I don’t recall the last time I found one of these. I’m not saying they don’t exist… Just… When was the last one? I suppose MMO’s still get them on a fairly regular basis. But outside of that? I don’t really know…

Iceborne isn’t just DLC . It is a full fledged, honest to God, expansion.

It was in the back of my awareness that Iceborne was being titled an expansion. But it hadn’t really clicked. In my mind, this was still going to be a DLC. I thought it incorporated a single area, maybe a few new monsters. That kind of thing. Iceborne came out last September for console, but I hadn’t looked into any of reviews or gameplay videos. As a result I came into Iceborne pretty much blind.

If you’d like to do the same, here are a few bullet-points of things I think you should know before we get to into the review proper.

  • It’s fantastic. No reservations in recommending it. Unless… You didn’t like the base Monster Hunter: World experience, of course.
  • You need to complete the original Monster Hunter: World story before gaining access to Iceborne content. So if you are looking to dip your toes in for the first time — you don’t need to pick-up Iceborne right away. Although there are still some benefits if you do. So I’d recommend picking it up essentially as soon as you know whether MHW is right for you.
  • While highly dependent on how you approach it, you’re in for around 50 hours to complete the main story of Iceborne. And that isn’t the end. Once credits roll there is still plenty more even non-completionists will want to see.
Er… Hi?

It’s an Expansion!

I know, I know. I’ve already said this. But it still amazes me that we got one outside of an MMO in this day and age,

I’ve also mentioned already that you will need to have completed the main story of Monster Hunter: World’s original release.

But what I didn’t talk to yet (in this post at least), is the gear reset that occurs. The strength of the reset is on a par with, if not actually stronger than one you might see in WoW. Very shortly after getting into Iceborne, with the very first tiers of new armor and weapons — you’ll find it difficult to justify holding onto whatever you’ve built during your time in High Rank.

My maximally upgraded High Rank Odogaron armor, for example, was ~70 defense per piece. Through either collecting some ore from the readily accessible mining nodes, or simply killing Mr Frost-Fishy a time or two, you can make an entire set where each piece of armor has around 114 defense.

Weapons are similar, although if you’ve built yourself one of the new Defender V weapons — you’ll find many of Iceborne’s entry weapons to simply be on a par. At least in terms of raw damage. The Defender with it’s blast proc might even eke out ahead a little until you can get into the second tier of Iceborne weapons for one or more of the trees. Even that though, happens really quickly.

Almost as fast as this guy’s charge.

For what it’s worth — I enjoyed the gear reset and not being held back from that part of the game for too long. But I’m someone who didn’t invest hundreds of hours into the base game. I did get up to, and do, Tempered monsters. But I didn’t go on an extended Decoration farm. Nor did I come back and do the post-launch content such as the Arch Tempered Monsters.

I could certainly see someone who did spend the time on doing all this being a little less understanding. But fear not — the thrill of the chase and rising to new heights is still a heady mead indeed.

While there are some reskins / recolours to create new variations of existing monsters — there are also a whole bunch of entirely new (to World) monsters. And heck, even the reskins are given new moves to add to their repertoire. Even a lot of the straight lift and shifts from the base game have been given new moves for Master Rank!

This theme of generosity in the expansions content continues into all other areas. Weapons similarly have expansions to existing monster trees in addition to entirely new trees (to go along with the new monsters and monster variants). There are new moves to extend and enhance the already mindblowing range of movesets that existed for each of the 14 different weapon types.

Adventuring to New Lands

Hoarfrost Reach

Hoarfrost Reach

Hoarfrost Reach is the brand new zone following in the theme of the Iceborne’s title. But it isn’t where you’ll spend the entirety of your story playthrough.

If you remember how High Rank added Elder’s Recess over and above the other areas you already had available compared to Low Rank — this is similar. Hoarfrost Reach is only available in Master Rank, but every other area is also still available. You will see new monsters and new monster dynamics in your Master Rank expeditions and quests into the previous zones.

