The first thing that many think of when it comes to Monster Hunter is venturing out on a hunt, geared up and ready to slay a beast in strategic action combat to either slay it and carve pieces off or capture in a trap. Things changed a bit four years ago however when Monster Hunter Stories proved that there was room for a lighter-hearted story where players fight alongside their monsters in what ended up being a fairly straightforward RPG with some interesting ideas. Now Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin has proven that taking this spin-off series a bit further was the right choice as most issues with the first game have not only been improved upon but also serves as a great place of entry even for those unfamiliar with the franchise.
Now it is worth noting that while Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is a sequel to the first game and it does continue in the same world, players will not miss out on too much if they haven’t played the original 3DS or phone version of the game. There are a few returning characters and some events from the first game are mentioned but Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin stands almost entirely on its own legs.
Hakolo Island and its residents have lived alongside monsters for years to the point that most of the villagers have “Monstie” companions that they ride while also making sure to protect the balance of nature. During an attempt with the island to try and form connections with the hunter’s guild, the Guardian Ratha that protects the island is attacked and leaves the island, causing a mass disappearance of all the Rathalos on the island and a massive disturbance in the ecosystem. Being the grandson/daughter of the legendary rider Red, the player begins their training as a rider and quickly encounters a Wyverian girl named Ena who not only knew their grandfather but is also carrying a special Rathalos egg gifted to her by your grandfather’s Ratha.
With the hunter’s guild on their heels, the player and Ena take the egg and, after going through trials to prove themselves as a worthy rider, manage to hatch the egg only to find that the small Rathalos inside is far more concerning than it should be. With mysterious beams of light and bottomless pits appearing across the land and monsters going out of control, signs have pointed towards something strange happening as this Rathalos’ markings and small wings match an ancient Wyverian legend of a Razewing Rathalos capable of bringing ruin to the world. With only the player capable of taming the beast, it is up to them to form a bond with the Rathalos and learn the secrets about the strange lights, pits, and raging creatures across the land.
Although things may sound rather dire, Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin still takes a mostly light-hearted approach to its tale even if it isn’t afraid to take some twists here and there. One of the first missions has players encounter the felyne Navirou, a returning mascot character from the previous game, that serves as the voice of the team who is not only incredibly child friendly but full of clawful puns that may be a bit over the top at times but never feel too grating.
The tale itself is lengthy and is spread across numerous areas filled with a colorful cast of characters that all get at least a little bit of time to shine as we learn more about them, mostly battling alongside them at the same time as some of the best characters end up being “battle buddies” that fight alongside the player with their own monstie.
Unlike the usual Monster Hunter games, Monster Hunter Stories 2 takes a different approach to combat as it instead focuses on turn-based combat with players battling in either a party of two or four as they are either battling alongside their own Monstie or with a “Battle Buddy” and their Monstie as well. The basics of combat are fairly simple to understand as they work off a “rock, paper, scissors” style of attacks with each one being strong against one and weak against another. The three styles of attack are power, technique, and speed with even weapon skills often having variations to make sure players have options open to them. These styles come into play when battling against monsters in head-to-head confrontations with power beating technique, technique beating speed, and speed beating power with the winning attack going through and dealing maximum damage and only receiving a small attack from the opposing side while draws will deal an equal amount of damage. Winning head-to-head confrontations as well as various quick time events that range from simple clashes to air battles also boost the player’s kinship gauge. This can in turn be used to either activate skills for the player or partner Monstie or, when the gauge is filled, to ride the Monstie. Riding your partnered Monstie not only restores health but gives players access to an incredibly flashy and high powered finishing move that separates the rider from the Monstie.
This means that a large part of staying alive in combat as well as dealing damage to monsters is correctly predicting what type of attack the enemy will use. Every monster will have a set pattern of attacks that they will use with occasional type-less skills mixed in, meaning that players will still need to learn the patterns of their foes to properly take them down. It is interesting to note that Monster Hunter Stories 2 does make it very noticeable when an enemy will be changing up their attack patterns as the foe will either grow enraged, coat itself in armor, fly, and more meaning players will need to change their own style to counter them or even swap their Monstie with one of six that they can have with them at any given time.
