Monster Hunter World: Iceborne – A Winter Wonderland
As if the plains of the New World in Monster Hunter World already weren’t vast enough and now we’ve got a whole new part of the world to explore in the new Iceborne expansion. World, one of the great games of 2018 wowed people with its impressive scale, unbelievable visuals, and a level of accessibility not seen in previous franchise entries, has taken things further in almost every conceivable way, whilst it simultaneously gives the hardcore Monster Hunter fan the intense challenge that we’ve come to expect from prior releases.
There’s one big elephant in the room though when it comes to Iceborne, one that should preface everything that is to come; one does not simply buy Iceborne and expect to access the content from moment one. If you’ve yet to complete the campaign or worse, not played the game at all up until this point then you’ve got a long road ahead of you, before you can even access the new content. Iceborne is designed only for those that are campaign complete, and that means you have several dozen hours of gameplay ahead of you before you can enter the frozen tundras of Iceborne. Capcom in a clear act of kindness gifts every player with a High-Rank Guardian Armor set that makes the plunge significantly easier, and less time consuming, for new players, but you’ll still have a long road ahead of you before you can even hope to explore the new regions of Iceborne.
Everyone will have immediate access to the Clutch Claw though, a handy addition that allows players to grapple onto their large opponents to inflict significant pain upon them. It’s not going to guarantee you success though, because if poorly timed, the monster will quickly shake you off. If timed correctly though you have a few options; first, you can unleash a series of heavy attacks, there’s a specific claw attack which inflicts damage and redirects the monster, and then there’s the flinch attack which exhausts all of your slinger ammunition but can break armour and send the monster careening into a wall extracting incredible damage and creating an opening for a continued assault. This one addition alone, on top of the already wonderfully balanced combat and background systems at play takes the thrill of the hunt to incredible new levels. As well as wheeling out a whole host of new monsters into the game, some of which can be soul-crushingly difficult to overcome, a visit to Hoarfrost Reach introduces you to new variants of old friends from the main-game. You’ll now be dealing with new iterations of the likes of Pukei-Pukei, Legiana, Odogaron, Anjanath, and several others, each with new tricks up their sleeves, products of their existence in a different climate. These aren’t simple reskins, and their presence is very welcome as the game looks to toy with your established methods of combating these foes.
The real drawcard and hindrance for some will be the fact that this is solely end-game content. On top of the dozens of hours you’ve already put into the game, the difficulty has spiked significantly to go alongside the introduction of Master Rank creatures. The monsters keep coming and keep getting tougher in Iceborne, and for top-end players, that’s exactly what the main-game didn’t provide enough of. For the rest of us, you’ll be up against it most of the time, with every encounter that you survive leaving you sweating profusely.
While Iceborne does an incredible job of catering to those looking for that meaty endgame and does so in the best possible way, there are several other concerns that players had that are still going unaddressed, namely the concerns around the online infrastructure. One thing that drove many a player mad during the core game was the fact that when beginning a new mission, you couldn’t invite friends to join you until after you’d sat through the opening cutscene, at which point you’d need to either quit the mission entirely, or hastily tee up an SOS flare to get the attention of another kind soul to help you out. That issue has not been corrected with the Iceborne release, so prepare for a bit of fooling around to play with your friends.
The core Monster Hunter World experience was a visual buffet, and though Iceborne becomes a little more one-dimensional due to it’s setting, it doesn’t make the game any less of a feast for the eyes. The glittering plains of Hoarfrost Reach and the new hub in Seliana provide some of the most striking visuals seen in any form of the game so far, and some of the cutscenes that introduce the monsters, in particular how we’re introduced to our newest Elder Dragon, Velkhana, will simply blow your mind. The soundtrack, as it was in the original game, shines just as brightly as before, wonderfully complementing the eye-candy on show.
Iceborne has something for every kind of Monster Hunter player, but where the initial release perhaps didn’t satiate the appetite of the hardened Monster Hunter fan, Iceborne delivers in spades. It’s made the best game in the franchise even better, added a tonne of excellent content, made us all wonder why the Clutch Claw wasn’t a thing until now and left me longing for more.