Monster Hunter: World – Iceborne – Final Review
Monster Hunter: World – Iceborne is a game for veterans. Hunters who have fought their way through the campaign of last year’s stellar Monster Hunter: World and been left wanting more monsters, more armour and new weapons. The new title is a drastic shift from the lush and varied landscape of the New World, dropping you straight into a harsh and frozen environment that feels like it’s out to test you from the very start.
Where Monster Hunter: World aimed to bring the Monster Hunter franchise back to home consoles and relaunch for the western audience, Iceborne looks to delve deeper into the lore, the stories, and the world for those who are interested.
So with a few days under my belt and a kit of new weapons on my back, here’s the first part of my review for Monster Hunter: World – Iceborne.
Monster Hunter World Iceborn Review – No time to chill
The new content is kicked off with an expedition into the Ancient Forest to follow the tracks of a Legiana, who, for anyone familiar, will know usually roost in the Choral Highlands. As you trek through the forest it becomes clear that all of the usual critters are missing.
Bugs and birds usually littered around the forest are mysteriously absent – even the herbivores like Aptonoth and Kestodon are missing.
Following the tracks with your Handler leads you through the forest and towards the water where before long you’re watching a flock of Legiana flapping their huge silvery wings and flying away from the continent. They’re being chased by a far larger dragon, who will later become known as Velkhana, the flagship monster of the new region.
The transition from the New World to the new icey tundra takes place on the back of the third fleet airship following the migration of Legiana away from the continent.
Ice to See You
From there you land in a snow-covered forest with The Handler, keen to find a spot to make camp and warm-up. From the outset, the new environment is foreign and strange.
The first thing I noticed was my character shivering from the cold, and the Handler showing us how to make a Hot Drink out of peppers from a nearby plant. Incidentally, tea made from chillies sounds terrible, and like a recipe for disaster.
These will become a staple for exploring the new area, which will become known as Hoarfrost Reach. Staying too long in the cold will make your character shiver, and drop their body temperature. If your temperature drops too low it will begin to shorten your entire stamina bar.
Eventually you stamina bar can shrink down to where one swing of a large weapon will knock out your whole bar. So yes, hot drinks are going to be important.
Start collecting your chillies early, and often.
New monsters? Snow problem
I love snow in games.
Red Dead Redemption 2 had some of the best snow in recent memory but I’m happy to report that I believe Monster Hunter: World – Iceborne has the cowboys on the run. As you trudge through the snow your character will slow and lift their legs to clear the snowdrifts and of course, the gargantuan monsters will carve deep channels in the snow as they stomp and charge their way through it.
However, the real kicker came when I first got my weapons out and began to swing. I should mention at this point that I primarily run with a hunting horn, meaning I play like a badass hammer-swinging bard with a bagpipe dolling out buffs and death in equal measure.
And with hundreds of hours in-world I know the combinations and swings of my hunting horn very well.
Watching it cut huge, perfect lines through the snow that perfectly followed the character model and weapon swings made my jaw hit the floor, though.
I’ll admit I spent at least half an hour running back and forth from camp to a snowy area with different weapons to see how the snow would deform to different swings and yes the heavy weapons cut huge drifts out of the snow, while longswords and daggers leave more defined cuts.
When you are fighting larger monsters, the area begins to look like a Jackson Pollock painting, crisscrossed and spotted all over.
But you probably aren’t here to read about snow physics, so let’s hunt some monsters.
The first monster of the new map comes not long after you and your Handler first land in the snow, where you wander into a wooded area and see the snow begins to shift and move.
A deadly pointed fin cuts through the snow as I hear the Jaws soundtrack play in the back of my head. Out of the snow leaps Beotodus, the snowbound cousin of Jyuratodus. Complete with massive teeth, a shark-like fin and a huge speed boost, they leap out of the snow and fly at you like a scaley, toothy missile.
The next new monster I locked horns with was the massive Banbaro. Walking around the forest like the grumpy lovechild of a moose and a T-Rex, all horns and enormous tail with tiny front arms. The fight is totally unlike anything in Monster Hunter: World. Banbaro makes a habit of using his horns to dig up clumps of earth and throw them at you over distance, which create huge obstacles in the map that you have to fight around.
He also charges headlong towards you and scoops up rocks and even trees as he goes, drastically changing the landscape.
These are just a couple of the new monsters, but so far over the past few days, I’ve also fought Viper Tobi-Kadachi. This is a subspecies of the lightning-snake-squirrel monster from the Ancient Forest. This time with a lot more poison and the addition of spines that are tossed out in a radius when it spins and evades.
Walking in a winter wonderland
Easily one of my favourite moments in these games is seeing a new monster for the first time. I often stop and follow it around the map before engaging it to try and get an inkling as to how it moves and what to expect. Then when fighting I’ll wait and watch how it attacks, work out its range and see what are going to be the big telegraph moves that I need to watch out for.
That’s why I love this new expansion so far. It’s given me a whole new set of monsters to look at, to fight and of course to eventually make clothes out of. But what I love about these new subspecies and monsters based on older entries, is how their new abilities drastically change the fight.
