile, resource centre (where you register bounties and investigations), research centres, even a shortcut to the Smithy – in other words, you no longer have to leave the Gathering Hub to get things done.
And there really is a staggering amount to do. In fact, just when you reach what seems like a perfectly satisfying conclusion to this new story, the challenges only escalate from there with even more fearsome monsters to absolutely test your hunter’s mettle, ensuring the most dedicated hunter will be spending just a good long time crafting and augmenting new gear for its endgame. Iceborne’s price point might seem higher than most DLC but it’s entirely justified.
There’s the obvious caveat that the expansion is intended for experienced hunters, especially since it only unlocks after beating the base game’s campaign. Nonetheless, being able to access the clutch claw and new weapon skills does give newcomers an edge, while a free downloadable Guardian Armour set will provide a much needed boost – but there’s no way to fast-track learning monster patterns and more powerful weapons before jumping into the deep icy end. For those experienced hunters however, Iceborne is Christmas come early.
A monster-sized expansion that builds on and enhances Monster Hunter: World in every way, Iceborne is an essential upgrade for hunters craving new monsters, challenges, and gear.
- A truly monster-sized expansion with plenty of quests and new gear to keep you busy across all areas.
- Fantastic addition of new, classic, and subspecies of monsters aptly raising the challenge.
- Excellent Clutch Claw and additional weapon skills add depth and variety to play style and tactics.
- A much larger and better integrated gathering hub for online multiplayer.
- Newcomers need to beat the base game first - no ifs or buts.