An Old Friend
Monster Hunter World was one of the few games I’ve scored higher than a nine. The series is second only to Final Fantasy in how many hours I’ve sunk into it. It’s safe to say I’ve been looking forward to the new expansion for a while. At the same time, there’s always that worry with change. Will I enjoy what’s new, or will it take away what I love?
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne released on PlayStation 4 on September 6th, 2019, and will release on PC in early 2020, developed and published by Capcom. As an expansion review, I will mainly be covering what’s new, with an understanding that readers are somewhat familiar with the base game. If not, I also have a review for the base game here.
The Newer World
The story, as is usual for Monster Hunter games, is fairly light. It’s starts off shortly after the events of the base game with a nice callback, once again investigating the reason behind why monsters are migrating to a new region, mostly as an excuse to go there yourself and experience the new region. It’s campy and doesn’t take itself all too seriously, but with the world and people already established Iceborne does try its hand at fleshing out some of the more one-dimensional characters from the base game.
Nobody asked for them to delve deeper into character building, and to be honest I don’t know anyone who plays Monster Hunter for the plot. That said, it’s a welcome surprise to say the least. It’s little details like these that truly help a game feel polished, and the bulk of the storytelling is the same comfortable quality we’ve come to expect.
New Features for New Players
Most of what Monster Hunter World: Iceborne brings is focused on the new master rank that’s unlocked after completion of the base game. New region, new town, new monsters, new gear, a whole lot more to explore and learn. That’s all well and good, and a bit expected from an expansion. What I truly appreciated however, was the new additions even for players who haven’t reached that stage.
Combat has received a major overhaul with the new clutch claw and slinger burst for every weapon, as well as individual adjustments to every weapon to truly utilize what makes them special. It’s tempting to go over every last detail, but this is a review and not a walkthrough so I’ll leave it at this: They’re strong. I’m actually a little worried they may be too strong in fact. Properly utilized, it’s easier than ever to break parts, inflict damage, knockdown and stagger, and just capitalize on your strengths like never before. It’s satisfying, sure, and some of the new monsters truly deserve better tools to take them on. At the same time a lot of older content feels extra trivialized even before getting new master rank gear. Guess it’s just easier than ever to catch up.
The Palico and tailraider system has also seen plenty of upgrades. This is something only really dealt with when solo, but for those who like bringing them out for casual farming there’s plenty of Quality of Life adjustments and straight up upgrades. While hunting with other players will likely always be the fastest way to beat a monster, I found all the new tools and upgrades handy for when I couldn’t find a group or just felt like casually exploring and gathering at my own pace. It’s honestly to the point where I felt running with my Palico was the better option in cases where I wanted extra defenses over a fast kill. Unlocking new convenience features like new fast travel points and a mount to carry you to your targeted monster is just icing on the cake.
As for new stuff, I’m really appreciating the new monsters. It seems like with each one they tried out something new, even with the subspecies for existing monsters. Actually… especially with them. Rather than just give them some AI adjustments and slightly altering their moves, each new subspecies has a focus on something their baseline counterpart could never do. It truly helps them to feel more like their own monsters. Even the old monsters have new and interesting attacks in master rank, just in case you thought you were getting too comfortable with them.
The graphics and music are about what we’ve already seen in Monster Hunter World, but with a definite cozy and wintery theme. Your new home is a winter lodge you can decorate yourself, the new chef is a kindly grandmother, and many of the returning gear sets have been redesigned with warmth in mind.
Little details seem to be the focus of this expansion. I was pleasantly surprised when running around the Hoarfrost Reach the snow actually became stamped down where I walked, and usually wound up a mess of slush anywhere I’d been fighting. By far my favorite small edition has to be the new emotes for your Palicos: They’ll imitate any gesture you perform, and the footbath in the new gathering hub is mostly a place to pet them and let them be adorable. The newer world is full of small touches like these that put a smile on my face whenever I came across them.
A Bold New Journey
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne has taken a game I love and improved upon it. While some of the changes may be scary for balance, and they’ll all take getting used to, this was the most fun I’ve had with the series in a long while.
Review copy provided by Capcom for PS4. Screenshots provided by Capcom.