Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin
RRP $ 60.00
“Monster Hunter Stories 2 is a much friendlier introduction to the complex franchise, anchored in excellent turn-based RPG combat.”
Addictive monster collecting
Excellent RPG combat
Tons of content
Frame rate jerks
Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is the perfect entry point for newcomers to the series. Not really.
That statement has become a meme in recent years as Monster Hunter fans refer to each new release as “accessible”. Monster Hunter Rise came close to making this a reality, but the franchise’s basic complexity and headache-inducing user interface still make it an intimidating experience for absolute newbies.
In comparison, Monster Hunter Stories 2 is much more digestible. It does many of the same fundamentals, but is presented in a simplified form that is easier to analyze. While it’s a completely different experience – a turn-based, Pokémon-like RPG instead of a hacking-and-slashing action game – it explains the basics of the franchise much more clearly than Monster Hunter World or Rise.
Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is a friendly alternative to the usual grind of the franchise. Even with repetitive level design, it features an excellent combat system, engaging story, and deep endgame that make it a perfect RPG for anyone looking for a more relaxed hunt.
Have to hatch them all
On the surface, Monster Hunter Stories 2 looks like a completely different beast. The game is a sequel to a Nintendo 3DS game that puts players in the role of a monster rider, not a hunter. The main difference is that riders make friends with monsters and work with them. This gives the game a Pokémon-like gameplay loop in which players collect and raise monsters, and keep six on each of them.
For Pokémon fans who have been let down by the ever-decreasing difficulty of the franchise, Monster Hunter Stories 2 is an excellent alternative. The monster collecting hook is addicting and gives players loads of creatures to discover. The Rite of Channeling feature acts as a kind of breeding mechanic that allows players to pass the trait of one monster on to another. It is a deep system that opens up limitless opportunities for team building.
Granted, there is some cognitive dissonance in the experience. While it’s a cuter concept compared to the standard hunting loop, it does take a bit of time to overcome some initial discomfort. Players essentially kill (or hit the snot) a monster, break into its den, steal one of its eggs, and raise the baby as their own. For those who find Monster Hunter’s colonization undertones hard to swallow, this version certainly offers a tougher moral discomfort upfront.
For Pokémon fans who have been let down by the ever-decreasing difficulty of the franchise, Monster Hunter Stories 2 is an excellent alternative.
Even so, the game ultimately won me over with its intriguing storyline – something Monster Hunter Rise missed. It is a rambling narrative that explores the various avenues humans and societies have chosen to interact with monsters, whether through peace or violence. All of this is linked by a mysterious, lore-rich story in which players must uncover what makes monsters across the continent unpredictable.
The game also has wonderful aesthetics with vivid colors and high quality movies. Sometimes it feels like watching a Monster Hunter anime, with exciting action sequences and dazzling battle animations. The game’s frame rate is unfortunately jerky on Switch, but every time I booted it up, I was completely lost in a colorful and detailed world.
Rock, paper, monsters
The core of the game is its fantastic turn-based combat system. Monster Hunter Stories 2 uses a Fire Emblem-style “rock, paper, scissors” mechanic for battles. Players have three types of basic attacks: power, technique, and speed. In battles against monsters, players must predict what type of attack a monster will unleash and counter it with one of their own.
This works just as well because the game provides players with the right tools to solve this little battle puzzle. Each monster uses a normal attack type, but can switch to a different one when it gets angry. At the end of the game, I was able to look at a monster I’d never seen before and deduce from the behavior of other creatures how it would attack. It rewards players who think like horsemen and really take the time to watch and remember how nature works.
Despite being turn-based, the battles cleverly stay true to the basics of Monster Hunter.
Monster sidekicks also play an important role in combat. Each race has its own basic attack type, so players need to build a group that covers all of the bases. Exchanging in a new monster midfight doesn’t burn a round, which gives players the flexibility to adapt to a new fight and not worry about getting a Pukei Pukei into an Anjanath fight.
However, creating the perfect team goes much deeper. Monsters can learn a variety of skills, from elemental attacks to team-wide buffs. That gives players a good reason to keep looking for new creatures and experimenting with channeling mechanics to expand a creature’s toolbox.
Battles are less about micromanaging teammates and more about maintaining a connection with a monster. Perform the same type of attack as a companion and the duo can do a combo attack that deals more damage. Actions like these increase a kinship gauge that can be used to perform certain skills. When the gauge is full, a player can ride their monster to perform devastating attacks with dazzling animations. Small systems like this made me feel really close to each of my friends and really sold the driver concept.
Despite being turn-based, the battles cleverly stay true to the basics of Monster Hunter. There are a variety of weapon types that have their advantages and disadvantages against certain monsters. Players can easily target specific body parts of monsters in combat in order to mine valuable handicraft parts for armor and weapons. Compared to a game like Monster Hunter Rise, which hides systems like this in walls of tutorial texts or an obscure user interface, everything feels streamlined. I learned basic ideas here that I never fully understood in Rise.
Of course, it’s a completely different type of game, so it’s not entirely fair to compare the two. Monster Hunter Rise is an excellent action RPG that thrives on complexity. Monster Hunter Stories 2 is a more controlled, tactical experience. Each is a perfect match for the type of story they’re trying to tell; It’s just a matter of the speed you prefer.
What is particularly impressive about Monster Hunter Stories 2 is how much content is packed into the experience. Mainlining the story will take 30 hours, but there’s so much more depth than the main story. Side quests, arena battles, royal monsters, and a full post-launch roadmap provide tons of reasons to dig deeper. In the middle of my playthrough, I just started turning on background music and kicking back for some monster collecting expeditions.
There is also multiplayer, both in the form of co-op games and PvP battles. The latter offers serious long-term potential for the game as it gives players yet another reason to dig into the game’s gathering and breeding mechanics in order to create stronger monsters with unpredictable abilities.
It’s a repetitive game, although that’s as much a part of Monster Hunter as giant swords.
While there is no shortage of activity, it can be thin at times. Long battles against powerful monsters usually drag on, although the battle can be sped up up to three times. Monster caves and explorable areas are based on dungeon crawlers. This means that levels can be a somewhat boring chain of narrow passages leading into open areas. At the end of the game, I noticed rooms that were identical to areas I’d seen over and over, even though they were in a different part of the island.
It’s a repetitive game, although that’s as much a part of Monster Hunter as giant swords. The series invites players to learn complex routines and get into a flow. The main difference in Monster Hunter Stories 2 is that everything builds on an actual endpoint rather than going on as a Sisyphus live service grind. There is a secret to unravel and a great evil to kill at the end of the day.
This change in pace allows players to experience the world and ideas of Monster Hunter without intimidating engagement, which is a huge plus.
Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is a top-notch spin-off that cleverly turns the complexities of Monster Hunter into a friendlier role-playing game. Worthwhile fights and a thoroughly entertaining story make up for repetitive card design and a stuttering frame rate. For those who found Monster Hunter Rise too intimidating, this is a better way to understand the basic ideas in a less sophisticated, turn-based format.
Is there a better alternative?
Monster Hunter Rise could be an overall stronger game, despite being a completely different beast.
How long it will take?
The story lasts at least 30 hours, but dedicated gamers can spend dozens of additional hours exploring the world. That doesn’t even include the upcoming content of the game.
Should you buy it?
Yes. Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is one of the best turn-based RPGs of the year and is perfect for fans of Monster Hunter and Pokémon.