Monster Hunter World's Iceborne expansion feels like a full sequel

Monster Hunter World: Iceborne Banbaro
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne Banbaro (Image credit: Capcom)

Monster Hunter World is a huge game already, with huge areas to explore, tons of gear to acquire, and epic monsters to battle. The game became a success story for a resurgent Capcom, quickly smashing the company's sales records as the first Monster Hunter title to hit core consoles. Since launch, Capcom introduced a range of new content, including unique events for special gear, high-profile tie-in updates with major franchises like The Witcher and Final Fantasy, and a massive multi-stage boss area in the form of the gold-hoarding giant Kulve Taroth. Now, Capcom's next big World update is going to go far further and far deeper.

Say hi to Iceborne, a vast, sequel-sized expansion for Monster Hunter World, adding a range of new mechanics, fresh progression, new story elements, and of course, all-new threats to conquer. At E3 2019, we went hands-on and drew blood with two of the new nasties, in the ice-blasted forests of the Hoarfrost Reach.

Absolutely stunning, treacherous environments

Monster Hunter World is already a vast game comprised of multiple open areas with all sorts of hazards, but Hoarfrost Reach kicks up the environmental hostility to new heights. The new icy areas are as treacherous as they are gorgeous, representing some of the most difficult terrains in the game so far. In a lot of ways, the new environments are as hostile as the monsters themselves.

While dueling the mighty elk-like Banbaro, I found myself struggling with the climate as much as the monster itself. Iceborne has some tremendous snow and ice effects, which can be anywhere up to waist-deep, limiting your movements. Having an idea about where you can and can't stand due to the snow and ice is critical to your positioning. Being submerged in a drift at the wrong time can get you squashed by a big attack, of which there are many deadly new ones to learn.

In addition to the physical environment, the biting cold also plays a factor in your character management. In certain areas of the new expansion, you'll have to manage your body heat to prevent your stamina from decreasing. Considering stamina management plays a crucial role in Monster Hunter's general combat gameplay, keeping your body warmth topped off with warm drinks crafted from plants in the environment becomes crucial.

On top of the hostility of the climate, in typical Monster Hunter World style, the new monsters also take advantage of their surroundings, but you have a few new tools of your own.

New Monsters, New Tools

At E3, we locked horns with the fearful horned Banbaro and the vicious Tigrex, and we discovered a little more about how Iceborne changes up the game.

The Banbaro is a brute wyvern, categorized by its bulk. It charges and bucks with massive horns, ramming you into the ground, dealing huge amounts of damage. Like all Monster Hunter battles, learning its attacks and behavior will see you through to victory, although our demo felt a bit tuned down to accommodate newcomers to the franchise. Regardless, even in this difficulty, the Banbaro was still almost able to send us packing in a rescue cart.

Crashing through the trees, destroying the environment, the Banbaro can get huge logs stuck in its antlers, massively widening its hitbox for charging attacks. Playing with the Gunlance, I was able to block plenty of the Banbaro's attacks, but Iceborne throws in some new abilities too for good measure.

The slinger is a wrist-mounted catapult, effectively, that allows you to slingshot different types of ammunition at monsters, in addition to grappling onto certain ledges and objects. In Iceborne, it's getting a big upgrade in the form of the new Clutch Claw, allowing you to actually hook directly onto monsters. When hooked on, you can reposition and deal a bit of damage, which can even topple monsters over for some free attacks. It's not easy to get the hang of, but when you pull it off, it feels absolutely awesome.

A bigger expansion than some sequels

We only had a relatively brief glimpse at Iceborne, but it's already a tantalizing example of how an expansion pack should be done. Huge new areas, an all-new central base, tons of new monsters and other minor creatures, highly destructible environments with new weather mechanics, and a ton of new weapons to collect and unlock make this expac seem more like a true sequel than a mere DLC.

Iceborne is targeting a September 6, 2019, launch for Xbox One and PlayStation 4, with a PC version planned for soon afterwards, and we can't wait.

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Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!