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Review

Monster Hunter World: Iceborne Review - A Very Ice Time

  • First Released Jan 26, 2018
    released
  • Reviewed Sep 4, 2019
  • PS4

Less Land Before Time and more Jurassic Park, Iceborne fights you tooth and serrated tail.

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Monster Hunter World's first paid expansion, Iceborne, is now available on PS4 and Xbox One. Our review has now been finalized after a brief stint as a review in progress. For more, check out our Iceborne tips guide.

Monster Hunter World: Iceborne is more of the same, glorious slog for everyone who's ever been taken down by a fire-breathing facsimile of a Tyrannosaurus Rex and thought, "I can't wait to do that 50 times over." The franchise has always rewarded those willing to put in the hard yards, and Iceborne is no exception. It adds more of what set the base game aside from its predecessors without feeling overcrowded, even if its narrative could have used a little more work.

Monster Hunter World was an exercise in refinement upon its release in early 2018. Not only did it manage to simplify a franchise-wide burgeoning quest system, but it also had a very successful stab at creating an open-world ecosystem absolutely teeming with things to do and colossal monsters who want to hunt you. Best of all, these changes never overwhelmed--the new mission and upgrade systems that were introduced were relatively straightforward to grasp, all whilst leaving room for experienced hunters to master them.

Screenshot provided by Capcom
Screenshot provided by Capcom

Since the game’s launch, the game has seen a steady drip-feed of DLC content in the form of in-game events. Many of these follow the formula of transplanting something fearsome into an already familiar environment--the Witcher 3 crossover saw a Leshenn loom large in the Ancient Forest, and the Final Fantasy XIV collaboration had you running for cover when Behemoth reared its head. The design philosophy behind Monster Hunter World: Iceborne takes a similar approach in implementing that sort of content, though on a larger scale; it uses touchstones in the form of storied foes and familiar locations to build upon the robust ecosystem of the base game to deliver an experience that will test your mettle without breaking you.

Iceborne is all about building on existing foundations. This is most evident in the narrative that has been spun out in the wake of the base game’s single-player campaign. Monster Hunter World was notable for introducing a clear-cut, story-based incentive to throw yourself against the biggest and baddest beasts out there. Iceborne takes a slightly crooked step forward by spinning a story that revolves not around you, but around your Handler.

Shortly after the successes of dealing with the base game’s Elder Dragon predicament, a mass migration event shakes the recovering ecosystem of Astera and prompts you to investigate. What comes next is a tale of family legacies, mysterious scales, and your Handler embarking on her own personal quest. To shift the focus of a story from the protagonist to what is essentially a side character is a bold one--for all the aid and assistance that the Handler gives in Monster Hunter World, she’s still fundamentally a living, breathing quest board. Monster Hunter World players will no doubt have become attached to her over the course of their travels, but is that attachment is deep enough to shoulder a full expansion’s narrative conceit? Not quite.

Screenshot provided by Capcom
Screenshot provided by Capcom

As soon as you’re introduced to the latest curveball about Iceborne’s new signature location, Hoarfrost Reach, and how that intersects rather conveniently with your Handler’s past, you’re immediately whisked back to lands and territories from the base game to cull a couple of monsters that have gotten too big for their boots. It’s not exactly narrative whiplash, but it’s certainly not as compelling as it would have been had we been the ones to follow the Handler from the first step of her journey to the new lands of Iceborne.

That said, revisiting those familiar locations early on to take down new and improved versions of killer dinosaurs that you’ve faced before is one of the most compelling parts of Monster Hunter World: Iceborne. As with the DLC strategy, the building blocks of the expansion are steeped in elements that existing players are already acquainted with. You’ll cut your teeth on monsters like the Nightshade Paolumu--a variant on the oversized flying squirrel encountered early on in the base game, though this time with the lethal ability to put unsuspecting hunters to sleep. The expansion arguably doesn’t open up until you’ve also vanquished the Viper Tobi-Kadachi--a souped-up version of its cousin from the Ancient Forest, albeit with poisonous projectiles and a bite that’s much more dangerous than its hiss.

