Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin – Game Review


Monster Hunter Stories 2:
Wings of Ruin

(Available for Nintendo Switch and PC )
(Nintendo Switch version used for both reviews)

Monster Hunter Stories 2 was announced in the exact same Nintendo Direct Mini Partner Showcase as Monster Hunter Rise and after the excellent reviews of that game it could not be coming out at a better time. Unlike Rise, Monster Hunter Stories 2 is a turn-based RPG which you create a young Monster Rider character, that builds bonds with newly hatched monsters in order to protect your home village. The call to action comes when investigating a forest that is home to the guardian Rathalos. Rathalos protects an island in which a mysterious girl named Ena hands you an egg, instructing you to guard it with your life. You then set out on a journey to investigate the mysterious lights that are appearing and causing the monsters to go into a violent rampage. In the game, you will take part in many monster battles as well as lots of small dungeon crawls (known as Monster Dens), that are randomly scattered all over the map. The question is; Is this one worth picking up for fans of Rise, given that Monster Hunter Stories 1 on 3DS, received mixed reactions from Monster Hunter fans (mainly from newer fans introduced to the series with Monster Hunter World).

Pros

  • Story: With the title ‘Monster Hunter Stories’, you would hope the story would be good and it meets the expectation. You do not need to have played the first game to enjoy this one. Whilst it is confirmed to be a direct sequel by some of the dialogue in the game and returning characters, it does also feel very detached from that story and is very much its own thing. Whilst the customisable protagonist you create does not have too much personality, they surprisingly gain some later, with the bond between the protagonist and the hatched Rathalos (named Ratha). This bond is a big core aspect of the story. The story is also good with how it introduces characters, the world, and the eventual antagonistic force. It also helps that the voice cast helps to bring life to all the characters. I have heard some people say that your feline companion within the game (who kind of acts as a mouthpiece for the protagonist Navirou) is a bit annoying, but I personally did not see a problem with him. If anything, the game feels less like an epic adventure, and more like a good family film, similar to that of the Studio Ghibli films, and I was very invested from start to finish.
  • Combat: A real highlight of the game is how combat is handled. The game really captures the feel and strategy of Monster Hunter, transferring it to an RPG setting. The way it achieves that, is to have you select one of three kinds of attacks; Power, Speed and Technical. If a clash occurs between characters, the clash becomes a ‘rock, paper, scissors’ type of scenario, with Power beating Technical, Technical beating Speed and Speed beating Power. If you think that is hard to get your head around, do not worry as it is all colour-coded, and the action menu shows arrows to remind you which attack beats which. However, you have to learn the patterns of monsters to figure out how to take advantage. It also affects which partner Monster you bring into combat, and you have to take into account that you do not control your Monster’s attack like you do in Pokémon. You also have to take into account each weapon you use, since different parts of monsters are weaker to different kinds of weapons, and it is a good idea to swap them mid-battle, for example, use a sword for Attacks on the tail, but use a bow and arrow for the head. It all adds up to a very enjoyable combat system that will require a lot of strategy during battle, and really will suit JRPG fans. It feels like a very interesting take on turn based RPG combat, as it really encourages you to think on your feet.
  • Art style: I really like the way the game looks. Like the predecessor, it retains the style of Monster Hunter whilst also giving it a more cartoonish look, almost like a Manga brought to life. The world design helps compliment things, giving a variety of locations that feel straight out of Monster Hunter.
  • Monster selection: The selection in this game takes more monsters from across the series, to have an even bigger variety than Monster Hunter Rise did. As a result, this game (in contrast to the previous), feels like a celebration of Monster Hunter as a whole. Most of the monsters have excellent move sets and abilities to experiment with, so I would recommend a good variety of Monsters in your party to try out, not only for battle, but also for exploration since many chests and supplies are blocked by environmental obstacles that only certain monsters can use.
  • Multiplayer: The multiplayer is both online and through local wireless on the Switch. They mainly consist of raid missions, which you can co-op with another player. This is good idea as it can increase your chances of obtaining rare monsters (this is how I got my Rathian), which is going to be a big part of the updates to come. There is also a battle mode where you can fight another player and their monster. Both worked out well and I did not experience many issues at all, other than being partnered with players that would jump ahead to get supplies, leaving me to fight alone. It is a side task, but a really good side task and if you have good internet, it is worth adding it to your play time.
  • Handling of free updates: Like Monster Hunter Rise and many other Nintendo Switch games, Stories 2 is going to get free updates over the next few months; the first of which is already out, and includes the Palamute from Monster Hunter Rise. Unlike other many games of this type, it does not feel like this is finishing the game off, and all the additional content is post-game content, which meant I felt that I could finish the game now and return to it later, to try out the new monsters. The game is also due to have a large amount of updates going on until the autumn of this year, and is so far receiving more updates to the game than Rise has had so far.
  • Soundtrack: It is a Monster Hunter game, which is already a series with great soundtracks and this one is no exception. It especially has a particularly good battle theme, which fits the game well, as well as a lot of very casual atmospheric songs for the environments.

