Years ago, before the days of season passes and microtransactions, popular games used to receive expansions.
Adding considerable meat to games and even introducing new mechanics, expansions were great. They were costly, but they felt worthwhile, unlike many season passes which are sold today without much thought seemingly put into their content. Monster Hunter World: Iceborne, which has been available on console for a few months now, is very much an expansion. Priced at £34.99/$39.99, it isn’t cheap, but it isn’t a piddly piece of DLC; it totally reinvigorates the Monster Hunter World experience. And now it’s finally available on PC.
So, what’s new in Monster Hunter World: Iceborne? Lots, really. For a start there’s a new hub area, Seliana, which is the best yet. In it you’ll find that everything is closer together, from the blacksmith to the resource centre, so you spend less time running around between slaying. Everything is accessible from the Gathering Hub, too, so you don’t have to be absent from your friends. Seliana also houses a small steamworks, which allows you to take part in a quick minigame to claim some very worthwhile rewards. And alongside the new hub is of course a new area in which to go out and hunt: the snowy Hoarfrost Reach.
Hoarfrost Reach is your typical winter environment, providing a vastly different experience to the other biomes available. Its biting chill saps away at your stamina, requiring you to consume hot drinks or find other ways to remain warm unless you want to be at a disadvantage. It’s also the largest Monster Hunter World map available, and with that you’ll find plenty of variety as you explore. Up top you’ll find deep snow and hot springs. Down below, you’ll discover caverns of ice and bone-filled layers of fierce beasts. But unlike, say, Ancient Forest, it’s not a map that you easily get lost in. It’s expansive but it’s not labyrinthine. Needless to say, it’s not a map you’re going to tire of quickly.
As good as the new map is, however, it’s the new monsters, game mechanics and character development opportunities that are going to keep you hooked, and also the new quest difficulty: Master Rank. Monster Hunter World: Iceborne introduces over 20 new monsters to the game, and while many of them are rehashes of existing monsters, many of them are brand new. Mind you, even fighting variants of previous monsters proves to be endlessly entertaining. Take the Coral Pukei-Pukei, for instance: it exchanges its poison-based attacks to instead squirt water from its tail, totally changing the fight. And while overcoming a Master Rank Great Jagras is still a walk in the park, be warned that the majority of Master Rank foes are truly fearsome unless you’re well prepared. Monster Hunter World: Iceborne‘s most challenging foes will test even the most hardiest of hunters, you can be sure of that.
To deal with with the new class of monsters more effectively, yet more weapon upgrade paths are available, allowing you to deal more damage than ever before providing you can acquire the required materials. There’s also a new class of armour – Master Rank – that makes the High Rank armour found in the base game obsolete pretty much instantly. It provides impetus to go out on optional missions and investigations to acquire new materials, and complete bounties to acquire armour upgrade spheres. And if you don’t like how your new armour looks, yet more layered armour sets are available to unlock.
Further expanding your combat options, every weapon in Monster Hunter World: Iceborne has new moves and combos available. Some come as the result of the slinger now being usable without sheathing your weapon, others are genuinely new manoeuvres introduced to deepen the gameplay. By far the most interesting new feature in your arsenal, however, is the clutch claw, which allows you to grapple onto enemies. From changing a monster’s direction to landing additional hits, it proves to be extremely useful. Each weapon type has a unique way to make use of the clutch claw, too.
If you’re starting Monster Hunter World from scratch, the clutch claw can be used from the outset. You’ll also find that powerful Defender weapons can be crafted very easily, and a High Rank armour set can be claimed to make accessing the Iceborne content a hell of a lot easier. Monster Hunter World‘s story has to be completed before you can progress to the wintry Hoarfrost Reach, you see. The gist of it is, Monster Hunter World: Iceborne is a game that will eat up your time. Like the main game, Iceborne‘s story is likely to take you dozens of hours to complete, and then you have The Guiding Lands, endgame content that devout monster hunters aren’t likely to grow tired of anytime soon. Factor in occasional special events, and you have one of the most generous games currently available.
If you want to play Monster Hunter World: Iceborne at its prettiest, be warned that you need a beefy PC. With every graphical option set at max and at 4K resolution, my poor RTX 2070 struggles to provide a consistent 30fps experience. That is, unless I enable DLSS, which improves performance considerably. In the end, however, I’ve settled at 1440p, which still provides the eye candy but allows me to play at a pretty much constant 60fps. And that’s with the high resolution texture pack installed that requires a graphics card with 8GB or more of VRAM, but it doesn’t hit performance too much. With the high resolution texture pack installed, Monster Hunter World: Iceborne looks very nice indeed; head and shoulders above its console counterparts, in fact.
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne doesn’t solve any of Monster Hunter World‘s underlying issues, such as its insistence on splitting up players for short bouts when playing in co-op. The expansion content itself also isn’t going to make those who weren’t too enamoured with the game originally change their minds, and it’s not ideal for those who found their skills pushed to the limit by the base game’s most fiercest foes. Monster Hunter World: Iceborne is for devout hunters seeking yet more challenging encounters, and for those it is a must-have. Bolstering the game’s repertoire of monsters and tweaking the gameplay in small but meaningful ways, it’s more of the same – but in the best possible way.