Title: Monster Hunter World: Iceborne
Genre: Action RPG
Age Rating: PEGI 16
Release Date: 06/09/2019
Price: £34.99 – Rapid Reviews was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
Iceborne, the newest expansion to 2018’s Monster Hunter World builds upon the series in classic fashion, much like previous western releases in the series have. The games often released in Japan and then released in the west a year later with additional content. That is also where the expansions biggest barrier lies: You must complete the main story of Monster Hunter World to engage with Iceborne. The expansion is more difficult, introducing the master rank hunts, with more difficult monsters that will require you to put your skills to the test to overcome each new challenge.
Iceborne doesn’t drastically change MHW. The flow of the game is nearly identical, but there is more story dispersed throughout chaining your missions together and giving characters more personality. It’s not groundbreaking storytelling, but it does more to attempt to justify the Fifth Fleet’s actions but ends up opening itself to renewed and strengthened criticism of its message about the relationship between humans and nature. In their attempts to tell a more robust story, they’ve highlighted some of the biggest flaws in their philosophy behind the game and story design. While that philosophy may be flawed, the resulting game is as strong as ever.
Iceborne is additive in ways that will really appeal to veteran hunters and provide great options to newcomers to Astera. Even if you haven’t finished the story of MHW, you’ll be able to benefit from the new mechanics introduced in Iceborne. The most interesting addition to the game is the introduction of the clutch claw. Now, hunters can grapple on to various parts of a monster and utilize a few strategies. You can make an attack, either creating a weak point on the monster or causing it to drop slinger ammo. Your other option is to mount the monsters head and force it to face a direction before launching an entire pouch of slinger ammo into the creature’s face. By directing your prey towards environmental obstacles like walls or trees, you can knock them out, leaving them vulnerable. It adds a new layer of strategy to help you overcome the more difficult hunts.
Further adding to the options that hunters have at their disposal, weapons have also received a revamp, giving most weapons a new ability or two. Many of these options relate to the slinger, and the ability to fire shots off mid-combo to stun a monster for a moment. It will take some practice to really implement these techniques, and you’ll most likely need to visit YouTube to learn how to properly use them. Unless you’re already a monster-hunting master, and if you are, why are you reading this review?
You’ll want to be bringing your best weapons into these hunts to dish out enough damage to end fights in time. Using one of my strongest weapons, I still struggled and failed to bring down several of the monsters within the 50-minute window. You can always try again, but to leave a hunt after 30-50 minutes with nothing to show for it is still frustrating.
And speaking of monsters, there are quite a few new ones in Iceborne. Twenty-seven large monsters in total, but that includes monsters returning from previous entries and variants to existing monsters, like Nightshade Paolumu. While the quality of life improvements are fantastic and make me never want to return to a handheld Monster Hunter title, I did find myself getting bored with the roster of creatures in the initial release. That was after around 75 hours, and I still played another 50 hours beyond that, so “bored” may be a bit strong to describe my feelings. Iceborne does a lot to make the roster feel fresh and new again by nearly doubling it. The monsters are more ferocious, unrelenting, and can really mess you up.
Obviously, with new monsters come new weapons and armour to craft, as well as a whole new master rank tier to craft. The armor is super stylish, and there are new master rank versions of the armor for all the original monsters too. The weapons appear to be slightly less flashy, and since all of the new monsters are based in master rank quests, getting their weapons can be time-consuming and even require going back to some older hunts to gather materials to upgrade to. You shouldn’t have too much difficulty upgrading your favourite weapon type, but if you’re wanting to take some time to build a new weapon, it may take you a while to gather those low and high-rank materials.
Something that has not improved is the multiplayer functionality. The issues with the initial release remain. In order to play story missions in multiplayer you need to first advance the mission to the point where you see the cutscene, and then either exit the mission and restart it with your hunting party or fire an SOS flare to call in other party members. It functions exactly the same as the initial release which is disappointing to see because hunting with friends is the best way to experience these games, especially in higher-level hunts.
Iceborne also brings along two new areas. The Hoarfrost Reach was featured heavily in the marketing materials and is where many of your hunts in this expansion will take place. It’s a glorious winter wonderland filled with new flora and fauna for you to collect and bring back to base, as well as plenty of new monsters and environmental dangers. Sheets of ice will break away from the battlefield, and avalanches will sweep you and your huntaway in a cascade of snow and debris. The first time these things happen will leave you clambering to find your footing and recover before you end up looking like a fool.
To further build out the end-game content of Iceborne, the game introduces The Guiding Lands, a location that composites together the various biomes into a single map. Several zones of forest intersect with bits of the Wildspire Waste, Coral Highlands, and Rotten Vale. Monsters from all these locations can spawn and venture between the various zones. It’s similar to the expeditions that have been available from the start, but you can visit multiple biomes in one map and meet a wide variety of monsters. You can hunt for hours, self-sustaining on the items you scavenge around the map. It’s a smart way to freshen up the end-game content. If you’re interested in just fighting a bunch of monsters than you’ll feel right at home in the Guiding Lands.
Iceborne is a shot in the arm to MHW, bringing it more in line with what fans of the series could expect from a handheld Monster Hunter in terms of content. The new areas bring back the sense of wonder that came with your firsts hunts in the Ancient Forest and Coral Highlands. While the added mechanics bring new strategy and flexibility to fights and give even seasoned hunters something new to learn and master. Unfortunately, many of the issues from MHW remain, like the poor handling of multiplayer which keeps the game from being the best version of itself.