For Tobi-Kadachi, the original version does a spinning back-hop to get out of range, after that move I usually would chase to stay on top of him. However, that same move is now covered by Viper Tobi-Kadachi, who still does the back-hop, but as he does it he throws out a fan of venomous spines towards where you would be standing.
This really caught me by surprise at first, because I’d built up reflexes and responses to one set of animations, only to be forced out of them with the new variant.
Now that’s great design.
Home on the Range
Between hunts, you’ll head back to the new outpost called Seliana. This base is for all mechanical purposes, much the same as Astera for a home base. But from a layout and design standpoint, they’ve clearly gone for function over spectacle this time.
The main areas that you’ll use the most are within short distance of each other. The blacksmith is right by the shop, which is just across from the Argosy Captain and the Botanist (now one person). You can easily run from one side to the other in ten or so seconds, which is much better than having to trundle up stairs and around corners in the old base.
The characters are mostly the same. The usual blacksmith, shopkeep, handler and provisions managers are all the same, albeit with more winter-appropriate clothing. However, the Meowscular Chef has been replaced with the Grammeowster Chef; an older, rotund cat.
The Grammeowster Chef will happily cook up stews and fondues for you and seem genuinely concerned that you’re staying warm and well-fed.
Across the board, the historically brilliant animations have been further improved, with new cooking and blacksmithing animations to get you hyped up for food and weapons. There’s also a new mini-game around putting fuel into the steam engine.
In the blacksmith, there are new sets of armour for the new monsters, running the gamut from Viking-inspired furs and beards from the Banbaro, to deadly armour plates and awesome samurai gear from the updated Odogarron sets. There are also whole new sets of weapons for the new monsters, along with expanded weapon abilities for each weapon class.
Conveniently, each weapon class has a steel and bone variant at the start of the new trees, so you can kickstart yourself straight into Iceborne weapons if you suddenly want to try longsword or charge blade but don’t have the pre-requisite weapons.
However, the first port of call for the new expansion will be to get a new armour set. The newly unlocked armour sets are substantially more powerful than anything I had unlocked, with individual pieces having an armour rank of 114, way up from the 60-70 level pieces that I was sporting when I started.
For me, that signified that Iceborne really is for veterans. Even beyond the fact that you need to have finished the core story of Monster Hunter: World before you can even access the Iceborne content, the new monsters and fights involved are showing me that you’ll need all of the base game gadgets, levelled up Palico gear (which have new levels now), as well as tailored armour and weapon sets to keep pushing yourself into the new fights.
That’s where I’m at so far in Monster Hunter: World – Iceborne I have about six hours so far over three days, a good variety of fights and experiences, and still a lot more to see.
Next up I’m keen to keep seeing the new monsters, there are fights coming up that I’m really excited for having seen Fulgor Anjanath and Barioth wandering about the Reach, and of course Velkhana, Glavenus and Brachydios still to come.
I also want to explore some more areas of the Hoarfrost Reach that are still blocked off and try out some of the other new activities like taking photos for members of the town and customising my personal quarters.
Stay tuned for an update soon and a final score over the weekend. But so far I’m loving this new adventure into the New World.
Monster Hunter: World – Iceborne review update
The further I venture into the Hoarfrost Reach, and the more monsters I uncover in Monster Hunter: World – Iceborne, the more I think this could have just been a fully fledged sequel. Now well into the endgame and having completed the insane final multi-stage encounter, I have put plenty of hours into the title and a few more since release.
One thing I’m certain of – this game is hard. Ahead of release when there were only other press players around, I tackled most of the early fights solo, and felt like I was banging my head against a wall. Fun though they may be, some of the early fights felt like a big step up from the fights that gave me the most trouble in Monster Hunter: World.
However, after launch day, finding a few fellow hunters to talk with, plan with and conveniently draw attention away from me, made these fights far more manageable, and gave me more time to focus on what I was there to do – kill monsters and make pants out of them.
Prepping for the endgame
Once you finish the main campaign for Iceborne, that’s when the real endgame begins. Much like the base Monster Hunter: World experience, rolling the credits is only part of the way to truly finishing the game. By the time you drop the final massive boss, you won’t have reached the end of your weapon tree, and you probably won’t be entirely decked out in endgame armour yet.
Your next challenge is the Guiding Lands.
Beyond the final boss, there is one more area to unlock in the game, beyond the Hoarfrost reach and outside the New World, the Guiding Lands is something else entirely.
The Guiding Lands itself is made up of a different area representing each of the main zones of Monster Hunter: World, one area for the Ancient Forest, Wildspire Wastes, Coral Highlands and Rotten Vale. Within that there will be three monsters wandering around the area, and you can hunt them if they take your fancy. When one leaves (or you horribly murder them and harvest their parts for pants), another will enter to take its place.
For this reason, the Guiding lands really is your own little Monster Hunting safari, where you and a couple of friends can show up, see what monsters you get, have a few fights and leave with loot in hand. It’s an endless loop of hunting, gathering and hunting again and it makes a great option for endgame players just out for the fun of it rather than farming particular monsters.
