The Monster Hunter franchise has captivated audiences from around the globe with stellar installments on each and every console it called home, but the growth of the big game hunting series never could reach stardom for its efforts, that is, until now with Monster Hunter: World. The latest entry by Capcom has taken many strides in perfecting the series overall combat and offers an outstanding display of the superficial monsters that we know in love in true HD for the first time and delivers in every aspect.

This epic adventure begins with you, and a group of adventurers called the Fifth Fleet investigating an Elder Dragon named Zora Magdaros who has been making its way to the New World, a new and expansive landmass run by its own creates, ecosystems and massive monsters. During the adventure, you (the hunter) will embark on a journey of both hunting down monsters and exploring the new frontier that is the New World all while keeping track with the behemoth Elder Dragon.

It isn’t a poetic story, but a refreshing one in the eyes of Monster Hunter fans as there is something going on in the background of all the monster slaying and grinding and isn’t just shoehorned in just for the sake of having a story. The characters are charming and the overarching story is intriguing as it offers some avenues never truly explored from past titles in the series. Again, this isn’t the main catalyst for Monster Hunter: World, but holds up its own quite nicely nonetheless.

The real meat in Monster Hunter: World is through its massive landscapes to explore in the New World and how differently they function in comparison to past titles. Now, for the first time, there are no loading screens between sections quest venturing through the zones making it a much more seamless and much more enjoyable experience altogether. Tracking monsters, fetching items to just simply exploring these zones in depth makes you feel and play as an explorer and a true hunter.

Each locale has their own unique settings, from the blooming evergreens of the Ancient Forests to the crystalized and lava-cracked landscapes of the Elder’s Recess, to the chilling and dark primal underworld of the Rotten Vale, each location acts as its own living world that has many layers to explore and ecosystem to uncover. Even the monster within these locations lives and breath as part of these strange landscapes, making their homes quite fitting.

Speaking of the monsters, their designs are better suited for the big screen and Monster Hunter: World has plenty of variety to chase and hunt down. Returning classics like the Uragaan and franchise staples in both the Rathian and Rathalos make a return, but it is the inventive new monsters that are debuting in Monster Hunter: World are those worth mentioning. From the simpler hunts against the Great Jagras and the Jyruatodus to the more brutal, and powerful monsters like the Odogaron and the Nergigante all have their own unique traits and special abilities that set them apart from anything previously hunted.

Outside of these majestic landscapes and monsters is your hub world, Astera, a lively city filled with many loveable characters and Palico’s and home to the Research Commision and its Fleet of hunters and explorers. In this merchant city, you’ll find all the tools and resources from previous instalments such as your provision shop to refill on potions and other necessities, a canteen to eat stat increasing food, a smithy to craft and upgrade your gear, a few quest boards to post or accept player quests and much, much more.

The city in of itself is a fantastic hub world that offers a variety of scenery and tools for newcomer and veterans of the series to familiarise themselves with, but other than (the many) main shops and destinations, it’s mostly for show and its lively pedestrians are just to make it all look pretty. A thing could be made about the navigation of the city, but once you know your “main” shops, there isn’t much to see or to get lost in. Even so, Astera is a fantastic hub world that provides that sense of awe and really places the sheer scope of how large Monster Hunter: World truly is.

As for the quests, they play out just as you would expect them to for a Monster Hunter title. By simply going to the message board, you can select as to which quest you which to pick from and go on the hunt. The low/ high-rank system returns and you are limited to the HR points you have done from previous quests before tackling on newer, more difficult ones. Its a system that has worked for the franchise and didn’t need to be re-adjusted for Monster Hunter: World as it forces you to grind, and challenge yourself before taking on anything that you aren’t prepared for.

This is to say that no quest is without its difficulties as even the lowest rank quests will have powerful adversaries hiding in the shadows only to lunge at you when you least expect it. That is why being so well prepared, even for the simplest of tasks will allow your chances of survival and utilizing the elements and the design of each stage to your advantage is a must to survive through the New World. If you are in a real bind, you could always signal for backup from people around the globe to come assist you with more difficult hunts, but the real fun is when tackling a larger than life monster on your own all while using the living environment as a tool.

The items gained from completing these quests will allow you to craft and purchase a variety of goods from medicinal potions and tools to gear and weapons collected from the hide of your hunted monsters. With each large monster having their own set of weapons and armor sets, there will be a large grind to try and complete these sets as other materials other than the hunted prey will be required to complete them.