Mixed

  • Variety of quests: This depends on how much you enjoy the gameplay loop. I really liked the monster hunting quests, so this did not really bother me, but I can see other players get bored with this loop since it does not really have too much variety in quests (though the multiplayer does help to expand this).

Cons

  • Frame rate choppiness on switch: This is probably less of a problem on the PC version (especially if you have a good PC), but the switch version was quite choppy with the frame rate at points, particularly in battle. The game is a turn based RPG so this is not the end of the world, and it was not so bad that it was too distracting, but it seems weird that game designed with the Switch in mind does have some frame rate troubles, given that Monster Hunter Rise (which is also a Capcom game; built with the Switch in mind) does not have frame rate issues.
  • Battery Life in handheld mode on Switch: If you have the Red box Switch, a special edition switch for Animal Crossing or Mario, or you are upgrading to the Switch OLED model later this year, this will not be as much of a problem. But if like me you have an original Switch, you might want to make this a docked exclusive game. This game drained the battery faster than most of my library, and I checked to make sure it was not a side effect of my Switch beginning to show its age (I’ve owned it since 2017). Other games still run fine and I can clock around 3 hours at full brightness, but Monster Hunter Stories 2 is quite a bit shorter and I found myself able to use it less than I would have liked to on train trips. I also am aware that my co-reviewer Recce, was running into the same issue prior to him sending me his review and since he is using the same Switch model as me (which was purchased not long after mine), I believe this is a game issue rather than our hardware. If we are correct, and I really believe we are, then I think it is a big oversight for a Switch game, especially for Switch Lite owners who will be playing it exclusively portable.

Overall thoughts

Monster Hunter Stories 2 improves on its predecessor and creates a great and engaging RPG that really fits within the Monster Hunter world. The gameplay is great and adds levels of strategy to combat and traversal, and the art style is fantastic, making it another great looking game on the Switch. Whilst the gameplay loop is a bit repetitive, the story motivated me to really sink a lot of time into it, and there are plenty of side quests and content to keep you engaged (with more on the way in the coming months). It does have some issues with its frame rate on the Switch, which is a little disappointing but not so much to sink the whole thing, and I would say if you love Monster Hunter or RPG’s, then give this one a go.

Score: 9.4/10

While the PC version is available, I would recommend picking up on Switch since it has got the Amiibo support, as well as benefits for having save data from Monster Hunter Rise, which also works the other way round.

Calvin
Nerd Consultant

And now for Reece’s review

My experience with Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin, is that I have completed the main story, and I am working my way through the post-game (with over 50 hours clocked in so far). The system I was playing the game on was Nintendo Switch and not the PC version, so all the pros and cons I make may not apply to the PC version.

Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is a role-playing video game developed by Capcom and Marvellous, and published by Capcom for the Nintendo Switch and Microsoft Windows. It is a spinoff title in the Monster Hunter series and a sequel to Monster Hunter Stories (2016). The game was released worldwide on 9th July, 2021 and has since sold over one million copies since its release.

Pro:

Graphically fidelity. One of the most striking aspects of the game is its high graphical fidelity, especially for the Switch as it is a vast improvement over the original Monster Hunter Stories 1, which released back on the 3DS in 2016, and still runs on the same game engine, but due to running on more powerful hardware the textures has been vastly improved.

Combat system. On the surface the combat system for Monster Hunter Stories 2 seems very simplistic, revolving around a kind of ‘Rock-Paper-Scissors’ mechanic; instead it is Power-Technical-Speed. It is a triangle system where Power beats Technical, Technical beats Speed and finally Speed beats Power.

This system seems similar to how Pokemon does its Type mechanics where moves can be super effective, neutral or not very effective. Instead of Pokemon, where you have 18 different Types to consider and how they interact with each other, Monster Hunter Stories 2 only relies on the 3 Attack Types. The Monsters themselves use each Attack Type for their moves, but when they reach their rage mode then they will switch up the move they will use, so you cannot rely on spamming the same Attack Type move repeatedly, because if you use an Attack Type move which is weak to the opponent, then the Monster will inflict damage to you whilst only taking a small amount of damage in return. So you are encouraged to learn Monster patterns so that you can use Attack Type moves that are stronger, allowing you to beat them in special head-to-head events. If your Monster is using the same Attack Type as you, and you win the head-to-head event, then you will inflict much higher damage to the enemy and it will skip the enemy Monster’s attack. By using this method, you can repeatedly make the enemy miss their turn and constantly inflict damage to them and they will usually die after a few tries of this.

Another aspect is the Weapon Type mechanic, where players can choose up to 6 weapons that are categorised into 3 Types; Slash, Blunt and Piercing, with each weapon more effective against certain Monster parts. These weapons are the Sword and Shield, Great Sword, Hammer, Hunting Horn, Bow and Gun lance.

