Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin Review

Capcom has been having quite the year for releases in 2021. With standout hits like Resident Evil: Village, a revival of Ghosts and Goblins, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles, and Monster Hunter Rise so far, they’re showing no signs of slowing down. Adding to their amazing 2021, Capcom released Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin on July 9, and the game is an overall joy to play.

The Monster Hunter series can be intimidating for new players who want to get into it due to the layers of depth when it comes to the crafting and how tricky the combat can be, but Stories 2 is more approachable than the mainline series. Even though Stories 2 is a sequel, gamers don’t have to play the first Stories game to understand the plot–or even the mainline games for that matter. Despite the references to characters and monsters from the previous title, a lack of previous experience won’t take away from the context of this game.

Collecting Monsters (Sorry — Monsties)

Monster Hunter is a series that focuses primarily on–well, you guessed it, monsters. Monster Hunter Stories 2 does not shy away from it, either. You’ll be focusing a lot on the aspect of collecting Monsties and using them in battle to see how well they perform or what their moveset is. You collect Monsties by entering Monster Dens that are found throughout the biomes and by stealing eggs from nests. There are also Golden Dens that breed rare batches of eggs.

When players pick up an egg, the comedy Felyne sidekick Navirou will assess the egg based on the size, weight, and smell of it. Heavier and smellier eggs tend to warrant better stats than lighter, non-odorous ones. Players can pick one of the multiple eggs in the nest, and once satisfied with the selected egg, leave the den and head to a stable. Be on the lookout when picking eggs because if either a white glow or a rainbow glow appears, you might have just picked up an egg that possesses a “good gene” profile. The stables are where eggs can be hatched, allowing players to see what stats and rarity their Monsties are; options to rename or release Monsties may also be found here.

Since its release date, there are 81 known types of monsties available.

Story

Similar to the previous installment, players design an avatar, then get thrown right in as the silent protagonist of the story. Your silent protagonist has two things going for them from the start: you’re a rookie “rider,” which means you ride and train Monsties (not a typo, they’re actually called Monsties, and I’m not a fan), and you’re the grandchild of the legendary hero “Red”. In typical JRPG trope fashion, the story starts very slowly and throws you into a handful of side quests to acquaint you with the game mechanics, which is necessary for learning the gameplay, but doesn’t delve into the story at all. Once you’ve made it through the beginning quests, you find yourself setting off to investigate a strange red light that’s making Monsters go berserk. Eventually, you find yourself entrusted with a legendary Rathalos egg, tasked with unraveling the mysteries of an ancient prophecy. It’s up to you to prove your worth and live up to the legacy of your grandfather, even though others may doubt you. This is the set up for what is to become a grand adventure.

Gameplay

Monster Hunter Stories 2 is a turn based JRPG with a little twist on the battle system. When travelling through the beautiful biomes of the world in this game, you’ll come across free roaming monsters; if you make contact with these monsters, you’ll be taken into battle. During combat, you battle alongside one of your six Monsties that can travel with you at a time, and in most instances, a buddy who has their own Monsties as well. The combat mechanic at its core is a rocks, paper, scissors system where you have three attack types: power beats technical, technical beats speed, and speed beats power. Monsters aren’t always using the same moves, but they show different behavior patterns which allows you to figure out their attacks, which is really fun. If you and your Monstie choose the same type of attack, you’ll initiate the dual attack on your enemy which causes much more damage.

Landing attacks during your fight builds your kinship gauge. The accumulated kinship allows you to use your or your Monstie’s skill, or when the gauge is full, it’ll allow you to ride your Monstie in battle and unleash the ultimate kinship attack. If your battle buddy also has a full kinship gauge, you can unleash a dual kinship attack which causes massive damage in a beautiful animation.

Your weapons and Monsties will also have strengths and weaknesses. For example, the nine weapon categories fall into three different weapon types: slash, pierce, and blunt–monsters and monster parts will each have separate strengths and weaknesses from the three weapon types, and there’s no weapons that beats all. You’ll be constantly switching weapons during battle to focus your attacks on different monster body parts, props (such as an enemy holding a rock), or the monster itself, which brings a lot of depth to the battle.

After the battles, you’ll receive points based on special conditions such as: winning head to heads, minimum number of turns in an attack, breaking body parts, or finishing with a kinship attack, which in turn will award you a ranking of D through S. The higher the rank you receive, the better materials you’ll be rewarded with, and just like the mainline games, you use these items to upgrade your weapons and armor.

Quality of Life Improvements and Performance

Overall with Monster Hunter Stories 2, the quality of life changes that they added for this game has elevated everything from the prior experience while at the same time using the same core mechanics without changing the game drastically. Combat is more fluid–with a little more depth added, they toned down how annoying Navirou could be in the previous game, and now you can collect items while walking and running instead of stopping what you’re doing to pick it up.

If you’re a gamer who prefers a higher frame rate, then playing this game on PC is for you. On the Switch, the game runs close to 30 fps for the most part, and there are very noticeable performance drops during cutscenes and a little during gameplay. This comes as a disappointment to me given how amazing the performance was in Monster Hunter Rise. These performance issues weren’t enough to have me stop playing on the Switch, but there are times where the game feels like it’s chugging along.

Closing Thoughts

Monster Hunter Stories 2 is a game made for JRPG lovers, fans of collecting, and Monster Hunter players altogether. The vibrant worlds are so well designed and fun to explore, the battle system keeps players engaged, and most of all, the monsters are awesome–which is the reason we play Monster Hunter for in the first place, right? This game is full of charm and deserves to find a wide audience among gamers. The story is enjoyable, the customization and capturing is accessible, and exploring the worlds is an absolute delight.

Verdict: 4.5 / 5

Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is a game for such a wide range of players. Quality of life improvements have made this game more accessible than the first, and made it feel like a true sequel. Players will enjoy a fun battle system, a beautifully designed world, and hours of side quests that are plentiful in rewards. Blending a JRPG and Monster Hunter seems like two flavors that don’t quite mix, but in the end, it turns out to be wonderful.

Pros

  • Impressive depth and customization of weapons, armor, and Monsties
  • Charming story
  • Deep combat
  • Tons of QoL improvements
  • Lots of Monsties to catch and acquire

Cons

  • Performance issues on the Switch
  • Can only control your main character in battle
  • Can feel grindy at times

Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is available for PC and Nintendo Switch. Will you be picking it up? Let us know what you think of the game in the comments section or on our Discord!

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