Monster Hunter World: Iceborne is a massive undertaking that feels as fresh and expansive as a brand new game.
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne is a complete, paid expansion for Capcom's massively popular Monster Hunter World series. Developed and published by Capcom on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC, it's a full-fledged companion to the already lengthy action RPG/monster hunting extravaganza. It's meant to build on nearly every aspect of the base game, beginning with an all-new story that picks up right where the main game left off. Players are transported to the beautifully ice land of Hoarfrost Reach, an expansive ecosystem rife with gorgeous snowbanks, plenty of new terrain, and most importantly, new monsters to hunt. The result is a sprawling addition to an already extremely large game that's well worth your money and time.
Entering Hoarfrost Reach is nearly like beginning a completely new Monster Hunter entry. The ice-themed region is rife with reasons to return to the game, even if you exhausted every quest, explored every area, and collected every item you possibly could in the base game. Nearly every aspect of the core game has been refined in a way that feels like a set of satisfying, unique tweaks. While the biggest challenge lies within conquering the brutal cold, the new series of beasts are some of the most exciting aspects of the new expansion as well.
Following the Elder Crossing storyline's resolution from the main campaign, Iceborne takes the game's Hunter on a journey to investigate the Legiana that's been seen in the Ancient Forest, far from its typical habitat. When the Commander of Astera assembles a team to investigate why the Legiana can now be found so far away from its usual home, he tasks the player character with heading out and putting the puzzle pieces together. As it turns out, there's not just one Legiana – there's an entire flock of them. The Hunter ends up following the flock to a strange new island that's totally frozen over. This tundra-like area will become the outpost of Seliana at the new in-game land called Hoarfrost Reach.
The narrative sets the stage nicely to introduce a wide variety of new creatures that Monster Hunter veterans may recognize, though a good portion of the monsters included in Iceborne are brand-new as well. These monsters put up an extremely frustrating fight, and will undoubtedly be some of the most difficult encounters seen throughout the whole of Monster Hunter World yet, whether the Hunter challenges the water-spouting Coral Pukei-Pukei or figuring out a way to stave off the snow-gliding Beotodus, which is an undertaking unto itself. Each monster requires its own unique strategy to fell, which means you can't simply rely on a one-size-fits-all option for every battle.
Many monsters have "remixed" abilities or added status effects to their encounters, so if you found one particular fight in the base game easy, the developers have upped the ante by adding poison or sleep effects that you must now contend with instead. It can become extremely frustrated, especially for hunters who aren't as seasoned. Players must have completed the base game to play through Iceborne, so there's at least the prerequisite that anyone who challenges the new parade of monsters will have that baseline of experience, but that doesn't make things any simpler.
Some monster fights are less reliant on strategy and more time-consuming since it takes an absurd amount of time to eliminate targets. Several monsters can inflict status effects such as Iceblight (the Barioth is a particularly frustrating encounter because of this), which can make battles take even longer than they should. Mostly, it's all about staying alive long enough to strike a death blow while hammering away at a monster with a massive health bar.
Luckily, there are plenty of new ways to combat the Hunter's marks, including the new Clutch Claw. This secondary weapon allows you to mount a monster, clamor up its side, and attack it in places that might normally be out of reach. Weapon abilities also make for some useful additions that can turn typically frustrating encounters into much less rage-worthy affairs. Additionally, copious usage of the slinger can mean the difference between making it out alive from a particularly dangerous battle and having to come crawling back from the next "Game Over" screen.
There's also plenty to grind for between hunting for new monsters. A new ranking of hunts has been introduced in Iceborne in the form of Master Hunter, which labels all Iceborne hunts as Master Rank. This brings along an entirely new set of materials for you to use to craft rarity 9-12 gear. While High Grade materials made for some fantastic gear before, new Master Rank weapons and armor are a massive step forward. This means that even when starting the Iceborne expansion with High Grade gear, there'll be a significant difficulty curve at the beginning of the expedition through Hoarfrost Reach, meaning players will need to start from the bottom, so it goes, once more.
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne is a gorgeous expansion with plenty to see, explore, and complete. The hub area Seliana isn't as large as Astera, but that means there's less time to be wasted trying to figure out where to go next to accomplish the next feat. Beyond Seliana, the Hoarfrost Reach is its own special kind of attractive, like a winter wonderland of sorts. It might seem that players could get tired of seeing snow so often, but there are enough varied environments to ensure that the visuals never become stale.
For players who have rocketed through everything Monster Hunter World has to offer and are looking for something to sink their teeth into next, Monster Hunter World: Iceborne is a worthy expansion that's got a dizzying amount of content. Whether hunters can't wait to seek out the new and remixed creatures or immerse themselves in a whole new grind to the top for the best equipment available, there's truly something for everyone here in the frozen landscapes of Iceborne.
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne releases on September 6 and will be available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC at a later date. A PS4 code was provided for this review.