Monster Hunter World: Iceborne PC Review

Monster Hunter World: Iceborne is the new standard-bearer for DLC quality in a AAA title. For fans of its genre, nothing beats it.

Monster Hunter World: Iceborne sets a standard for downloadable content, possibly surpassed only by The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine. It is enormous, content-rich, almost as replayable as the base game, and so clearly made with love and care that it makes most other DLC packs turn their heads in shame.

The monsters, new, old, and subspecies, all come with new and exciting challenges. All your new gear looks and functions amazingly while keeping the fantastic core gameplay intact. Then you add in the new mechanics added to every weapon type and the new gear abilities that allow for thousands of build possibilities.

And I'm not even touching on not one, but two new hunting zones, the increased focus on character in the surprisingly solid story, and the all but endless grind available in the endgame area.

My complaints with the game itself are minimal, with the most significant issues being technical. There are a few things I would like to be less of a chore as well, but on the whole, it feels like I'm getting a fantastic sequel instead of a DLC.

A Menagerie of Wonders

The monsters of Iceborne are many and varied, even if developers needed to rely heavily on subspecies of both new and returning beasts. To compensate, Capcom retooled the attacks and abilities of any monster they reused, changing up elements, adding new moves, and increasing or altering aggression and behavior as necessary.

Veterans of the base game will be familiar enough with their new foes to acclimate to these changes. New players might be challenged, but rarely enough to halt progress entirely.

That's not going to be true for the new monsters in play, and Iceborne wastes no time in getting you familiar with them. Your first two major fights are against the snow-swimming Beotodus and the ram-headed Banbaro. Both will test your skills, but neither is an overwhelming challenge. 

The next few hunts pit you against several subspecies before throwing down the gauntlet. 

You won't even be five hours into the campaign before Iceborne puts you to a real test. Barioth hits harder than any monster before it, is highly mobile, and boasts a sizeable health pool that you'll struggle to whittle down without good gear.

Make it past this first hurdle opens up the rest of the game, and eventually, you begin the long process of learning all about Velkhana, Iceborne's headlining elder dragon.

On the way, you'll craft gear that outclasses anything from vanilla World, defeat acid-spewing lizards, great beasts with flaming tails, ninja bat-cat hybrids, and plenty of old favorites, as well.

Even then, when you finally start to take the fight to Velkaha, you won't be ready to take it down. In your first two fights with it, all you will manage is driving it away.

Your third and final fight will take you all across the Hoarfrost Reach, where you'll finally slay the beast. 

In most other games, that's where things would stop, but in Iceborne, they only get harder and the rewards all the sweeter. New elder dragons begin to appear, leading up to a second major confrontation at what might be the end of the New World.

This final fight of the campaign is as satisfying as it is interesting, and it's due credit to Capcom for finding a way to top the fantastic Xeno'jiiva fight from the vanilla game.

The design of each of these monsters, and the equipment you make from their bodies, is superb. Not every set is perfect, of course, and I was a little disappointed that the best-looking sets only have use in very niche scenarios. Still, every monster in Iceborne is fun to hunt and tough to truly master.

I can't say enough good things about the menagerie of creatures in this DLC, which is why I'm so happy where you fight them is just as amazing.

A New Home in the Snow

The Hoarfrost Reach, the new hunting zone unique to the Iceborne expansion, is both beautiful and daunting when first encountered. Far from being just a set of snowy fields connected by rocky passages, the environments here are varied, filled with secret nooks and crannies, hot springs, fetid caves, and icy caverns.

Velkhana's arena, once available, should get a special mention for the mysterious grandeur of its aesthetic and appropriateness for a climactic fight.

Everything you'd expect from a new Monster Hunter World zone is present as well. There are plenty of new plants and small animals to find, new materials of every kind to discover, and new ways to engage the monsters throughout the environment.

The Reach should stand as a testament to what a new DLC area should be on release. Large, smartly constructed, and filled with ways for players to create their own stories through gameplay.

And thankfully, the gameplay in Iceborne is markedly different, yet strikingly familiar, thanks to a few additions to your hunter's arsenal. 

Much has already been said about the utility and versatility of the Clutch Claw. At risk of repeating most of the discussion, I'll say that it opens up whole new avenues of engagement, changes the rules of almost every monster fight in the game, and is generally just fun to use.

Iceborne also introduces new move sets to each weapon in the game. I haven't had nearly enough time to try them all, the ones I have made welcome updates to the combo system present in the vanilla experience.

I would also be remiss not to mention how both the layout and usability of Seliana, the new home base in Iceborne. Both a beautiful home in the snow and an incredibly user-friendly hub world, Seliana has everything you could want, with plenty of new quality of life changes to boot.

The fact you can access the Smithy from the Gathering Hub without a loading screen is a huge boon, for one. Me, though, I'm taken by the amount of customizability for your personal chambers. It has no gameplay function other than aesthetics, but in the kind of game where appearances can sometimes be everything, it's a welcome addition.

Lastly, though they didn't have to, Capcom added an entire second zone to the game called the Guiding Lands, which is all about the endgame. You can't even reach it until then anyway, but the fact that all the high-level gear grinding is centralized and streamlined in a single locale? That's just the icing on the cake.

Additional Considerations

Monster Hunter has never been known as a pinnacle of narrative design or storytelling, and Iceborne doesn't attempt to make any considerable changes to, well, change that. What it does do instead is provide a more grounded, character-focused story that helps to ground the endless monster-slaying in a world that moves and changes without the player's input.

The characters themselves are acted well enough, and their individual stories interesting, if a little rote. The story itself is also fairly standard. While it makes some attempts to rise above its status as a vector to the next monster, it's often more annoying than it is gripping.

Put simply, the story is average but functional and told as well as one could expect of a Monster Hunter title.

Most of us wished the same could be said for the game's performance on launch. We have a host of articles on this very site dealing with the various glitches, errors, and outright failures of this game's technical side. 

There's since been a patch addressing some of the worst offenders (save corruption and CPU usage), but it was all enough to put a large stain on an otherwise seminal PC release so early in the year.

As I said earlier, I'm also disappointed that some of the best-looking sets in the game have such poor skills associated with them. I love fighting monsters, true, but the highest challenges should provide the best rewards, and right now, they just kind of don't.

All that won't stop me from playing this game for months and months to come, especially with all the new content PC can expect. I have to skills to hone, quests to complete, and plenty of the Grammeowster Chef's wonderful food to eat.

Pros

  • A host of fantastic new and returning monsters
  • A beautiful new world to explore
  • Plenty of gear to chase and hours on hours of enjoyable gameplay
  • New mechanics and equipment that change the game in meaningful ways

Cons

  • Poor technical performance and glitches that need addressing
  • Some of the best gear in the game has little practical use

Monster Hunter World: Iceborne is a natural progression from the base game, adding even more of what has kept players hunting all this time with a deft appreciation and understanding on Capcom's part for what players really wanted and needed in an upgrade Monster Hunter World.

Our Rating
9
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne is the new standard-bearer for DLC quality in a AAA title. For fans of its genre, nothing beats it.
Reviewed On: PC

Contributor

John Schutt has been playing games for almost 25 years, starting with Super Mario 64 and progressing to every genre under the sun. He spent almost 4 years writing for strategy and satire site TopTierTactics under the moniker Xiant, and somehow managed to find time to get an MFA in Creative Writing in between all the gaming. His specialty is action games, but his first love will always be the RPG. Oh, and his avatar is, was, and will always be a squirrel, a trend he's carried as long as he's had a Steam account, and for some time before that.

Published Jan. 17th 2020

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