Review: Monster Hunter World: Iceborne (PlayStation 4)

Reviewed by Christopher Otero, posted Sep 9, 2019, last updated Sep 9, 2019
Sep 9, 2019
  • Release Date (NA): September 6, 2019
  • Release Date (EU): September 6, 2019
  • Release Date (JP): September 6, 2019
  • Publisher: Capcom
  • Developer: Capcom
  • Genres: Action-Adventure, Action-RPG
  • ESRB Rating: Teen
  • PEGI Rating: Sixteen years and older
  • Also For: Xbox One
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
A frozen paradise.
Christopher Otero
review_banner_monster_hunter_world_iceborne.

Iceborne is the first expansion to Capcom's 2018 game, Monster Hunter World. For those who might not know what exactly the series is, a quick overview. Monster Hunter first released for the PS2 before moving to the PSP, Wii, and then the 3DS. You assume the role of a hunter and must slay or capture large monsters, which you then gather materials from in order to craft better armor and weapons to hunt even more fearsome beasts. Last year's release of Monster Hunter World saw the return of the series to consoles and was followed by a PC release later in 2018. World expanded on many of the series staples, and introduced its own ideas; along with a stronger narrative compared to previous games, it provided an near-perfect experience. Check out our review of Monster Hunter World if you haven't for more on that.

As I have already reviewed the base game, I won't be going over things like graphics and audio as not much as changed in that department. Rather this review will focus on the new map, Hoarfrost Reach, some of the new monsters, changes to gameplay, and the overall experience.

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A Winter Wonderland

To first begin Iceborne's story, you must have gotten to Hunter Rank 16 or higher. Certain aspects of the expansion are available even if your HR isn't high enough, such as the Clutch Claw. Once this criteria has been met however, Iceborne can truly begin. The Flying Wyvern, Legiana, are outside of their usual habitats and migrating out to sea. Investigating this, you eventually find yourself in an icy and unknown landscape. This is Hoarfrost Reach, an almost uninhabitable and frozen land full of new monsters and mystery. At first glance, it seems more open and empty than previous locales in World—but after just a few trips, you see it's full of life and movement. Endemic life, such has cute penguins and hot spring chilling monkeys, are all over Hoarfrost. Open woodlands covered in snow and permafrost lakes with fish frozen within while cave systems run underneath, full of warm air to soothe frozen hunters; it's incredibly somber scenery but breathtaking all the same. The detail in the environment is perfect. The deeper the snow is, the slower you move as you leave a trail of trampled snow behind, clinging to your armor as you navigate the chilled terrain.

After a couple of expeditions in the Reach, the Commission's new hub will be all set: Seliana. Like Astera, it is your base of operations featuring all the necessities a hunter could need, plus a new one to boot. Workshop, Argosy, Provisions, and the Canteen. You also have your own room in Seliana just as in Astera—however your new room is customizable. Place a new table and change the pattern on the tablecloth, new floors and walls, lighting and paints. I was pretty shocked at just how much is available to change to truly make the room your own. Different items are unlocked and able to be purchased as you progress through the side and main quests.

Much remains the same between the two bases, however Seliana has one thing Astera does not: the Steamworks. Seliana is powered by steam and the Tech Chief could always use fuel and a hand. Running on Dragonvein Coal, you can donate your own you find as you gather and hunt in addition to the supply they receive after every complete quest and expedition. Once you stock it up, a button pressing minigame begins. This is, for the most part, a guessing game. Using Cross, Square and Triangle to process the Dragonvein, you must guess the correct order in which they need to be pressed. At times the order may remain the same consecutively or change repeatedly, there's no real way to know. The better you do guessing, the more likely you will trigger some cutscene, rush mode or a QTE, having to press the buttons as they glow with Felynes cheering you on. As reward, you receive a variety of items, ranging from healing goods to rare crafting materials. Messing up affects the items you receive as you go through, but it's a pretty fun minigame and a good break from the jaw clinching action.