Each Monstie players can obtain will have a specific attack type between speed, power, and technique and swapping them in the middle of combat is not only easy but the Monstie will also still be able to take an action that turn. Along those same lines players will now find that they will be able to equip three different weapons at a time, being able to swap between them once a turn and still make an action as well. There are three different types of attack types in the game, slashing, blunt, and piercing with the six weapon types available in the game offering two in each category. All monsters that players battle against will have certain weapon types more effective against them in general while larger monsters will have certain parts of their body weaker to different weapons. Yes, this means that larger monsters have targetable parts that can be broken to not only limit their skills but also to give players extra item drops. For example, a monster’s tail may be weak to slashing attacks while it’s stomach is weak to blunt hits. Along those same lines, just like an enemy can change their attack patterns at times, their weaknesses can also shift at the same time so players will constantly need to keep on their toes during a battle.
Outside of combat players will be spending most of their time riding around on their favorite Monsties exploring the field to gather materials and battle monsters as well as enter monster dens and “Everdens” to locate eggs. Each of these short dungeons, that have an incredibly low amount of room variety to the point that they quickly repeat, will have a nest at the end with eggs inside and often a monster either sleeping in the nest or guarding it. Each monster egg will have a unique appearance and players will need to remember what they may or may not have already hatched if they are looking to obtain a new Monstie but it is worth noting that not only can players usually swap their egg for a different one at the risk of alerting the monster in the nest, but their quality will vary heavily as well as told by Navirou who can analyze an egg from its weight and smell.
Every Monstie has different field skills available to them, most of which are either searching skills or the ability to navigate through obstacles and it is a bit troubling at times that players will need to balance having a useful exploration team with having some of their favorite Monster Hunter monsters on their team. Another aspect of the aforementioned Monstie management is the Rite of Channeling that allows for players to transfer genes from one Monstie and apply it to another, either replacing a current gene or filling an empty slot. This does make the former Monstie vanish forever but does allow players to boost the strength of their own team. Gene modification can add a variety of skills to a Monstie’s repertoire and even adjust the elemental type of the creature as well if enough genes are applied.
While this may sound fairly complicated, the process is easy to learn while at the same time far from required to actually get the most out of the game. This is primarily due to the fact that, outside of a few encounters, most of the core story content in Monster Hunter Stories 2 can be managed by keeping your team leveled properly and managing your own equipment, which happens to be easier than ever. Forging weapons and armor in this entry no longer requires specific parts of a monster to properly create or upgrade an item; instead every fang, piece of hide, scale, etc. is given a point system with gear requiring a number of points to be forged or upgraded, streamlining the whole process.
It is interesting to note that Monster Hunter Stories 2 does feature multiplayer in the form of both co-op play as well as player vs player combat. Co-op allows players to take on stronger monsters with a friend and even take part in larger explorations of dens while versus mode pits players’ teams against one another in what can be incredibly varied combat thanks to the aforementioned gene modification systems never making it easy to guess what each Monstie is capable of.
Visuals & Audio
Monster Hunter Stories 2 takes a slightly different approach to the world that fans of the franchise have come to know as everything is far more vibrant and endearing. Players will come across various types of endemic life while exploring the land, encountering monsters that still retain all of their signature features and designs from the core series. Combat is fairly standard looking for a turn-based game though the Kinship Skills really take things over the top when used. It is a bit unfortunate that there is a lack of variety when it comes to monster dens as a whole, especially since players will need to regularly search through them to obtain new Monsties and eggs with rare genes.
While most of our time with Monster Hunter Stories 2 was on PC, we did test out a large portion of the game on the Nintendo Switch as well. Where the PC runs smoothly throughout; the Switch version of the game, which still looks incredible thanks to the art style choice, does suffer quite a bit when it comes to performance. Frame rates will drop quite a bit during cutscenes and during Kinship skills as well as occasionally during field exploration, though it is worth noting that it runs perfectly fine while exploring towns and during general combat.
The soundtrack for the series features some great pieces of background music that work well both when exploring the field, the various towns that all have a unique feel to them, and of course in combat. As for the voice work, the English voice cast handles their characters well, even with all of the puns that Navirou ends up putting furward.
Taking a game about hunting monsters in action packed combat and spinning it off into one where players instead fight alongside them to take down monsters is a unique twist that worked once and has worked even better the second time around. This charming sequel has improved upon the first game in almost every way with an enjoyable storyline, engaging combat that can be a bit easy at times but keeps players on their toes, and over eighty different Monsties that can join your team. Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin‘s low barrier of entry also makes it possible for even newcomers who haven’t touched the original game or the franchise as a whole able to experience the game without feeling like they are missing out, which they truly would be doing if they choose to ignore this great RPG.
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