Longtime fans of the Monster Hunter series know that almost every time that Capcom brings a brand new game to the franchise, it will likely be given a massive update sometime in the future. Since originally being released back in 2018 Monster Hunter World saw numerous collaboration events and even new creatures to hunt down added through various updates but now Capcom has released their first full expansion for the game in the form of Monster Hunter World: Iceborne. Often an expansion can offer plenty of new content while also tweaking the formula a bit but Iceborne blurs the line between an expansion and offering content rivaling the original release.
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne picks up immediately after where the core game’s initially ended. The Fifth Fleet has managed to accomplish their task of learning more about the New World and slaying both the massive elder dragon Zorah Magdaros but also the incredibly powerful Xeno’Jiva that was disrupting the ecosystem and potentially a threat to the entire world. While the player’s hunter and handler have kept themselves busy slaying tempered monsters and other threatening creatures, it seems that a Legiana has appeared in the Ancient Forest, and being a creature that usually doesn’t leave its habitat, this is an odd event.
After some investigating that finds the forest nearly devoid of life, the hunter witnesses a massive flock of Legiana leaving the land and traveling across the seas, with a new unknown beast flying among them. With another mystery of the New World waiting to be unveiled and perhaps a new land to explore, the expedition quickly pursues the Legiana only to find a frozen land containing both familiar and brand new beasts to be slain. After setting up camp, naming it Seliana, and deeming the surrounding area as the Hoarfrost Reach players will find that the world once again slowly opens up to them one slain creature at a time.
As you may surmise, Monster Hunter World: Iceborne requires players to beat the original game before venturing forth into new territory and this is far from an issue as players will need to be well-prepared for the new dangers that will await them. As for the story, don’t expect anything too amazing to happen here as it mostly serves as a framing device to help establish the transition to the new world but it is nice to note that some of the support staff as well as the Handler are given more time to shine here and there.
Initially players may find that Monster Hunter World: Iceborne throws a bit too much new content at them right off the bat as a few new mechanics have been added, brand new gear as well as enhanced versions of previously gear are now available for crafting as both Master rank gear and with a rarity rank that goes up to twelve. A number of new moves have also been added to some weapon styles so be prepared to learn a few new techniques if your style has been modified improved, though a few weapons have only been slightly touched upon, such as my personal favorite the Hammer. That being said, the biggest mechanics are introduced at a solid enough pace though players may want to try and learn the new elements with a few easier hunts first before throwing themselves at a new Iceborne creature.
The biggest change to the core combat happens to be the addition of the Clutch Claw. While players have always had the ability to use ledges, sliding jump attacks, and even launchers with other equipment to find themselves on top of a creature and able to deal extra damage, the Clutch Claw now allows players to grapple onto monsters from a distance and, while not as effective as a standard mount, strike them to soften their hides up a bit or blast them with Slinger ammo stagger them or send them charging towards a wall for bonus damage. There is even the ability to ride on smaller creatures as mounts if the player’s Palico is properly trained by the Felyne tribes of each map, though this is generally used more for quick transport around the map than anything else.
Other than that, players will notice that, at least at its core, most of the combat in Monster Hunter World: Iceborne remains as solid as it ever was in the original game with these new additions only taking a bit to learn after their initial rush of information though players will need to note a few other new features. These include the fact that the Hoarfrost Reach is incredibly cold and now can inflict players with devastating stamina loss if not properly treated. This is handled through Hot Drinks to stave off long-term cold and even natural hot springs that dot the landscape.
A large number of brand new, or at least brand new to those who have only played World, large monsters have been added into the game, though it is worth noting that a little over half of the total new monsters that players will be asked to hunt are actually brand new. The other half happen to be variants of the creatures that were already available in the base game but with new attacks, weaknesses, and a few other special features that players will need to learn about. It is also nice to note that since all of these creatures are considered Master rank and can be quite difficult to take down.
In fact even with some of the best gear and ornaments the player can take into this expansion from the core game, the first few hunts can be a bit difficult and rather long. This is primarily due to the aforementioned fact that Master gear is now available as well as incredibly strong compared to the base game’s gear. Although weapons scale a bit better, players will find even the base armor available from the first few Iceborne monsters to easily outclass any previous gear, often with even more decoration slots to allow for an easier transition of your favorite set-up into the fresh gear.
When not in the field hunting all manner of new beasts players will find that Seliana is an incredibly streamlined base of operations that works both aesthetically given the frozen land that the hunters now must survive in but also one that doesn’t feel cramped despite having all of the players’ necessities closer together. Along these same lines the Gathering Hub, where players can find other players walking around and interact with them, also features nearly every shop and tool needed outside of Tailrider Safaris, who can also explore Hoarfrost Reach after some time. It is also nice to note that fans of the aforementioned Felynes will find that there are some new little bits of side-content that apply to the mascots of the series as players can locate unique events in the wild and take photos of them with a new tool and even partake in a simple steam engine game that turns often neglected fuel items gained from mining or gathering into far more useful ones.
Visuals & Audio
Players will find that Capcom has really excelled at creating a great looking frozen tundra that is filled with a number of neat looking features and traps that players can use to their advantage in the Hoarfrost Reach. The environment is a real joy to explore and although it may take a bit to get used to wading through snow sometimes, it rarely feels like a challenge. As far as the new monsters go, they really are a sight to behold and a number of them can feel incredibly imposing the first time they are faced down, though a few still hold this level of awe even after carving them apart a few times.
Customization still remains at an all time high as new gear types are introduced and even layered gear is available to give players a different outward appearance compared to the actual gear they are wearing. The sound effects still hold as true as one can expect in the series with a number of great sounding monster roars accompanying the new beasts. It is worth noting that the voice acting can still be a bit rough sounding sometimes, especially when the Handler pops-in while traveling through the map in a story mission, but the cast has all reprised their roles well enough here.
By coming rather close to doubling the content found in the original game Monster Hunter World: Iceborne offers an extensive amount of content for players to sink their weapons into. Sure a few too many foes are sub-species of already available monsters but by taking what was already amazing combat and a great reward cycle and making it even better Capcom has proven that the Monster Hunter series is one that can continue to strive forward and anyone who is a fan of the series should be more than ready to enter the frozen wastes and see what beasts await them.
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