Over a year ago Capcom brought their Monster Hunter series back to home consoles and introduced an entirely new generation of hunters to the concept of getting carted back to base by a fluffy cat after being mercilessly beaten into the ground by the love child of a lizard and thunderstorm. Now Capcom has given us a whole new eco-system to explore in Hoarfrost Reach, a completely new difficulty rank to chase in the recently added Master Rank and brand new monsters to hunt in the form of past series favourites (Tigrex, Nargacuga, Brachydios) along with some brand new entrants to the series that pack quite the punch like Banbaro, Beotodus and Iceborne’s very own cover model the Elder Dragon Velkhana.
A Whole New World
Monster Hunter World’s new expansion starts off very similar to other quests in the base game, the research commission notices some strange behaviour in the local wildlife and sends out their star hunter – you – to investigate. Upon finding the anomaly your journey to the new world starts up fast and furious with a brief appearance of a new elder dragon among a flock of migrating Legania and a brand new frozen island on the horizon untouched by the Research Commission and it’s members (or so they believe). Once you have your home base set up, Hoarfrost Reach opens up and you’re to take on all-new quests and boy let me tell you, there were A LOT more than I was initially expecting. Ranging from the standard assigned Story Quests and Arena Quests all the way to adding in even more optional quests to upgrade the new Canteen with brand new ingredients and even upgrading your already existing tools like the health and cleanser boosters, I was not expecting this level of content added in outside of the main story quests.
Now speaking of the new home base, if you have played Monster Hunter World, you probably got sick of running all over the place just to head to the Canteen, visit the Blacksmith, check the Harvest Box, turn in bounties and so on. Our new base Seliana does away with that problem by having all the amenities close by and on the same level! No more having to ride the elevator to reach the Canteen and Workshop, you can quickly and easily get all your hunt prep done in one area. One complete overhaul to the new home base that has been greatly appreciated by many players is the brand new Gathering Hub, for those unaware, the Gathering Hub is Monster Hunter World’s multiplayer area where you can meet and interact with fellow hunters without fear of being trampled by the local wildlife. One of the biggest complaints about the original gathering hub was that it was very barebones, you had access to a Canteen, equipment box and Quest Handler which included the Arena Quests. You’d have to completely zone out of the hub in order to do most of your pre-quest alterations, Capcom, however, heard our complaints and gave us exactly what we wanted in the hub: Canteen, Workshop, Quests, Palico Gear, and they even threw in a foot spa!
It is to be noted all quests in the Iceborne expansion will fall into the new master rank difficulty which similar to your hunter rank will increase allowing you to take on harder and more difficult missions. Now I will openly admit I am not a series veteran and unlike others, I do not have 1000+ hours across series various iterations of G-rank. So while I can’t speak to the difficulty compared to past entries I can safely say that I have absolutely needed to call in other hunters for help, my first run-in with Barioth had me attempting the quest probably 7-10 times before buckling and launching the SOS flare for some help whereas in the base game I managed to make my way through all assigned quests solo without too much difficulty.
It’s Not Just Armor, It’s Fashion
A new difficulty not only brings new monsters and faster ways to get carted back to base but master rank brings its own set of armours and brand new weapon trees and rarity levels. Previously weapons maxed out at rank 8 in the base game but with the Iceborne expansion however that cap has been pushed to rank 12 for some weapons allowing you to further upgrade them to properly deal with the new threats found out in the wild. It’s at this point however I come across my biggest complaint and sadly it’s one that I have had since the base game, the weapon designs.
I always watched the Monster Hunter series from afar, having missed the original game on ps2 and not having a handheld to play the others in the series I could only look and read about what I was missing and the biggest part that stood out to me was the weapon designs, so many if not all of the monster specific weapons took parts from that monster truly making that weapon seem like part of them whether it be the severed tail of a Glavenus being used as a great sword or Brachydios tail turned into a hammer. For reasons I’m fully not sure if we didn’t seem to get that in Monster Hunter World and despite initial complaints, it appears it wasn’t addressed in Iceborne either with a lot of the weapons still taking on a standard “bone” or “ore” appearance just adding maybe a feather or two and some scales. (Yeah I’m looking at you Brachydios dual blades and longsword.)
That’s not to say all the weapons are like this though, some of the new weapons look amazing and just update some of the amazing designs found in previous games. The Tigrex charge blade looks fantastic as if it’s front leg was taken off and grafted to the swords frame, claw and all. It’s just disappointing all weapons didn’t get this treatment especially when and this may be what kind of rubs me the wrong way our Palico companion gets the properly skinned weapons like the Glavenus tail blade great sword. It’s honestly my biggest complaint so far with the game and expansion as a whole and I’m well aware that it is a nitpicky problem and really doesn’t affect the gameplay but I know there are others out there like me who may strictly want to start building a weapon because of how cool it looks or even just as a trophy from that one monster that kicked you around for far too long.
The Hunt Continues
I’m still in the process of finishing up Iceborne play through, about to take on Velkhana for the 2nd time I can’t wait to see what comes next. Just like Monster Hunter: World last year, Iceborne’s release is a breath of fresh air in a time when it feels like every game released is half-finished or cut into pieces to sell at a later date. Iceborne isn’t just some add on DLC with new difficulty rank, while completely different games the quality of Iceborne reminds me of proper expansions such as Oblivion: Shivering Isles, adding in a completely new (and beautiful) snowy area to explore, brand new enemies to face and turn into the most stylish hats this side of Astera, all-new weapon moves that have been integrated seamlessly with the original moves and a brand new mechanic in the clutch claw.
It’s amazing to see what Monster Hunter has become and with such a positive western reception I’m really excited to see what Capcom has up their sleeve for the series whether it be another full expansion or an entirely new title. Whatever the future may hold for the series I have become a hunter for life.
As fledgling monster hunter experiencing my very first expansion to the series I’ve got to say I am hooked, every failed quest has been a learning experience, every frustration has become an eventual triumph. Capcom has reintroduced a beloved series to a whole new generation of hunters
[A copy of the expansion was provided by the publishers for review purposes]