While Capcom's Monster Hunter franchise has always been big in Japan, it never really became popular elsewhere until the release of 2018's Monster Hunter World. Monster Hunter World was a smash hit for Capcom, becoming the best-selling game in the company's history, and successfully transforming the tough-as-nails Monster Hunter series into a more accessible experience without completely catering to the casual crowd. Capcom followed up on Monster Hunter World's dizzying success by releasing new monsters like Deviljho and Final Fantasy's Behemoth for players to hunt, but it hasn't launched a full-fledged expansion until now. Monster Hunter World: Iceborne is the first truly substantial piece of DLC for Monster Hunter World, and it's so expansive that it's nearly a full new game on its own.
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne will take a good 30+ hours for players to complete, and that may actually be a conservative estimate. The game has a brand new set of main quests where players will face off against the strongest monsters yet, not to mention Master Rank side quests, and investigations. Anyone hungry for more Monster Hunter World will find more than their fill with the Iceborne expansion.
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne transports players to a brand new region called Hoarfrost Reach, which is a freezing, snow-covered wooded area filled with all sorts of brand new monsters for players to hunt. Right off the bat, players have to hunt a snow shark named Beotodus that will give even seasoned Monster Hunter World veterans a run for their money. While hunting Beotodus in a battle that neared the one hour mark in our own testing, players will come across the huge, moose-like monster named Banbaro, which is one of the most unique new monster designs in Iceborne. These two beasts set the tone for a series of hunts against increasingly impressive and dangerous monsters, some of which make the toughest fights in the base game look like a joke by comparison.
Like the base game, Iceborne players will find themselves hunting as many main quest monsters as possible until they get to one that they just can't beat. When this happens, players will want to grind for better weapons and armor by fighting previously-defeated monsters and farming them for crafting materials. A new HQ is set up near Hoarfrost Reach, and it is much more compact and easier to navigate than the one in the base game, so making frequent trips to the smithy to get new gear is less tedious in Iceborne.
Since the expansion features Master Rank quests, Iceborne's monsters are much more difficult to defeat than the ones in Monster Hunter World. The Iceborne monsters all have an absurd amount of health and many have abilities that make them inaccessible for players if they use certain weapons. For example, the previously mentioned Beotodus often burrows itself in the ground, making it difficult to actually deal any damage to it. These abilities can be countered with certain items and gadgets, but players won't necessarily know what they'll need before any given battle, which forces them to return to base and better prepare themselves before making another attempt.
The greatly increased challenge in Iceborne will keep players on their toes, but some of the fights are obnoxiously long and some of the monsters are just frustrating to battle. There's an early hunt against a Nightshade Paolumu - a subspecies of the Paolumu encountered in the base game - that is almost always in the air and putting players to sleep. This makes its fight take forever if players don't have ranged weaponry, and there was one time where we failed the hunt because it reached the 50 minute time limit. There is nothing more deflating than spending nearly an hour trying to defeat a single boss in a video game, only to fail and have all that time wasted.
Subspecies are used to pad out the Monster Hunter World: Iceborne monster list some, which is also a little disappointing. Instead of facing all-new monsters throughout Iceborne's assigned quests, players have to take on what are essentially re-skinned versions of monsters from the base game, albeit with new gimmicks that make them far deadlier. Nightshade Paolumu, as previously mentioned, can put players to sleep, and Fulgar Anjanath uses electricity as its element instead of fire like its base game counterpart. Some players will still relish the opportunity to face off against familiar foes with deadly twists, but others will be far more interested in taking on the brand new monsters.
Luckily, there are enough new monsters in Iceborne that the repeat monsters aren't that big of a deal. But besides new monsters, Iceborne also introduces some new gameplay mechanics to shake things up a bit. Players have to drink "Hot Drink" to keep their stamina high when exploring the Hoarfrost Reach and they can ride smaller monsters, but more excitingly, they now have access to the Clutch Claw, which is usable in both the expansion and the base game.
The Clutch Claw in Iceborne lets players grapple onto a monster, allowing them to more easily deal damage to a specific part of the monster, even if they're usually tough to reach. Like other weapons in Monster Hunter World, Iceborne's Clutch Claw has surprising depth, and especially skilled players will be able to mix it in with their combos to maximize their hunter's damage output. But even if players don't really take the time to learn when and why they should attempt to wound a monster with the Clutch Claw, they can still have fun using it to grapple onto them and enjoy the added maneuverability that comes from it.
The addition of the Clutch Claw is just one way that the Iceborne expansion betters Monster Hunter World in a general sense, but there are some other quality of life improvements to note as well. The biggest one is that difficulty is now scaled based on the number of players in any given hunt. Some may not have realized this, but prior to Iceborne, difficulty was balanced between whether someone was playing solo or in co-op. This meant that unless players had a full team of four, they were really putting themselves at a disadvantage when playing in co-op in the original Monster Hunter World.
Iceborne makes it so the game takes into account the exact number of players, which makes playing in co-op with just two or three hunters a far more promising prospect. Unfortunately, Capcom didn't change the weird requirement where players have to watch a monster's introductory cut-scene before playing in co-op (something we criticized in our Monster Hunter World review), but overall the co-op experience has been improved with these changes. And again, these improvements apply to Monster Hunter World as a whole, not just Iceborne.
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne makes important quality of life improvements and gives fans of the game a ton of new content to master. While it would have been nice to have less repeat monsters, the expansion is still massive in scope and has more content than some full-fledged video game sequels do. Iceborne offers Monster Hunter World players their toughest challenges yet, and it should keep fans plenty busy until Capcom does decide to finally give fans a proper sequel.
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne is out now for PS4 and Xbox One. A PC version is set to launch at some point in 2020. Game Rant was provided an Xbox One code for this review.