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The Gathering Hall in Seliana is massive and has a few extras the other lacks, the biggest being its connection to the Workshop. No longer do hunters have to go back to the single player hub to craft new gear after a quest, which is a very welcome change. There's also a sauna to sweat all that tension out or a footbath to chill and play with your Palico. A very large hot springs for hunters to frolic and splash around in awaits as well. While the latter facilities serve no real purpose, they are pretty fun and a good way to kill time while you wait for your party to get ready.

Once prepared and having acquired you newly gained Master Rank, Iceborne's replacement for G Rank from previous titles, you're ready to hunt some new monsters. You have some familiar faces to veterans of the series, such as the Barioth and Zinogre, as well as new beasts like the Brute Wyvern, Banbaro. At the Master Rank, monsters hit harder, have new attacks, and new patterns to learn, providing a fresh challenge for experienced hunters to enjoy. Additionally, there are a number of new sub-species. You have the Viper Tobi-Kadachi sporting the ability to not only paralyze with its fangs but poison unsuspecting hunters with its poison barbed tail, and the Fulgur Anjanath, with its fierce electric attacks and a very intimidating appearance. Apart from the names, they are distinguishable by different colors or patterns. That isn't to say it's just about the new and returning monsters at all. In Master Rank, even something as easy as a Pukei-Pukei can deal big damage if unprepared, so what once was something you might have had an easy time with can become a difficult and trying battle. That's the draw; the greater the challenge, the greater the satisfaction in victory.

I had one quest that was such a battle⁠—the monster was a Barioth and it was naturally quite difficult. Almost unpredictable movements and hard hitting attacks, with ranged ice attacks and limited flight. I fought hard, fainted once, and made multiple attempts at capture as I assumed it was close to death. No luck. Next thing I know, it's under 2 minutes left on the timer and it was going to end in failure. No time to go to camp to stock up and no time to sharpen. No healing items left with one hit worth of health, I went to hyper aggression, hitting and blocking, rolling underneath it doing my best to end it. Under a minute left, we're both still standing. I'm prepared for failure, but I keep attacking and then it happens; the camera changes, the end of quest music plays and it crashes to the ground. I was in shock. I was ecstatic and so relieved. I threw my hands up and just shouted "yes" at full volume. Finished with under 2 seconds left. That's always been the draw in the games and Iceborne's increased difficulty in quests and monsters, both old and new, leads to a more satisfying and an overall fun experience.

Tools of the Trade

Iceborne brings with it new character editing options as well, for both your hunter and Palico. New head types, face paints and lots of new hair styles are just the tip of the iceberg of what's new here. Most of the base game hair now have variant styles, allowing for even more customization and individuality. For the Palico options, new ears and face types, you can change their pupil shape and new tails. The character creation in the base game already had a ton of options to lose yourself in and now with almost double the choices, you can create some truly unique hunters.

A new look needs some new tool and upgrades to go with it and luckily Iceborne is happy to deliver. Expansions to your Harvest Box mean you can farm even more bugs, herbs, and mushrooms. Upgrades to various tools, like the Glider and Vitality Mantles, make it possible to place decorations in them, giving hunters more skills when equipped or in use. A new tool to Iceborne is the Surveyor Set. Essentially an in-game camera, you can take pictures and view them in your Hunter Note's gallery, but its key use is in documenting and helping the Lynian Researcher with his work. Some require certain conditions, like rainy weather and morning or increased proficiency with a specific gadget, with rewards ranging from Wyvernian Prints to Research Points. Nothing critical, but fun side quests all the same with worthy rewards.