The changes that Iceborne makes in the form of these variant breeds has a twofold effect: First, they provide you with a motivation to form new strategies to slice and dice their way to the next story beat. Secondly, they’re just distinct enough in terms of attack patterns and additional elemental considerations that you never really feel like you’re just fighting a reskin of something that you made mincemeat out of 80 hours ago. It's as if there's been a concerted effort to balance the difficulty of what many fans might rightfully view as the second coming of the coveted “G-Rank” in this latest iteration of Monster Hunter.

Screenshot provided by Capcom
Screenshot provided by Capcom

Despite some focus on iterating established systems, there are innovations introduced in Iceborne that truly set it apart from its predecessor. Brand-new monsters and the implementation of legacy series favourites like Nargacuga look and feel impressive thanks to all the new ways monsters can interact with other beasts and the various locations. But more importantly, there is a library’s worth of new weapon moves for you to take advantage of.

Charge Axe users can now cancel into a particularly fun multi-directional attack when caught unawares, and Gunlance users no longer have to worry about running out of ammo in an emergency before getting to use their new signature move that is, quite literally, explosive. Hunting Horn users have also had their ability to do damage buffed, with the addition of a new move that lets you stick your horn in the ground and spin it like some kind of demented Beyblade to catch whatever’s charging towards you off guard. That’s just a few new examples, but overall these additions seem to be informed by the dual precepts of style and lethality.

However, the biggest quality-of-life addition has been something called the Clutch Claw--every hunter can use this alongside their primary weapon to grapple onto their foe and, depending on what other sharp object is equipped, do anything from steering a rampaging wyvern into a rock face to weakening a specific part of its body that needs to be lopped off.

Screenshot provided by Capcom
Screenshot provided by Capcom

Using the Clutch Claw is by no means compulsory, so it fits in that nice niche where it can make your hunts a little bit easier or a little bit more exhilarating in equal turns. But you're not forced to use it to feel like you're getting your money’s worth if, say, you’re a veteran player trying to do your own version of Nuzlocke rules but with items. However, having the option and ability to scale up the side of a monster after landing a savvy shot with the Clutch Claw feels ridiculously satisfying, and so does driving a beast to its doom in the many treacherous terrain pitfalls that dot the newest, snow-covered region of Hoarfrost Reach.

That new, frosty landscape is beautiful and treacherous in equal measure. With new foes, more verticality than the Coral Highlands, and frozen terrain that can crack and send you plunging to your death, it really is a sight to behold. More than ever, it feels like the environment can be turned against you; some monsters will uproot trees and throw them at you, while the wrong move on cracked ice can mean certain death.

By that measure, however, there are also more opportunities to get the jump on your enemies, especially with the Clutch Claw giving you the ability to walk them into vine traps, blinding light, and more. Having a grasp of every bit of the map is integral to truly mastering what Iceborne has to throw at you, and it’s incredibly satisfying when everything suddenly clicks and you go from the hunted to the hunter leading their prey to a painful trap that attempts to even the scales.

Screenshot provided by Capcom
Screenshot provided by Capcom

Being dropped into this intricately-designed location as a relatively new player may be overwhelming, but no matter your experience level, joining up with other hunters and picking your way through this icy dens of beasts together is incredibly rewarding in its own way. Iceborne benefits from the matchmaking improvements introduced since the release of the base game, which have made it relatively seamless on console to find fellow hunters--no more messing about with PlayStation parties and friends lists--and dropping into a party to help friends tackle these fearsome monsters is easy.

Monster Hunter World: Iceborne is at its best when you’re fighting tooth and nail against something that you know could crush you within its teeth in a second, even though this might feel like it came at the expense of a more interesting narrative. Nothing is quite as good as the biting chill cutting through the furs of your armor, the shrill cry of your Palico as it comes to your aid, and the wind roaring in your ears as you latch onto a beast’s flank and climb up its side while it bucks and roars.

This expansion is rife with moments like that; all of the tweaking and the improvements feel like they were done with the excellent building blocks of Monster Hunter World in mind, which means that getting to the meat of the matter is quicker and more satisfying than ever. There’s no more fussing about with new systems or worrying about ruffling the feathers of hardcore fans with a direction change in the series; those teething problems have already come and gone. Iceborne is a confident step into the future of the franchise, and it's hard not to think about what might come next.

