final Score: 9.1/10
More of the same...but that's not a bad thing. New mechanics and new hunts plus an actual attempt at storytelling make this a monster hunter's dream.
On January 26, 2018 the famed series Monster Hunter World was brought out to the masses on the Playstation 4 and Xbox One.(PC owners would have to wait until August 9th 2018 to get the experience that console players were able to experience months in advance). The game launched with critical praise, a great in-game experience, amazing and diverse gameplay mechanics for each weapon as well as a robust endgame to players to really sink their teeth into. With a sixteen player siege and many crossover special events for players to get into with various franchises (Street FIghter, Devil May Cry, Final Fantasy XIV and The Witcher 3 plus more) hardcore players quickly consumed the content wanting more. After twenty months and over thirteen million copies of the game sold, is this expansion everything that hunters dreamed of?
(Monster Hunter World Iceborne Trailer)
Iceborne launched on Playstation 4 and Xbox One on September 6, 2019 (sorry PC owners). The story is that there is something going on that is causing monsters to migrate to the new world from various places in the region. You as the story's protagonist lead the charge to discover what is causing this change in the ecosystem. As you proceed to dig into the mystery of these changes you are introduced to Master Rank which is the new G Rank for this entry in the series. Quickly you are dropped into the new locale called the Hoarfrost Reach, full of new endemic life, monsters (large and small) and new resources that are to be gathered (hot drinks, mining outcrops, etc) and you set out to find the source of the disturbance. Within minutes I am having my first encounter with Beotodus, a literal land shark that surfs under the surface and pounces with ferocity that isn't usually seen from the first monster that you encounter (I'm looking at you Great Jagras) and is a welcome change of pace. You find yourself not just fighting for survival from the monster but from the elements as well. This is the first time in Iceborne that you have to worry about climate as with the change of climate also changes the way your hunter recovers stamina and other status effects. After taking down the monster we continue down the road with just lays an overwhelming amount of content for you to digest at first. As someone who like to complete side quests and tasks even I found it to be a little bit daunting...daunting but manageable. We soon find out that the cover monster Velkhana is the cause of this disturbance and we get down the road on tracking it down so we can deal with the crisis.
Along the way we run into a variety of monsters to encounter. Some new monsters show their hides, some returning favorites of the Monster Hunter franchise and some reskinned monsters come along to make your journey interesting with new patterns, mechanics and new weaknesses (or lack thereof).We receive a new tool to aide us in our quest called the clutch claw that is intended for the user to get a quick mount monster and inflict damage and potentially wound the monster. In the beginning I rarely if ever used it because it wasn't something that I was actively looking to use. That changed quickly with the Nightshade Paolumu encounter as it continued to stay in the air and I being a Hammer Bro (Hammer user) had no way to reach the monster as it hovered and spewed its sleeping gas from above. Once learning how to properly use this item it has become a staple in my single-player offensive against the future fights that would come to challenge me.
Speaking of future encounters, it's completely possible to run through the game solo in a single-player tour de force which I do recommend...at first. I feel that every monster should be attempted at least once to see just what the monster is capable of and where you stand in the one on one scenario against a foe...that being said I will admit that sometimes you have to have a little bit of help. As I streamed my progression through the main campaign there were moments where I may have fired an SOS Flare (which allows other players to come and assist you if they're looking to complete the quest/looking to take on a particular target). Normally if I didn't enter to hunt with a team of people I would normally just go in alone and take it on alone (see my solo conquest of the HR100 quest on my channel) because if a player joined the hunt and then left for various reasons (bad connection, frustration, etc) the difficulty would be scaled for multiplayer. In Iceborne that is no longer the case as there's now difficulty for single, two person and multiplayer hunts that adjusts to the amount of players in the current hunt which a VERY welcome change in the MHW community. Solo hunts are a blast but the real white knuckle action comes from hunting with others because people are unpredictable and they become an extra element in your hunts.
