It’s been almost two years since Monster Hunter World graced the gaming industry with its sheer excellence. It’s undoubtedly one of the best games of this generation with its myriad of content, endless replay value, countless builds, and a ridiculously high skill-ceiling that even series veterans had to work towards. It effortlessly brought the Monster Hunter craze to the West and kept the fever going with free content drops and events, all of it coming to a head with a major expansion; Iceborne. CAPCOM has once again hit another home run so far out of the park that it would be a disservice to yourself and gaming to pass up what Iceborne has to offer.
Set after the events of the main game, Iceborne follows the residents of Astera and the New World as they try to figure out why Legiana are migrating from their typical habitat. It’s quickly discovered that they’re all travelling to an icy locale known as Hoarfrost Reach, but for unknown reasons. Much like the plot of the vanilla game, Iceborne’s campaign primarily serves as a vehicle for the gameplay, but still has a remarkable amount of effort and charm put into its characters and world-building that make it enjoyable, nonetheless. It’s a standard plot for a Monster Hunter game with a few surprises scattered throughout its almost 30-hour runtime.
Iceborne’s biggest and best new feature is Hoarfrost Reach and the monsters that come with it. It’s a cold and frigid landscape, full of creatures who’ve adapted to the cold weather to survive. While this kind of area has been done to death in the series before there’s no other locale like it in Monster Hunter World and seeing it come to life through the games gorgeous visual detail is truly stunning. The same goes for Seliana, a new outpost outside of Hoarfrost Reach, which boasts new vendors like the Steamworks, and a brand-new Gathering Hub for all of your multiplayer needs. There’s so much to explore and discover, but every area is also fraught with deadly monsters, both new, and old.
Arguably the biggest draw of a new Monster Hunter game is the promise of new monsters and variants that come with it, and Iceborne does not skimp out on the monsters. Whether it’s new beasts like Velkhana, or returning fan favourites like Tigrex and Zinogre, there’s enough here for CAPCOM to create unique and interesting encounters out of almost every single monster present. The sheer amount of new hunts available is ridiculous in the best kind of way, and despite a majority of them being variants of previous monsters, they’ll test you in new ways, and behave very differently from their regular selves.
If you’re unfamiliar with Monster Hunter World’s gameplay loop, it’s quite simple, and Iceborne is largely the same with a few new additions. You’ll go out to hunt monsters, carve their materials, craft new armour and weapons from those materials, only to use that gear against bigger, stronger monsters. It’s an addictive gameplay loop that seemed almost perfect in World, but Iceborne makes it even better with the introduction of the Clutch Claw and new weapon combos.
The Clutch Claw allows you to grapple onto a monster’s body, giving you three different options depending on which part you grapple to; a standard weapon attack will weaken that particular part of the monster, a claw attack can only be used on the head, but changes the direction they’re facing, and finally a slinger attack, which unloads all of your loaded slinger ammo into a monsters head, sending it flying in the direction its facing, potentially smashing them into a wall and causing a topple. It sounds like a relatively simple system, but the gameplay depth that this mechanic adds can’t be understated. It adds a welcome layer of complexity and forward-thinking to the fight in an incredibly satisfying and rewarding fashion. Needless to say, the combat system only gets more profound when you add on the new combos each weapon has, which raises the skill ceiling even higher.
All of Iceborne’s quest take place in Master Rank, which is World’s new equivalent of G-Rank (traditionally Monster Hunter’s highest quest rank), and for good reason. Some of the fights here will test you, requiring strong spatial awareness and encounter knowledge. You need to be paying attention all the time because the moment you let your guard down is the moment you surrender yourself to whatever you’re up against. It never feels unfair or imbalanced, but it provides a stark sense of challenge that much of the base game lacks. It’s a much more immediate, yet immensely satisfying difficulty curve.
To no one’s surprise, Monster Hunter World still looks gorgeous, and Iceborne is no exception. It’s hard to say that Hoarfrost Reach is better looking than the Coral Highlands, but there’s no doubt that it gives it a run for its money. The sheer visual variety on display here is staggering, from snow-capped peaks and frozen lakes to icy caverns covered in stalactites with fish perma-frosted into the ground. Hoarfrost Reach is a visual feast in a game that’s chock-full of them and provides a unique aesthetic not found in the vanilla game.
THE PS4 VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. A DIGITAL COPY OF THE GAME WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
In a time where CAPCOM is releasing hit after hit, it seems almost typical that Iceborne is as good as it is. It has a noticeable amount of effort and charm put into its story and characters when they could’ve gotten away with putting in almost none of it, has improved on an already excellent combat system with a new layer of depth, and adds a plethora of monsters, both new and old, that are sure to please fans of all kinds. It’s a brilliant expansion that is a must-play for anyone who’s a fan of the original game, and for anyone who hasn’t dipped their toes into what the series has to offer. I thought that Monster Hunter World was the best that the series was ever going to get, but Iceborne effortlessly proved me wrong, time and time again.
Charming Story And Cast Of Characters
Fantastic New Locations To Explore And Monsters To Hunt
Excellent Additions To An Already Stellar Combat System