Back To Top
The Good
Variants on familiar monsters makes for a well-designed progression curve
Introduction of the Clutch Claw adds variety to combat without sacrificing difficulty
Integrating tougher foes into existing environments feels like a seamless addition
The new ecosystem provides interesting layers of strategy with its environment
New weapon moves add a lot to gameplay
The Bad
The narrative doesn't quite give you the chance to be invested properly
Brand-new monsters are relatively few
9
Superb
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Monster Hunter: World

About the Author

From Anjanaths to elder dragons, Ginny has seen it all when it comes to Monster Hunter World: Iceborne. She spent 60 hours clutch-clawing her way to victory against frosty foes for this review. A code was provided by Capcom.
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EricDWright

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Edited By EricDWright

If the theme of the game is to hunt monsters, and they added "relatively few" new monsters is it worth $40 ? Destiny much? I enjoyed the base game but the fun quickly died off.

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Bloodwolf_19

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I love MHW/Iceborne. They've done really well with it, I'm hoping they have at least 2-3 more expansions planned for it before calling it done. Would really like to see more housing themes an such, as well as I wish they would make it so all armor sets when available in game, also make it available as a Layered Armor option to make. Some of the old gear looked cool, but obviously wouldn't be something I'd want to run around in due to low level stats. I would really like to see them do some more crossover content. Like Final Fantasy again, but stuff to promote FF7:Remake for example. Great sword= Cloud, Long Blade= Sephiroth, Bug Glaive= Cid Highwind, do armor sets for our cats of MiniChoco, Cait Sith. Just examples, would love to see Ifirit, Leviathan, Diablos, or Fennir (ff6, 3 in U.S.)with his whole mirror image technique, making it hard to hit him, until you figure out which one is the real wolf an not the mirror images created by the Moonlight. "See, a special monster that would only be seen at night time. ;) ."

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Cherub1000

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Greetings all, so a question for seasoned players here. I've been really keen on this game since release, however, I'm more of a single player kinda guy. How viable is this game in single player? If I use diablo and warframe as examples, even though both cater to single play, let's face it, the grindfest of warframe is a substantial time sink compared to diablo, though still great fun. Also, is monster hunter chock full of micro transactions??? Thanks.

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darkelf83

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@cherub1000: You can totally play all of the base game but one monster solo. So far all of Iceborne up the end of the story is solo-able but as escapevelocity mentioned it is much harder than the base game. I cannot say anything about the end game, haven't gotten there. The grind isn't too bad since you can target specific monsters. Sometimes you have bad luck and need to kill it over and over but unless you're crown hunting it won't take too long.

Even though you can play with up to three other people the game is designed around single player. You don't even see other people unless your in the Gathering Hub or in a hunt together.

The extras that you can buy from the store are not needed. Especially for single player play.

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escapevelocity

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@cherub1000: Waiting for the PC release, but I know enough about the series. To answer your questions:

1. I've heard that the monster stats scaling gets a little steeper in Iceborne (understandably - this is the "very hard mode" essentially), but in general, Monster Hunter is very solo-friendly, aside from some extreme endgame stuff. This is especially true for base Monster Hunter World, since the solo-scaled health for the monsters is fairly low, and the more streamlined game systems compared to the older entries make it much easier to wrap your head around the combat system. The grind is definitely there, but nowhere near the amount there is in pure MMORPGs (I haven't played Warframe or Destiny, but I think back on things like PSO and shudder a bit). To give specific examples, the "carve" rate of the rarest material on a monster is usually around something like 2% - that means 2% chance each of the 3 (sometimes 4) times you "carve" at the freshly killed monster, another 5?% or so if you lop off the tail and carve that, and probably around another 2~5% for a couple more quest reward drops that you get at the "quest results" screen after the hunt. The generous drop rate combined with weekly (sometimes more) vouchers you can earn to trade in for these rare mats means the grind is pretty easy. The SUPER endgame grind on the other hand can get... a bit intense, but 90% of the player base can get by without investing much time into that stuff.

2. The game is chock full of lootboxes. You spend currency called "effort" to open up lootboxes called "monsters" and hope for materials that let you craft cool stuff. (Pretty much a quote from the devs lol) Serious answer: Nah there's some chat stickers and gestures that you can pay for if you want, but they're so inconsequential that I often forget they exist. Nothing other than that and the game itself costs money - even the handful of updates they do post-launch that add new monsters.

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videogameninja

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Have we suddenly been transported back to the 90’s?

