Monster Hunter World’s first (and supposedly only) major expansion, Iceborne, is set to release on Friday, September 6. Given that the base game remains Capcom’s best-selling release to date – having finally connected with a mainstream audience in the west – I imagine that a lot of people are itching to jump back in. But, based on what I’ve played, you may want to hold off and consider whether or not you’re prepared.

Since downloading Iceborne last week, I’ve put about 30 hours into MHW, but very little of that time has been spent exploring the new content. Instead, I’ve been whipping myself back into shape after hitting a brick wall in Iceborne’s very first mission. It’s only now, having cleared out most of my remaining High Rank missions and fully upgrading my armor, that I’m steadily making progress in the expansion.

Iceborne is explicitly postgame content, taking place after the events of the main campaign. Since I’d finished the story and was well past the required hunter rank (16), I figured I was good to go. Admittedly, since I hadn’t touched MHW in a year and a half, there was a brief period in which I had to shake off the rust and re-familiarize myself with the many systems and my insect glaive.

However, even once I was back in, I was simply taking too much damage and dealing too little in return. After barely squeaking by on my first big target, I subsequently spent two whole hours on my next hunt against an enormous moose-like creature called the Banbaro without seeing so much as a limping animation to signal that I was approaching the end. That’s when I finally accepted that I was woefully under-equipped for Iceborne‘s difficulty and retreated to the grind.

Not the Banbaro

For many Monster Hunter fans, the game doesn’t end when the credits roll. Several of the staffers on this very website have been known to dump hundreds of hours into each new release, seeking greater and greater challenges well after the story has concluded. Iceborne is clearly targeted at those people, since the added content can only be accessed through the expansion’s new difficulty level, Master Rank. While that’ll appeal to hardcore types, it may come as a shock to those like me who only completed the campaign or, even worse, couldn’t even commit to that.

None of this is a statement on Iceborne’s quality. While nothing in this expansion seems to fundamentally change how the game is played, it delivers on its promise of new locations and new monsters. It’s more MHW, and now that I’m in a position where the new missions aren’t a struggle, I’m falling in love with it all over again. But the gateway to entry is going to differ for everyone based on how much time they’ve already invested.

When I downloaded Iceborne, I was at HR30 and my game clock was hovering around 70 hours. If those sound like baby numbers, then this expansion is absolutely for you. Given what I know about the Monster Hunter community, I have little doubt that Iceborne will be received well. For more casual players, know that the new content may be fenced off by a higher toll than just the $40 price tag.

I’ll be doing a full review eventually, but in my view, a warning to prospective buyers was warranted.

Mike Suskie
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3 years ago

I haven’t played the full Iceborne retail release, but I have played a dozen or so hours of the beta (and I’m one of those people who have spent hundreds of hours playing World and past editions of Monster Hunter). If you go in to the expansion with your original High Rank weapons and armor without upgrading them with Iceborne (Master Rank)-level materials at the earliest opportunity, you’ll probably have a bad time. If the game gives you an opportunity to upgrade your weapons or armor with optional low-level Master Rank side missions, that might be a good move.