Oh, and the Guiding Lands is also home to Zinogre, in case anyone was wondering where he’d gone to after his last series appearance in Monster Hunter: Generations – Ultimate.
Swords, bows and hammers – oh my!
The weapon and armour trees have had a sufficiently massive expansion as well, pushing the ranking all the way up to rarity 12 with some incredible variants for the new monsters.
Each weapon type also has a few extra moves that expand your arsenal and in some cases drastically change the way the weapon plays. The Hunting Horn for instance gets two new songs for every horn, and the ability to drop localised stat boosting circles to help out allies. The Longsword gets a cool new sheathe move that leads into a flurry of new attacks and makes you feel even more like a badass samurai.
However, at the tail end of your adventure, Capcom has also built in a brand new weapon customisation feature, called weapon augmenting that allows you to change the look of a weapon and add some extra stat points in return for new items from the Guiding Lands.
So if you have a high-rank great sword, you can augment it with higher affinity and an increase to elemental damage, while covering it in Pukei Pukei feathers. It isn’t quite to the level of designing your own weapon, each level you have a select set of upgrades to choose from, before you collect the gear to upgrade again. But at the end of the day it’s a really cool way to make an endgame piece of kit more your own and add some flair to your collection.
There are also pendants, little swinging gems and tassles that hang from the butt of your weapon and are my new favourite thing – I must find them all.
The biggest and baddest monsters
Many of the monsters in Iceborne have more of an emphasis on elemental damage and status effects than their base game counterparts. Meaning you’ll need to plan ahead and equip gear to counter those specific effects.
An early version was the Nightshade Paolumu, a Wildspire Waste variant of the flying fluffy bat-like Paolumu from the base game, but decked out in black fur with peacock colours on its coat. While he’s flying around dive-bombing left and right he blows out pockets of smoke like a vaping teenager outside a 7-Eleven. Stepping foot in one of these pockets will make you stumble around dazed, and spending more than a few seconds in it will knock you out cold.
This is a huge change from the base Paolumu, and really changes the fight dynamic.
Far and beyond though, my favourite new monster is Namielle. One of the new Elder Dragon additions, Namielle has power over water, and takes heavy inspiration from sea creatures.
Namielle’s design is clearly inspired by squids, jellyfish and bioluminescent sea creatures. As it moves around the environment it flows as if it were floating around underwater. It has a pair of massive wings that are black on top and from behind, but underneath are wreathed with rows of glowing dots that change colour throughout the fight.
All its moves are water based, including the usual water sprays, tidal waves and ground pounds that cause water to erupt. However what really excited me was that Namielle begins with a water armour that reduces your damage, then as it throws out water attacks it draws from the armour and sprays the water all over the map. Then once the water is spread out, it will begin using lightning attacks, electrifying all the water that its already spread around, and of course shocking you if you’re standing there.
Event better, being a water dragon, as you fight Namielle and it puts off water into the environment, the skies darken and it begins to rain, as if in response to the dragon’s presence. That’s very cool.
There is a massive range of new monsters in Iceborne, and too many to mention in one review. By my count there’s 27 new monsters, rivaling the 31 in Monster Hunter: World.
Killing time (when not killing everything else)
Back in Seliana, there are a few cool new additions that I’ve found that are either fun diversions from the main story, or side quests that reward you with extra tools and loot.
The first is the revised room system, in Monster Hunter: World your room was really just somewhere to return every few hunts and send out your Tailraider Safari. If you’re a collector you might have a few creatures from around the world that you capture and put on display.
However, in Seliana, your room is customisable, with new options and more choices the further you progress. At the start it’s basic with choices of flooring and tapestries, but as you collect more pieces you can add more flair to the room.
Many of the objects are interactable as well, giving you cool little animations if you sit at the table, or interact with your pets.
Outside the room there are a couple of extra bits of story – where Monster Hunter: World focused on the land and the monsters, giving you a realistic ecology and living system to learn about, Iceborne takes a step away from that and focuses on the characters and subplots that have been evolving around the quest to hunt the biggest and baddest monsters.
So the story will give you more information about the Handler, the Tracker, the Commander and his kid. It’s a nice change of pace and means that many of the bigger fights have emotional weight to them as you’re squaring off against a sabre-tooth cat with wings as big as boat sails.
Monster Hunter: World – Iceborne is everything a Monster Hunter: World veteran could want – more monsters, harder fights and of course more options for weapons and armour. The difficulty curve is steep, so you’ll likely spend quite a bit of time grinding and preparing for fights, but this is of course a dish that’s best shared with friends.
Monster Hunter: World – Iceborne is being reviewed on PS4 using a digital code provided by Capcom.
Monster Hunter: World – Iceborne – Final Review
More monsters, more weapons, more pants - 10/10
New environment is amazing (but with long load times) - 9/10
Incredibly tough fights at times - 8/10
Long endgame and varied multiplayer - 9/10
Inventive, challenging monsters to fight - 9/10