Monster Hunter World Iceborne Review: Master Rank comes to MHW and endgame upgrades

Capcom’s expansion to MHW is here, and in this Monster Hunter World Iceborne review we’ll take a good look at the content and what it adds to the base game, and suggest whether it’s worth your time and money, from the perspective of a long time player who is not necessarily hardcore. Iceborne is an expansion focused on endgame and Master Rank difficulty, meaning it’s somewhat scaling up the ante from the DLC monsters and the addition of tempered and Arch-Tempered Elder Dragons.

Monster Hunter World Iceborne Review

Genre:  Action-RPG
Developed by: Capcom
Published by: Capcom
Release date:  September 6th 2019 (Consoles)
Platforms: PS4 (review platform, code provided by Capcom), Xbox One, PC (releasing on PC in 2020)
Price at the time of review: $39.99 for expansion upgrade, $59.99 for full game and expansion

Iceborne Features

  • An additional 25-60 hours of Questing Content, heavily dependent on your skill and whether you’re solo or grouping.
  • Two dozen new Monsters and Subspecies to fight. This is in addition to Master Rank versions of most old monsters.
  • New Zones, upgrade materials, Grimalkyne objectives, research targets, endemic life, small monsters
  • Quality of life features like Clutch Claw, Monster Riding and Tailrider summoning, expanded Tailrider and Palico levels, and a Player Room Decoration.
  • 4 new Rarity ranks for Weapons and Armor, adding hundreds of new equipment options, as well as new decoration tiers and augment maximums, and skill limit removals!
  • A completely new and addictive endgame.

Iceborne Review: Story & Setting

The story of Monster Hunter World: Iceborne follows the style of the base game, with the research commission finding an anomaly in the ecosystem in the form of a large migration of Legiana toward the horizon. A strange monster can be seen attacking them, and this excites your partner, The Handler.

Hoarfrost Reach is an icy biome home to many frost creatures

The Commission decides to follow the migration to a new zone, promptly named Hoarfrost Reach or The Hinterlands, and establish a new base of operations for research. Of course, not everything is as simple as it seems, and Elder Dragons appear to make a mess of things here and there, leaving you to stage a defense of the ecosystem of the New World.

Monster Hunter games have never been about the story, and it’s a welcome change that some effort has been put into creating a narrative that ties together more of the tidbits of lore of the game and gives players a compelling reason to push forward and take on ever harder foes. This is by far, however, the weakest point of the game, as the formula is rather predictable and the player character seems weirdly placed in many situations where the only role is to play savior to everyone and anyone who is nearby.

That said, Iceborne does do a good job of setting up some epic cutscenes both within monsters and players, and was successful in making me care to discover more about the species I was fighting and their role in the overall ecosystem.

Iceborne Review: Gameplay

Monster Hunter World: Iceborne is ALL about the gameplay, and it does not let you down. The game is an addictive delivery of character optimization, tinkering, researching, gathering and then chaining unbelievable combos. The controls are not as tight as Capcom’s DMC5, but they are the best for Monster Hunter yet and the changes from the Clutch Claw make for new and interesting gameplay. There are also new non-combat things to do such as hunting for gold crowns for Endemic Life and befriending new Grimalkyne tribes which is always a nice side activity to cool down after taking on particularly tough enemies.

Since the review version of the game was quarantined, installing Iceborne locked me out of the base game and from online play with those not participating in the review period. I saw very few hunters going around, (most of them HR 30-50!) so I was encouraged that the difficulty spike could not be so much. Boy, was I wrong

As I said earlier, I am not a hardcore player. I don’t farm every max boost armor and then 3 minute kill Tempered Behemoth while my 3 friends watch and do emotes. But, I have done every quest in the game and unlocked every armor, had a healthy combination of upgraded rank 8 armors recommended by the pros, high level decorations and a collection of Taroth weapons plus Divine Slasher / Reaver Calamity. Not the best but certainly high level equipment… and it felt like I was hitting with a wet noodle and wearing paper armor. I ended up making a combination of Bone and Alloy Master rank armor, crying inside as I discarded my painstakingly farmed gear in favor of starting equipment for Master Rank.

I soon discovered that I had not been good enough at leveling up my Palico’s gadgets, and was happy to find that they can be improved further than before – making my feline companion an invaluable asset in combat. Flashy Cage replaced my ever-used Coral Orchestra! I also paid more attention to summoning Grimalkyne tribes to raise my tailrider unity, which was a lot of fun and yielded unexpected results in the form of a new trade mechanism and “treasure” hunts left behind that lead you to great riches.

I had to get done to make the review in time, but the game just pulls you to explore, research, and dwell deeper into each little secret that hides in completely unexpected places. This compulsion to keep going, learn more and get better is the main draw of Monster Hunter and MHW: Iceborne delivers for every player, giving challenging content but making an entry point for even those who were not fully prepared to take on Master Rank.

The New Mechanics

The Clutch Claw is a powerful new tool that I found extremely useful to fill up my sword’s spirit gauge. Of course, it took time to learn, as you soon discover that enraged monsters will hurt you when you attempt it, and you get no frames while on the monster so if it charges you’ll take the damage and be knocked off. Learning this was quite a few carts, particularly for the Barioth you encounter early on, but mastering this tool is essential to success as you can knock down monsters and deal 1000+ damage doing so. Additionally, there are some monsters that make Slinger use a very tactical choice in combat – make sure you read monster tips when you fight some of the tougher ones!