These grinds are benefited from cleaning up past series nuisances such as tracking and inventory management. On tracking monster, Monster Hunter: World introduced scout flies that will guide your way while following a beast. Finding remains, scales, footstep and even dung will allow you to find your prey as a true hunter would in the real world and as for inventory management, resources and materials are placed away from your item bags so you can collect to your heart’s content without having to drop too many useful items. Only things such as herbs, insects, and combinable items will now take up room within your bag and won’t ruin your material grind.

Going back to the hunters’ gear and weapons, you’ll be able to upgrade these once you’ve obtained enough materials for that said tree. Weapons can be forged into a variety of different trees that allow you to try new sets all while expanding the versatility of each new armament. Armor works a tad bit differently as low ranking gear can be upgraded, but won’t change in appearance, but cannot be upgraded to high-rank gear. For that, you’ll need to complete high-level quests to gather better, harder to obtain materials adding to the grind it takes to complete armor sets.

Weapon and armor elements will play a large factor in each and every hunt as every monster has their own defined weaknesses and resistances and choosing the correct gear will allow you to have an easier hunt. Some monsters will even place ailments if hit with special attacks and knowing which gear allows you to avoid this or prepared to neutralize said ailments will play a role in a successful quest, especially in the later stages of the higher ranked quests.

The solo adventure will have you benefit from having a Palico companion who will help you track and tame these larger than life beasts and can be customized for the style you wish to play and is a great way to test your skills, but if you are looking for a bit of guidance and help, you can always venture into the game online with friends or strangers. Even when you find that a foe is too difficult, you can always send a single flare to request assistance which usually leads to a cavalry of players eager to assist and collect loot with you.   

This is the first time that series has fully stretched its wings in the visuals department and the end product is one the most visually impressive displays to date. The characters look amazing, same goes for the Palicos and the monsters, but the true amazement is through the levels. Once again, each level has their own scenery and mystic about it and entering these lush locales is truly awe-inspiring. The most impressive part of it all is how everything works together without fail as everything looks and plays a part of the adventure. From the bristles of the grass to the natural traps that can be created from the many trees, this ever-living environment is both a marvel to look at and to explore.

The short musical numbers are also great in their own rights. With the tranquil notes when you’re pleasantly exploring the dramatic and tense sirens when battling a fierce foe, it all plays so well with the atmosphere of this hunting experience. It could have been done without the silly banter and odd translation and expressions at times, but this fits in the more light-hearted nature of the franchise. The only thing that was truly bothersome personally was the voice chat and how the sightless breath caused disruption in the intense musical number playing in the background and while it is possible to remove it, it’s not always convenient to do so for each and every time you aren’t playing with your squad.     

You won’t be stuck waiting to do something with Monster Hunter: World as it has always something going on through the many quests that it offers. From creating a clan to work side-by-side with your friends, or going with strangers, to simply going on the hunt by yourself always feels rewarding from one hunt to the next and its price tag of $79.99 CAD shouldn’t deter anyone who isn’t familiar with the Monster Hunter franchise in any way, even with the games known difficulty curve.

As the monsters get tougher, you may feel discouraged that you can’t take down said monster, but by practicing, or by looking for help by sending signal flares with sharpening your skills in no time which makes this such a delight for anyone who is new or returning. While yes, the game will put you down at times and test your patience by throwing an abundance of monsters on screen, but the experience of tackling down these large foes is as rewarding as it is to get that elusive Rathian Plate.

Even after completing the entirety of the quests, side quests, and event quests, Capcom will still be bringing updates to the game with special collaborations already in place with both Horizon: Zero Dawn for the PS4 edition and Street Fighter V with custom gear and outfits. This has always been a quirk with the series past titles and it is nice to see tradition carry over to Monster Hunter: World and bring those in-game prizes. It is also worth mentioning that new monsters will be coming to Monster Hunter: World in future updates with the Deviljho already slated to make its debut later this spring, adding to the already tremendous value that the game has to offer with much more yet to be told.

Monster Hunter: World is just fantastic. From its over the top monster designs, fluid combat, terrific pace and downright gorgeous display, makes this one of 2018’s early best, but what it truly does great is how it is able to keep the well-beloved staples from past games and recreate it without having to sacrifice the franchise’s identity, making it a welcomed addition for newcomers or veterans from the older experiences. Monster Hunter: World is a challenging, yet captivating experience everyone should gear up for.