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The newest and most welcome upgrade to your arsenal is to the Slinger. This was one of my favorite things when I reviewed World but with all it brought, there was one thing it was lacking. I hadn't mentioned it my previous review but it was one of the only things I felt the game was missing: the ability to grapple onto monsters. Iceborne fixes that with the Clutch Claw. By aiming your Slinger at a part of the monster's body and pressing Circle, the Slinger will launch a claw out and if successful, pulls you in and "mount" the monster. I say "mount" because it behaves differently than the usual mounting. They still have their full range of actions and movements, so grappling onto monster's head and it unleashes a breath or biting attack, you take damage and get flung off. Striking their bodies with a Circle attack causes them to drop Slinger Ammo and with Triangle causing that part of the body to be weakened and easier to damage. This works on monsters with hard or scaled parts, so it's a useful skill to master. The head is the weak point and your biggest skill is unleashing all your slinger ammo in one shot, causing the monster to go running forward and if a wall is present, they will take massive damage and fall over, making them vulnerable for hunters to strike. This can't be done when the monster is enraged but when you do pull it off, it's a great feeling watching them crash head first. I've slain quite a few monsters that way but have also taken a lot of damage recklessly using it as well.

Another change to the Slinger is being able to aim it when your weapon is drawn. You move much slower when you aim this way but it opens up new techniques and strategy when hunting. Stun a monster with Piercing Pod and unleash a full charge attack from your Great Sword or equip the Glider Mantle and use the Clutch Claw to grapple and jump off the monster, gliding and going for a proper mount. Once the new functions of the Slinger are mastered, they feel so natural to use that it's hard to believe this wasn't included at launch. Master Rank, naturally, brings with it new armors, weapon trees and upgrades, and new decorations. The armor and weapons, like the Banbaro armor, are about as epic and bad-ass as you would expect in game where your equipment is made from monster parts. The new decorations are for Master Rank armors, as they can have slots big enough to hold them. These decorations offer huge points towards skills or have two different skills in one and are often rewards for completing Master Rank quests.

Unending Hunt

Iceborne has the new monsters, a new area, and plenty of fun, albeit non-hunting, things to do. And for all that, there are even more quests to take part in. There is so much to do and so much to explore. Iceborne has hours upon hours of content, on par with the full base game. There is plenty to do in this expansion and then some; optional and event quests, investigations, and arena quest. The story in Iceborne is pretty engaging and quite enjoyable, but there's always going to be be another monster and another hunt after the story ends. With a far-reaching catalog of monsters to pull from, Iceborne will keep hunters busy for a good long while.

Monster Hunter World was already an excellent game before with loads of content, great controls, and fantastic gameplay. Iceborne adds even more content and new gameplay elements that just fit perfectly and create an even nearer-to-perfect experience. There is plenty I haven't mentioned, tons of small things that help move things along and really enhance the game. Sadly, my biggest gripe with the game, Scoutflies, still yet appears. Occasionally the Scoutfly tracking will just go crazy, not properly directing you to whatever you're hunting. Not too often, but enough that it really ate up time trying to get on the correct path again. Not huge, but it is still an annoyance.

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Other than that minor issue, Iceborne is a phenomenal expansion and addition to the Monster Hunter series, providing plenty of new things and improving on an already-great game. If you've been holding off on getting Monster Hunter World, I cannot recommend it and Iceborne enough. Hours of quests with more free content forthcoming and already available, exceptional gameplay, awesome weapons and armor to craft and, of course, devastating monsters await within the frozen landscape that is Iceborne. See you on the ice.
Verdict
Pros
+ New and returning monsters
+ Various quality of life improvements
+ New tools and upgrades
+ Increased challenge
+ Endless replayability
Cons
- Occasional Scoutfly issues
9 Presentation
Though not much has changed audibly or visually, Iceborne adds its own rich narrative and new environment for hunters to lose themselves in. Hoarfrost Reach brims with life and little details, adding to an already great game.
10 Gameplay
Don't fix what isn't broken, but you can always improve upon things and Iceborne does so in spades. With its own gameplay tweaks and changes, like World, it sets a new standard for the series moving forward.
10 Lasting Appeal
The series has always been a one of those you can play, put down and just pick up again games. With plenty of new quests and monsters, Iceborne stands high in replayability and should keep hunters playing for a long time.
9.9
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
At the end of the day, Iceborne is an amazing expansion to an already amazing game. Providing greater challenges and greater rewards, tight and improved controls and a deep narrative of its own, this is a must own for both vets and newcomers to the series.


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