As you proceed through the campaign you see Capcom is actually attempting to tell a compelling story that I think may have gone over a lot of people's heads because of the excitement that exists for facing the next challenge but they tell more of a story in Iceborne than they ever did in the base game...but its masked under the same formula that was used at the launch of MHW which is a shame. I found myself not exactly disliking The Handler as much as I used to. I was ecstatic to have the Serious Handler as my partner for a couple of missions as she's a no nonsense, let's get it done type of individual (Serious Handler for permanent partner?) but I didn't hate when my original partner made her triumphant return to me. We had gone through various locales and faced numerous perils together so it was only right that we see this through. After taking on various missions, tracking monsters like Nargacuga, Glavenus and more we finally get our first fated encounter with Velkhana which was more of a drive the monster back hunt in the veins of the Behemoth encounter for FFXIV. After that we continued pushing through the campaign knocking down whatever was in our path until we finally got the intel needed to take down Velkhana once and for all. It was a challenging right but nonetheless it fell to us. Game over right? Wrong. Now we're informed that there are new subspecies of past monsters (including elder dragons) that we need to take down to find out the real source of the disturbance in the MHW force. Fast forward and we're in the final mission (main game) taking on REDACTED (no spoilers here, sorry) in what I will say is definitely a multiplayer fight. At that stage in the game you simply don't have the damage output to tackle this beast alone and honestly it's more fun with others. After taking down the last main game monster REDACTED is given a name, the cap of your MR (Master Rank) is raised and you're thrown into a whole new line of quests to conquer.
Spoilers Ahead: Don't Say That You Weren't Warned...
After facing off against REDACTED, your endgame begins with you being tasked to check out the Elder's Recess in order to find new info on what is going on there and you run into a Bazelguese that you tackle with new moves and patterns. This leads you to track the movements of Ruiner Nergigante to a place called the Guiding Lands which is simply a random monster encounter generator if that makes sense. Monsters appear sporadically and cycle in and out. You could spend hours there just hunting and leveling up locales raising your MR up until you reach the next challenge. The Guiding Lands feels more like an arcade mode and since its TECHNICALLY an expedition you can hunt without abandon and fear of carting. See a Banbaro and wanna hunt it because you have a blood lust? Go for it. Wanna take down Zinogre because it said something bad about your mom/dad? Let it rip. There's nothing stopping you from just having a good time. That being said, I don't know if that is enough content to keep the MHW community busy until the next launch of a new game (which will probably be on next-gen hardware) but it'll definitely be fun to just hunt with others. Also there are quests tied to your MR and the last quest that I know of that's accessible is at MR 175 (and that's just for your tools). There are a few people in the wild who have pushed past MR200 (shoutouts to Team Dark Side) so I salute you individuals. Even more variants of current monsters are made available to you as you raise your rank like Gold Rathian, Sliver Rathalos and more. I personally haven't faced these yet but i'm grinding to make it there. Capcom has also stated that they will be dropping new monsters in free updates starting with Rajang in October so there will be new faces to bludgeon, new weapons to forge and new gear to craft.
Final Verdict 9.1/10
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne has without a shadow of a doubt delivered. Whether you are a veteran player looking to scratch that itch or a brand new player it's definitely a great time to jump in and get some hunts in. If you're considering picking it up as a new player I would suggest purchasing the Master's Edition as it gives you the base game as well as the expansion for around $70 USD. As a new player you'll have to go through the first campaign to access Iceborne but Capcom has created the Guardian Armor set that you can equip right away that has some handy skills baked into it like four levels of attack boost, three levels of health boost, three levels of recovery up, one level of non-elemental boost and three levels of divine blessing making it the only armor that you need to to wear through the main game and it's upgradeable so it'll be there for the long haul making you a monster hunting bad a**. As i stated above, I'm giving this game a 9.1 out of 10, a definite must have game and something that you won't want to miss out on. This game gives you bang for your buck and then some. With tons of current content, upcoming content and the ability to just go on and have fun your monetary investment will be rewarded and you'll have experiences that you'll be thinking about for days to come. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a Master Rank to raise.