Monster Hunter World’s first expansion, Iceborne, launched on consoles four months ago but unfortunately – just like the base game – PC players had to wait to get their paws on the latest update. Finally, Iceborne’s new frozen region of Hoarfrost Reach and the new hub Seliana is available to explore on PC. With over 20 new monsters to hunt and a new Master Rank difficulty to progress through, this $39.99 expansion adds a meaty offering for Monster Hunter fans. Here’s our review.
Embarking out for Adventure!
Iceborne wasted no time in introducing me to the new playable region. The quest to embark out on this expedition was right next me when I loaded in, and after this brief mission and a few cutscenes I journeyed out into this new land. Immediately, I was struck by how beautiful the snow-covered area of Hoarfrost Reach looked in contrast to the more tropical biomes I had grown accustomed to. For me, a longtime veteran of these games, it felt like coming home.
I was instantly hit with nostalgia to Monster Hunter Freedom Unite’s beginning area of the Snowy Mountains, and certain areas of Hoarfrost Reach seem directly influenced by that old area as well. For example, a cave-hole in Hoarfrost led me into a crystal cavern of ice with a winding path leading down and plenty of gathering nodes to stop at, much like a similar area in the middle of Snowy Mountain’s map.
But Iceborne kept a brisque pace and I soon encountered the first new monster available: Beotodus. Fighting this oversized fish felt familiar, since it is essentially a reskin of the monster Jyuratodus from the base game. I had fought the mud-covered cousin Jyuratodus countless times, so I thought I would be more than prepared to handle this snow-ridden menace. Unfortunately for me, the Master Rank monsters in Iceborne are considerably more powerful in terms of damage dealt and overall health. My battle with the beast was a close one, but I ultimately succeeded in slaying the Beotodus.
This first fight served as a sample for what was to come. The new monsters in Iceborne felt considerably more powerful and more challenging than those found in World’s main story, and I quickly realized that I would not be able to just roll through this new area like I had originally thought. A new rank means new gear, and I had to upgrade my equipment if I wanted to survive. The starting Master Rank armor sets offered a significant boost to defense, and I quickly shed my hard-earned Final Fantasy XIV Dragoon event armor in order to improve my survivability.
The Grind for Better Gear
The new armor able to be crafted at Master Rank came fast and often. It seemed like after every mission, I unlocked some new set of armor at the smithy. I’m kind of a completionist when it comes to armor sets found in Monster Hunter, since I just love the outfits I can wear as a trophy to my hunting prowess. I spent quite a long time grinding new monsters in order to “collect ‘em all” but there’s just so many new monsters and new sets to make that I was almost overwhelmed.
However, the weapon upgrades were a much slower and more difficult process in collecting. Thankfully, several high-rank weapons were available to craft immediately, so I didn’t have to waste time in upgrading a rank 1 weapon up through the weapon trees until I got to the new ones. I did not like that many of the newer weapons required materials from older monsters though. I would have preferred separate branching trees or at least the ability to right-out buy new weapons starting at rank 8 or rank 9. It just felt like I spent more time trying to craft one new weapon than I did in trying to craft a complete new set of armor. I didn’t like the slow pacing to weapon upgrades, which made me feel frustrated in fighting fiercer foes further in Iceborne’s story.
A New Region, a New Story to Discover
I liked that the story structure of Iceborne felt similar to how World’s campaign was laid out. I think the pacing was considerably faster, but I didn’t mind that since my main purpose was to fight the new monsters and Iceborne’s quick pace accommodated that. My handler’s side-story involving her past, however, felt a little shoe-horned in as a way to make me feel more connected to her as a character and I personally did not care. Similarly, the story of the Tracker character is explored more heavily in Iceborne as well, which I thought was unnecessary. One thing I appreciated in World’s campaign was the ambiguity and air of mystique that each new character had.
The new region of Hoarfrost Reach never overstayed its welcome, nor did the new hub town. The new hub Seliana is a tremendous delight to navigate through, unlike the village of Astera in World. Having everything on one level where I could quickly and easily access all important vendors saved me so much time in-between missions. In Astera, I hated the winding staircases and the chain-elevators that acted as a fast-travel between different floors. In Seliana, even the Trailriders are easily-accessible, without having to wait through a loading screen to get into a private room.
My favorite new aspect in Seliana is the very steampunk Steamworks that offers a fun, new minigame to play in order to get free items. Certain ore can be obtained and converted into steam power which can be used to play this new minigame. By pressing certain buttons in a correct order, items such as potions or the always-needed Armor Spheres can be earned. It’s a fun way to pass time while waiting for a friend to finish up selecting their loadout, and it’s an easy way to stock up on certain items that would otherwise be hard to get. For me, the most incentivizing aspect is a new set of armor that is unlocked with exclusive items to this little mini-game.
