Coming up with a unique introduction to a game review is probably one of the hardest things to do other than actually sitting down and writing it in the first place but Monster Hunter World Iceborne needs no such introduction. It already speaks for itself as one of the biggest games in Japan but also a beloved game here in the West. So let’s just get this over with shall we?
I’m not the biggest fan of Monster Hunter by any means nor have I thoroughly played an MH game prior however 2018 changed all that for me when Monster Hunter World was released into the wild. It not only changed the usual MH formula by introducing a more open environment free from the loading screens upon entering certain zones but also gave birth to what I would consider the golden age of monster hunting. And the game creates seemingly living ecosystems full of life and flourishing greeneries to immerse yourself in the living, breathing world of Monster Hunter.
The idea there was simple, “hunt monster, carve monster, rinse and repeat” something that would on paper sound like a bad joke for a game design yet it works splendidly well as I saw myself in the hundreds of hours spent in the first three months I got into it. The game was also constantly evolving into something, introducing new events and challenging quests to tackle and all of that came free of charge for a year’s worth of events. It was absolutely worth the purchase I said. And I still think it is.
But fast forward to September of 2019 and here we find ourselves with the first major expansion dubbed Iceborne. Now while it sounds like a pretty steep jump to a £34.99 standard or £41.99 deluxe edition (£49.99 and £57.99 if you’re gunning for the Master bundle with the base game), it definitely feels justified for its offerings. The usual “hunt, carve, repeat” cycle is still there but what makes it a justified purchase for the fans is its updated roster of monsters and elder dragons to add a bit of spice along with a new snowy-frost mountain range and other benefits to quality of life plus new gameplay mechanics that shake up the playing field.
There’s also the 30 hour long expanded story that introduces you to the new faces that will make up your adventure and what a splendid rush that was. Nothing sounds more thrilling than running for your life against a rushing Banbaro logging a huge tree trunk over your skinny little ass to wake you up in the morning or to get you up in the freezing snowy weather. But really, for the MH fans, the more or less 30 hours is nothing more than a taste of what’s to come. As it simply acts as an introductory phase to the grind and the true time-sink only starts from here on out.
While a new splash of paint or newly baked monsters are added into the game, fans also get introduced to an added difficulty rank, Master. This lets you take on even tougher monsters, reward you with better and stronger equipment and weaponry aside from the added move sets for each of the fourteen different weapon archetypes that drastically changes the thrill of the hunt. The added clutch claw mechanic also provides even more variety of play. Whether you’re trying to get a few easy hits with a slow hitting greatsword or forcing a flinched monster to crash into a wall. Not to mention there are already a lot of ways you could be hunting monsters like mounting them after a jump attack on a nearby ledge, trapping them into environmental traps, forcing them to hazardous lava geysers or simply hitting breakable objects to make them fall into your prey. And that is honestly one of the best features which makes Monster Hunter unique to other games of similar genre.
But aside from monster hunting which the game is titled on, there are many activities that can be undertaken. One of the major examples while not something unique or groundbreaking is decorating your very own room. Be it a new shade of wall patterns or to the many types of decorative furniture with customizable colors or patterns along with the kind of materials to be used. Second of which is the Steamworks which similar to the Elder Melder or Botanical Research is another but different way of getting items than can be used for the hunt which offers a unique twist of a luck-based guessing game.
On a visual standpoint, the monsters look gorgeous as they are menacing… offering striking roars and devastating moves to send chills even in the thickest of hides. Hoarfrost Reach, the new icy biome, while it looks cool (no pun intended) does itself justice by providing the players visually striking environmental changes as when trekking deep snow leave trails of both human and monster activity. Tumbling down or getting thrown off the snow puts the player’s clothes with a hint of snow which is something to really appreciate for the attention to detail that went on with the undertaking.
At its core, Monster Hunter World is already a definitive game for both the franchise and the genre itself. Not only is it great as an immersive single player experience but also a game that is better when played online with strangers or friends. With Iceborne as its first expansion, it offers to dive into deeper challenging territory which is something I truly enjoy even if I have to run through a single quest a dozen of times spending up to almost an hour each. If you’re a fan of hunting games in general, this is one that I would highly recommend to be checked out as it delivers an impressive range of content while delivering a unique learning experience to the uninitiated.