Re 2 remake

Devil May Cry 5

Re 7

Monster Hunter world/Ice borne

Sweet mother of Miyamoto’s ghost, Capcom is on a roll.

-THANKS FOR PLAYING! NINJA APPROVED-

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HesamB

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Great Review, and great game though too bad optimization is non existent for lower end pcs

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DEVILTAZ35

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Edited By DEVILTAZ35

Those screen shots are either PC or heavily edited. It doesn't look that good on PS4. How does Monster Hunter World 1.5 rehash edition get such a high score anyway?

It's just more of the same except the screen is painted white. Not even much in the way of new enemies so no real point to it. Inevitably those will be payable dlc no doubt.

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darkelf83

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@deviltaz35: They added almost as much content in this expansion as the base game had. There are 22 new/variant monsters to fight. The variants have cool new mechanics to deal with and are not just reskined.

They added whole new areas to play in and a ton of new trophies to hunt. Every "new" monster comes with new gear that is unique and there are a tons of weapon upgrades. New player mechanics and side stuff to do. This is in no way lacking in content.

Plus it's sold at a cheaper base price. The new/variant monsters won't be added as base game DLC since all added monsters after the "base" purchase are free. The base game has already gotten 5 new, free, monsters since release. Plus seasonal events and stuff.

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escapevelocity

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@deviltaz35: This is why I hate it when reviewers say it's "light on new monsters" and list it under the bad points list... we get misinformed people like this one. It's really not lacking in content; iirc it has the most number of totally new monsters for an "update release" in series history (the "G rank" or "Ultimate" release of these games). And on top of that, even the subspecies and variant monsters that reviewers seem to dismiss as more of the same are actually very different from their original forms. This thing almost DOUBLED the monster count from the base game!

There's so much effort that goes into these releases, and I can say with confidence that it's so much more apparent in Iceborne particularly. Yes, the basics of the game system is the same; it's an update/expansion after all. But it's definitely not "more of the same except the screen is painted white."

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grandwisdom

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@deviltaz35: u do realize its free dlc not paid u hater

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Atzenkiller

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@grandwisdom: What dlc are you guys talking about? Iceborne is an expansion and it does cost money. The free dlc is everything that has been released between the game's launch and this expansion.

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Ultima_Dragoon

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@deviltaz35: You need to familiarize yourself with this franchise before you keep hating on it. They have never done microtransaction DLC aside from some emotes and stickers and such that are so out of the way that I forget they exist. This expansion is all you have to pay for. Other monsters will come later as free DLC; in fact, they've already shown one arriving next month.

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sakaiXx

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Edited By sakaiXx

Tobi Versace twin fight is something I actually look forward to. Hope we get that quest

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Soulglove

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Thank you, Ginny

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tocool340

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"Monster Hunter World: Iceborne is more of the same, glorious slog for everyone who's ever been taken down by a fire-breathing facsimile of a Tyrannosaurus Rex and thought, "I can't wait to do that 50 times over.""

Heh heh heh I got a good chuckle from that...

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Daidochus

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"Brand-new monsters are relatively few"

Bummer. I want a MH game with 80 monsters in it.

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@daidochus: 80 might be asking for a bit too much, considering they need to remake all their previous assets to fit into the new engine lol. But even considering that, I think the total monster count will get to somewhere above 60 (maybe even close to 70?) with all the upcoming monsters that will get added with updates.

Also I hate it when reviewers say it's light on "brand-new monsters". It has A LOT considering it's a goddam expansion, and the subspecies and variants that these reviewers brush off as more of the same are definitely different from their original forms, and offer varied gameplay.

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DEVILTAZ35

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@daidochus: If this was $10 DLC fair enough but to try to pass this off as a new game surely people aren't going to get conned?

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sakaiXx

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@daidochus: mhgu exist and there is around 2 dozen in this expansion btw. means the total should be around 60 monster which is still quite a good roster.

Monster Hunter: World More Info

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  • First Released Jan 26, 2018
    released
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox One
    Monster Hunter becomes even deadlier in Monster Hunter: World, introducing an expansive world and ecosystem that players on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC can explore.
    7.9
    Average Rating110 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Monster Hunter: World
    Developed by:
    Capcom
    Published by:
    Capcom
    Genre(s):
    Role-Playing, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    Blood, Mild Language, Use of Alcohol, Violence