There’s also a new gathering hall to meet other players online, and a new room that offers significant upgrades to the level of customizations offered. I spent way more time than in my room than I should have in decorating and customizing it with new plants, furniture, light fixtures, and wallpaper as well as setting up some of the endemic life that I captured all over my room. Even the pattern and color of furniture is up for customizing!
Monster Hunter is all about Hunting Monsters
But no amount of furniture customization can compete with the sheer exhilarating thrill of facing new challenges and hunting new monsters. Iceborne did a fantastic job of introducing new monsters to me without feeling like it was shoving them in my face. A couple new monsters were introduced at a time, and then I was given free reign as to which one I wanted to go hunt first which usually allowed me to prepare for the one I was better equipped for first so I could gear up after the second.
Sometimes these new monsters were just subspecies of already-introduced ones, which I am sure will come as a disappointment to many and could be considered as “reskins” of other monsters. I thought it was disappointing that there weren’t as many wholly new monsters to the franchise, but I was excited to see returning favorites from past installments like Tigrex from Monster Hunter Freedom 2 and my old arch-nemesis Barioth from Monster Hunter 3. In fact, I felt like Barioth was the first real challenging roadblock I encountered thus far in Iceborne.
The saber-toothed flying wyvern that is Barioth is fast and furious with his attacks, wildly attacking with large area attacks that can be hard to predict. I died several times before I was finally able to beat him and even then, it was a close call. Starting with Barioth in particular, I really had to prepare my loadouts better and made sure that I was using every available resource in my Hunter’s arsenal to achieve victory – like pitfall traps and explosive barrels to quickly and easily deal large amounts of damage.
I enjoyed the difficulty presented in Iceborne and it was something I was starting to miss from Monster Hunter World. The base game seemed almost laughably easy up until the final elder dragons, but Iceborne has presented me with challenges at every turn. Even the original monsters in World get upgraded in Master Rank with new moves which present new challenges for everyone to enjoy.
My Final Thoughts
There is a wealth of improvements to Monster Hunter World that Iceborne brings to the table. I remember being dismayed that there was not a G-rank included in World by default, but I am glad now that we have the equivalent to it via Master Rank. Weapons too have been improved with new moves that add to the mastery of the weapon in order to grow one’s skills as a hunter. Smaller additions like the new View Mode were fun to toy around with a built-in photo mode.
The one addition I admittedly didn’t like – and as a result did not spent a lot of time with – was the newly introduced Clutch Claw. I have heard from others that the Claw can be an extremely useful tool in targeting monsters’ specific body parts or even getting them to run into a wall causing massive damage. I just found the Claw awkward to use and incorporate it into my attacks, and I didn’t have the patience to try and understand exactly how I would fit it into my arsenal. I am sure though that those who can learn to utilize it effectively will be a great asset to their teams, but I just am not much of a mounting-type player.
Lastly, without spoiling anything, I thought that the endgame after Iceborne’s campaign is a fantastic addition to the base experience and should be something players both new and old will enjoy. I was a little disappointed with World’s endgame personally, so it is nice to see that this time around it is something that I know I will be spending countless hours in. It’s a back-to-roots exercise in grinding that I personally love, and I am excited to see more people join me on these endgame missions. I only wish that Iceborne’s content was available to players that haven’t beaten the main story yet so more people could hop in and enjoy this content sooner.
I spent hundreds of hours in Monster Hunter World since it launched almost two years ago, and maybe 50 of those was during the initial campaign. In Iceborne, I’ve already passed the 50-hour mark, and there’s still so much more to do – I have to complete my armor collection after all! I know I will be spending another 50 hours in Iceborne easily, and I am as excited to hit that hundredth hour as I was when I hit my first. The new region to explore and the new monsters add so much great content to an already amazing game, and several quality of life improvements make the overall experience so much more enjoyable. To anyone who has been even remotely interested in playing Monster Hunter World on PC, now is the time to hop in – or to those who have lapsed in lieu of similar titles like Dauntless, Monster Hunter World: Iceborne is the Clutch Claw to bring you back and keep you hooked.
Note: A copy of Monster Hunter World: Iceborne was provided for Steam by PR for the purpose of this review.
- New Region to Explore and New Hub
- Over 20 More Monsters to Hunt!
- Fantastic Endgame Content
- Quality of Life Improvements
- Expansion Content Requires Beating Original Game
- Not Enough Completely New Monsters