The new weapon actions for the Long Sword changed the way I chain my combos, and I really like it. I have not had time to try all other weapons, but overall if feels like a welcome addition to the hunter repertoire.

The Monsters

I have seen complaints that the monster roster are just “Reskins” – and whilst the criticism is valid in terms of the monster’s skeleton, all the subspecies have unique moves and abilities that really up the ante and challenge the way you have learned to fight them. For example, you might think you know how to fight a Legiana, but the Shrieking Legiana will behave differently and perform unexpected moves and actions that will make it a lot harder to defeat. The Viper Tobi-Kadachi actually made me slot max tier poison resistance for the first time in my 300+ hours of gameplay, and the Ebony Odogaron made me reconsider my rolling stamina pool and sheathing speed.

Shrieking Legiana

The newly added Monsters are, without question, amazing. I loved the cutscenes for them, and I loved fighting them. Fan-hated Piscine Wyverns aside, I enjoyed all other fights and their mechanics, particularly an Elder Dragon later on that not only looks outstanding, but has a unique moveset that will challenge your understanding of the battleground. Brightmoss is your friend!

Iceborne Review: Multiplayer & Endgame

After completing a first pass of the expansion, I organized some multiplayer with a much less geared HR16 player and got him set with the starting gear by simply farming expeditions, which is a great choice by Capcom as new players might have trouble finding parties for the “old” endgame content and giving a Master Rank stepping stone is the right thing to do. From here, we set on to take on the expansion.

New Gathering Hub in Seliana

The annoying “watch a cutscene then invite” is back and as hated as ever, but that aside the new Gathering Hub is a delight and the loading speed to get into the quests worked wonderfully on a PS4 Pro. Capcom claims that two-player coop has now been re-balanced, and I feel inclined to say it’s true as we could complete the expansion without extreme trouble, in spite of having a rather inexperienced player in the party (maybe he just got good, you be the judge on Cas’ next stream).

The last boss of story mode was a real challenge and took us quite a few attempts, but from there on we unlocked endgame and, frankly, we now cannot stop playing. This endgame idea is amazing, and I cannot say enough nice things about it! It’s just SO easy to get going and stay there. We’ll be covering this more in-depth in a separate article, and you should not race to get to endgame, but once you get there you’ll understand why this has been a brilliant idea, much as Kulve Taroth was.

Iceborne Design, Audio & Visual

Monster Hunter World is the best Monster Hunter has ever looked, and Iceborne continues the trend. You can see details in monsters and environments, and enjoy watching them in their natural habitat and the interactions they have with small monsters and other large monsters. Hoarfrost Reach is particularly beautiful and I absolutely love the snow effect, and the fact that you leave a trail as you travel and monster fights trample the snow accordingly.

The new Armor and Weapon concepts are really good and I very much enjoyed discovering the new armors. I am not at a point where many layered armor have unlocked, so I’m unfortunately not going to be Fashion Hunting for now, but I expect this will be supported with free events and DLC as the base game was. If you want to see what the new armors have in stock, there’s a full list on the Iceborne Armor page showcasing Master Rank armors (there’s more to be added to the page with official launch)

There are new music scores for the new monster battles, some of them particularly intense, but I did not find any of them memorable. All in all, the music score for Monster Hunter World and Monster Hunter World: Iceborne are of a similar, “just fine” quality. Nothing to complain of, nothing to praise either.

Iceborne Review: Final Thoughts

Monster Hunter World: Iceborne is more of the same, and that is a wonderful thing. 14 million players joined the Commission with World, and Iceborne will likely see most of them return to try their skill against ferocious new monsters and make new feline friends.

If you played the base game and liked it, you will love Iceborne and endgame will enthrall you. If you are new to the game in general, you’ll find your progression to Master Rank not impeded by a High Rank farm wall, and will soon be able to join in the endgame action as well.

So everyone asks: is the expansion worth $39.99? It’s very simple! Did you like the base game? Then yes. Did you keep playing after finishing, doing all the DLC? Then hell yes. Did you wish your party could just get lost on endless hunts and keep wacking at things until you had to start relying on your palicoes to set up traps for you because you ran out of mats for them long ago but don’t want to go back? Well then. Real Monster Hunter Starts HERE.

Monster Hunter World: Iceborne releases September 6th on Playstation 4 and Xbox One with PC arriving in January 2020.

If you’re diving into Iceborne be sure to check out our Monster Hunter World: Beginner Guide to start your icy trek off right. For all your hunting needs head to our Monster Hunter World Iceborne wiki for all the latest information.

Summary: Monster Hunter World: Iceborne is a sizeable, satisfying addition to the base game, expanding the content and scope while adding welcome quality of life features. Welcoming to both new and veteran players, low and high geared alike, the expansion steps up the challenge but gives the right tools for players to progress, and provides countless hours of content in a new and addictive endgame mode. It is absolutely worth the price.
Story & Setting (7.5)
Gameplay (9.5)
Design, Audio & Visual (9)
Pricepoint (9)
Replayability (10)

MMO raider by day and guide writer by night, Fex enjoys multiplatform gaming, good books and animes, and streaming with a cold beer.

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