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access_time July 23, 2021 at 10:40 AM in Reviews by Brian Zuhl

Review | Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin

The Monster Hunter series has seen several amazing entries over the past few years. Back in 2018, Monster Hunter: World brought the series into the spotlight with modernized graphics and an improved story. Though with its deep customization and many complicated features, some people still found it difficult to break into the series. With the release of Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin, there’s now an easy point of entry into the franchise. Monster Hunter Stories 2 gives a different spin on the formula while keeping the same magic that makes the series feel so great.

Monster Hunter Stories 2 is a turn based RPG set in the Monster Hunter universe. Rather than play as a hunter, you’ll take the reins as the grandchild of the legendary monster rider Red. Following in his footsteps, you’ll have your very own monster rider journey. You’re tasked with investigating the massive holes that are appearing all over the world, causing monsters to go crazy. The story itself isn’t the most spectacular or riveting tale, but it ended up being more interesting than I’d anticipated. It takes some time to get going, but I found myself invested in what was going on. The characters are warm and inviting, even if they can be a little irritating sometimes (I’m looking at you Navirou). It’s also interesting seeing the world from a rider’s point of view.

While most titles portray hunters as noble heroes, Monster Hunter Stories 2 shows them in a different light. Here, hunters are portrayed to be brutes who would rather kill a monster than try to understand it. This felt hypocritical at times, as you also end up killing monsters and looting their bodies to make gear. Along the way, you’ll find eggs and hatch numerous monsties (the rider term) to ride and fight alongside you. Though you’re technically a monster rider, you’re still going to do a lot of fighting. Even though it’s turn based, combat still ends up feeling oddly similar to traditional Monster Hunter.

You can choose from six different weapon types to fight alongside your monstie: sword and shield, greatsword, hammer, hunting horn, bow, and gunlance. Each weapon feels vastly different from one another, with each one using separate mechanics in order to maximize your damage. While you may find yourself gravitating towards certain weapons, you’ll need to use them all in order to survive. Each weapon possesses one of the three damage types, slash, blunt, and pierce. Every monster will resist some damage types and be weak to others. As you progress, some monsters will have multiple parts to target, each with their own set of damage resistances. Luckily you can change weapons on the fly, adjusting the damage type to fit the resistance with little to no penalty.

In addition, each attack you perform will have a certain attack type to it. There’s technical attacks, speed attacks, and power attacks. These function as a sort of rock-paper-scissors system, with power beating technical, technical beating speed, and speed beating power. The trick is to figure out the opponent’s main attack type, and use the proper type yourself in order to deal additional damage and even stop their attack in some cases. While this may sound complicated, the game does a great job of slowly introducing each mechanic to you so you don’t feel too overwhelmed. When all of these mechanics combine together, you get an experience that feels very similar to normal hunts.

As a rider, you’ll fight alongside your monstie as a well coordinated team. Each monstie will be acquired by stealing eggs from various nests around the world, offering tons of monsters to collect. Roughly eighty hours into the game, I still haven’t even come close to finding them all. There’s even plans to add new monsters throughout the year with free updates. Each monstie does a great job of feeling different from each other. In combat they’ll mostly act on their own, but you can control them somewhat by activating certain skills. Just like you, your monstie will also use one of the three attack types with each of their moves. If your monstie uses the same attack type as yourself against the opposing monster, you’ll even perform a double attack. This stops the opponent from attacking while also building a special gauge called the kinship meter.

Your kinship meter is what you and your monstie will use to perform special abilities. Once the meter reaches max, you can perform a kinship skill. Each monster possesses their own unique kinship skill that plays out like a small cutscene. These range from outrageously silly to truly epic attacks, easily becoming my favorite part of each monstie’s moveset. You and your monstie aren’t always alone as well. Most of the game you’ll have a buddy to fight alongside you in the form of another rider with their monstie. The AI can be a little annoying for your buddy, as they can never seem to get the right attack type off, but it’s nice to have help anyway.

Each monstie’s moveset can be thoroughly customized as well. Their skills are called genes, residing on a 3×3 grid that can be arranged to give special bonuses to stats. These genes can be passed from monstie to monstie in a ritual. By sacrificing one monstie, you can give one of its genes to a different monstie in order to sculpt the perfect monster. This is something I ended up spending hours in, looking for the perfect genes to pass on and power up my favorite monsties. The game gives you plenty of info on all the monsters locations and gene possibilities, so sculpting your perfect monstie is relatively easy.

After customizing your monstie, you can customize yourself with the return of Monster Hunter’s signature crafting system. While a little simpler than normal, you can still strip dead monsters for parts and use the pieces to craft armor and weapons. Rather than individual armor pieces, you’ll craft whole sets of armor. This takes away the ability to mix and match pieces for optimal builds but makes things a little more accessible. Weapon crafting is a little simpler as well. Rather than creating a base weapon and upgrading into different trees, you simply create the weapon and upgrade to three different levels. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, and makes it much more player friendly. Despite this, it would’ve been nice to see more build variety in your character.

When you’re not breeding your perfect monstie or getting into fights, you’ll be exploring the various environments. You can walk around on your own two feet if you like, but most of the time you’ll be riding on the back of your monsties. Each monstie has certain exploration abilities, opening up shortcuts and uncovering secret treasure chests. You’ll find random monsters roaming around to battle as well. Otherwise, you’ll spend most of you time inside monster dens, procedurally generated dungeons that’ll always end with a monster egg. This is where the real grinding takes place. Going from den to den in order to find the right egg that has the right genes is time consuming. The game avoids feeling too repetitive thanks to random monster spawns and the ability to instantly win a fight if your level is much higher than the opponents.

While there’s plenty to do, the environments themselves aren’t anything special. There’s a standard array of environmental types, but they never feel busy enough. The wide open spaces are interesting to explore, but due to the Switch’s power, monsters can’t be seen until close proximity. Expect to see monsters popping into frame as you wander the environment. The same goes for the the dens as well, albeit slightly worse. Due to the procedurally generated nature of the dens, they’ll feel generally the same. Once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. Home areas however, feel more fleshed out. There’s several throughout the game, all with their own unique style and pleasant accompanying track. Each town makes you feel at home, even if it’s just a place to hatch some eggs and craft gear. One late game town in particular takes it up a notch with the eye candy and music.

For those interested, Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin also includes a multiplayer option. You can take on hunting quests with friends and participate in coordinated battles. These fights always feel much easier since you don’t have to deal with the troublesome AI of your buddy. If cooperation isn’t your thing, you can also go head to head with a friend or a random opponent in order to test who has the better monstie.

Though intimidating, the Monster Hunter series has always had a beautiful world to explore with many creative monsters to hunt. Now, with Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin, it’s more accessible than ever before. With an excellent combat system and a fun variety of monsties to tame, you can spend hundreds of hours in this world. If you’ve always been interested in Monster Hunter but felt overwhelmed by its multitude of mechanics, then this is a great entry point to the series. If you’re a veteran who’s been playing since day one, then the similarities between the turn based combat and regular combat will bring you a familiar sense of joy. This is a great addition to the Monster Hunter series, and fans will find it to be a great addition to their library.

Final score: 9.5 out of 10

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