In other words — it follows through this expansions philosophy of adding new and revitalising the old.

Hoarfrost reach has a certain chill beauty to it. You’ll range through deep snow drifts to crystaline ice plateaus to sections covered in bobbing sea-ice. The area has a number of highly amusing monster interactions possible, like the prior zones. You can drop them off a ledge of thin ice. Or perhaps trigger an avalanche, very reminiscent of the busting the dam in the Ancient Forest.

But this isn’t all.

There is another area that only opens up once you’re done with the entire story. The Guiding Lands.

The Guiding Lands

One of the denizens you’ll only find in the Guiding Lands.

The Guiding Lands is going to form a large part of your end-game play. It’s where you’ll go to hunt for the materials needed to Augment your weapons and allow further upgrade ranks on your armor.

The Guiding Lands are a huge zone with landscapes from Ancient Forest, Wildspire Wastes, Coral Highlands and Rotten Vale all intertwining together. There is also a Volcanic region (like you find in the lower reaches of The Elder Recess) but I’m not yet positive if this is out at launch for PC. It came for the console release a little following launch. I believe it is in — but I’ll update this when I can 100% confirm. And I just confirmed — it’s coming post release for PC too. But on a much quicker cycle, and PC will from April 2020 onward be inline with Console releases!! :D So far my own exploration has taken me through Ancient Forest, Wildspire Wastes and a teeny-tiny part of Coral Highlands.

Those journeys have seen me revisit some of the early game monsters such as the Great Jagras and Kulu Ya Ku. It has been actually quite amusing going up against these guys again, and it isn’t wasted effort either, for two main reasons:

  • Monsters (and resource nodes) in the Guided Lands drop new resources that you can’t get anywhere else. Some of these can be used for new armor and weapons — but perhaps more importantly, they form the basis for your augment resources.
  • Hunting and gathering in a particular biome in the Guided Lands levels that area up. As you level up your biomes, bigger monsters and resource nodes will spawn in. Which in turn have more of those fancy new materials you’re after.

Leveling up areas is going to be one of your initial priorities. Getting to the bigger monsters and resource nodes. But you can’t just willy-nilly level every area. Once you’re working on more than a few at a time, you start risking down ranking another area. So it becomes a game of management and pursuing the things you currently need.

Fortunately with the PC release, you have a means of ‘locking’ your regions if you so wish. You won’t make any further gains while you’ve locked things down, but nor will anything downrank.

This can be particularly handy when jumping in to a friends game and their version of the Guiding Lands. You can join them in their Level 7 Wildspire Wastes for a Gold Rathian hunt, without taking on a massive chunk of Wildspire Wastes xp and risking downgrading your own Ancient Forest. Of course, on the flip side — if you want to level up while playing with friends, then leave it unlocked and this is also an option and a good one at that.

So far Capcom has shown an interest in further expanding out the Guiding Lands content for endgame, with as noted above, the addition of the Volcanic region since the initial launch and adding the Ranjang. This isn’t to say we won’t see additional event-style Arch Tempered additions though.

Conclusion

If it wasn’t clear — I love Iceborne. It completely revitalised Monster Hunter: World in almost every imaginable way. It’s a whole new game in a game, but while still keeping everything we loved. Capcom has really sent a signal to market that expansions aren’t dead. That developers can still be generous with their player base and not nickle and dime them for new monsters, events and the like.

If you didn’t jump into the original release of Monster Hunter: World — it’s not too late. There is a Monster Hunter World: Master Edition available now which will give you the complete package. More than that, Capcom implemented the ‘Defender’ gear path with decent stats and bare bones material requirements which is aimed to streamline your gearing experience through the base story. You’ll still need to complete the story, but you will not have to step off the choo-choo train to victory to get that last Rathian Mantle to drop for you.

And I guess I’ll leave it there! If for no other reason than I’m itching to get back in for more. The main story is done. But there is still so much more… And perhaps I might finally start feeling brave enough to step off the path of my Longsword play into another weapon entirely? Stranger things have happened.