It is hard to nail down a story expansion for a big-budget game. It is even harder to make it as good as the base game. This is why we have rarely seen good expansions for large scale games but with Iceborne, Capcom has once again shown why they deserve the most recognition as a favorite developer this generation. Not only they are delivering consistent and high-quality games one after another, but they are also doing some great work with their original efforts and with improvements on the technical side of games.
Iceborne is an expansion for Monster Hunter World that adds a big chunk of new story content and makes enough changes so the experience remains fresh. To begin with, it takes place after the ending of the game so it also feels like a sequel. To play it, you will need to complete the game by ending the main storyline and tying any loose ends before jumping in with this one. This expansion brings in a new locale with its icy theme that becomes one of the largest explorable areas in Monster Hunter World. There are some changes made to the gameplay with new combat options and dangerous monsters to fight in this snow-covered location. All of these get tacked on the already excellent Monster Hunter World which has been covered in our review.
Just like in the base game, the central point of the story revolves around an Elder Dragon, Velkhana who has a lot of powerful ice-based attacks. The main crew arrives in this new locale to find the cause of the erratic behavior of the monsters and to research this new environment. The story content offers a decent chunk of game length which is rarely padded, and the variety of monsters, both new and returning, is exciting to discover as a newcomer or series veteran. Each of the hunts in Iceborne follow the same method, tracking the monster and then confronting them in a battle.
One of the new gameplay additions serves a great purpose if you have already spent some time in Monster Hunter World. It is the inclusion of a new rank of missions, also referred to as the Master Rank. This sets the player on another quest to gain a higher-tier of their current gear set. It adds value to existing content and does this in the best way possible. The contrast between the high and master level is quite large that it is easy to ditch our old gear and go straight into hunting the new one. Thankfully, it is rather straightforward to get them from the beginning and helps immensely in dealing with the new threats.
Iceborne takes the best parts of Monster Hunter World and expands on them, while not trying to divert too much from what made them great in the first place. The additional new rank, monsters, and gameplay improvements are all something that is supposed to help the player not only enjoy this newly added locale but also go back and replay the old content. As such, there is a good chunk of value for this expansion for the dedicated Monster Hunting crowd who have already invested countless hours in the game.
Story-wise, the presentation has taken a step up from the original with cutscenes now giving further insight into main characters. The character development and writing might not match the best offered in this genre, but compared to the previous games and even the original, there is a significant uptick in the quality of the production. The visuals and cutscene direction feels more consistent now. While the core gameplay is still important and makes up for the best part of this new expansion, the story acts as an icing on the cake and provides some motivation for the actions performed by the characters.
Most developers are always looking out for both newcomers and dedicated fans. In the case of Iceborne, it was nice to see that they are catering to the fans who had spent a considerable chunk of their time in the game. While there are some tutorials to go through at the beginning of the expansion, it opens up rather quickly going back to what made the original game so great. The freedom to customize your character, get the best gear and the thrill of hunting the most dangerous monsters is still present with the expansion.
If you enjoyed the difficulty in World, Iceborne takes it a step further. The new hunts are fun but also challenging. You will need to craft the most suitable gear for hunts before attempting them. Every monster acts with a different attack pattern and it takes some time to learn their moves. This is also where the multiplayer comes into play and with a party of four, the hunts take on a completely different meaning. It is always exciting to see how Capcom has created this brand new location that is full of monsters that feel like they are living in their natural habitat.
The bottom line is that Iceborne is a perfect expansion and the best way to spend time in Monster Hunter World if you are a fan. It is not as welcoming for newcomers but if you have the time to invest in the game, you won’t regret it. The base game is already being sold along with the expansion for a fairly decent price and the value to price ratio is rather insane with the amount of content available right now. Capcom has also planned to release post-launch content that should add new monsters so there is no better time to jump into the series than it is right now.