Each of these weapons have their own unique set of skills and mechanics that Hunters can use to break different parts of the Monster to limit the Monsters’ range of attacks, so you cannot just use the same Weapon Type on every part of a Monster (as it will take longer to break the part), so you are encouraged to experiment with each of the different weapons.

After inflicting enough damage to the enemy with your character and your Monstie, then you fill up the “Kinship Gauge” which allows you to choose a particular Monstie skill so you can perform double attacks more often or if you max the gauge then you can “Ride” the Monstie; where your character refills the majority of your lost health and can then perform “Kinship attacks” which are massively damaging moves that feature a cutscene unique to each Monstie, that are a visual spectacle.

Large Monster variety. You can find and form a kinship with over 80 Monsties that each have their own unique appearances and abilities. Then all of these Monsties are ‘rideable’, meaning that you can ride everything from a lowly Aptonoth to a high flying Rathalos. These Monsties mostly have unique traversal abilities (like the aforementioned flight ability of the Wyverns), swimming through deep water with the Leviathans, or climbing ivy to reach higher areas with the Arachnida Nerscylla, to reach out-of-reach areas, with treasure chests and collection points.

Player customisation. In Monster Hunter tradition, the player can craft weapons and armour from fallen Monsters, and each Monster leads to a unique set of armour with unique skills that you will not find on other armour sets.

Along with player customisation, you can also customise the outfits for Ena and Navirou using either in-game outfits, or purchasing them as DLC. These outfits give no tangible benefit to the player and are only cosmetic, which is a big relief in this modern era of microtransactions.

Monstie customisation. Monster Hunter Stories 2 features an in-depth customisation system for the Monsties in that you can have a maximum of 9 skills on each of them, and you are free to transfer skills from other Monsties to the one you are using. However, you can only transfer one skill at a time and when it is transferred then you lose that original Monstie.

This gives you the freedom to transfer any moves you want onto another other Monstie. One skill I had from near the beginning of the game till the end of the story, was transferring the “Venom” skill from my Pukei-Pukei to my Tigrex so that I can poison other Monsters.

You can also change the elemental type of a Monstie by giving it genes from another Monstie as long as it boosts the elemental attack over the original Monstie’s natural elemental attack (e.g. Putting an Ice attack up gene on an Aptonoth will change its primary damage to Ice and change the hide colour of the Monstie so that it takes on a blue tinge).

This allows you to have a completely different Monstie set up to another player, as you are free to include whichever genes you want, and even get a boost if you include genes of the same colour (e.g. putting in 3 Ice genes in a column will give you a small boost to that Monstie’s Ice attack stat). Then, if you fill all 9 gene slots, you can skyrocket the Monsties attack. For the story mode there is no wrong way to customise your Monstie with genes, as long as they are a decent level and you have a Monstie of each attack type you should be fine.

Multiplayer. Expanding upon the multiplayer from the original game that used the 3DS StreetPass system to exchange battle parties and equipment to fight them at a later time in the Rider Arena. 

In the sequel, you can challenge other players (in real-time) to combat in the Arena or team up with others to depart on quests, to hint certain Monsters and collect eggs together. As I was writing this review, Capcom put out free DLC, letting you find eggs for the Palamute from Monster Hunter Rise in all the elements (Water, Ice, Electric, Fire, Dragon and finally normal Dog).

You can do these quests either online using the Internet to connect with others or embark on them locally with friends, or people nearby. 

The only downside to these quests is that you cannot create a custom quest and have to select one of the already predetermined quest types from a list e.g. Hunt a Legiana.

Self-contained story. Whilst being a sequel to the original game, the plot for Monster Hunter Stories 2 is standalone, so you do not need to play the first game to understand the story. The only thing you are missing out on, is the context for some of the supporting characters and their backstories; the most obviously example being Navirou and what happens to him is unexplained in this game and does require knowledge of the previous game.

The story itself is quite enjoyable, and shows a new angle to the Monster Hunter universe in that the “Hunters” (which you normally play as in all the main series of games), are not always the good guys in the story. As for Monster Hunter Stories 2, they show an almost bloodlust or disregard for the Monsters’ lives, as they start by attempting to kill the elderly guardian of your characters home village, without warning or regard for your peoples’ culture. In the mainline games, 9/10 times you are hunting and killing these creatures to create weapons and armour from their hide and claws, just under the pretence of a quest that you are doing the right thing, but this is never expanded upon and you just take these quests in good faith, not bothering to see if these Monsters are worshipped by any indigenous peoples or cultures.

The story has good pacing, with some high quality cutscenes that gives your character a reason to traverse all of these different locales, attempting to unravel a long mystery that involves many twists and turns, that keep players entertained with fun and well-made cutscenes, and situations that are probably some of the best in the Monster Hunter series.

Varied locales. True to all Monster Hunter games, the different locations in Monster Hunter Stories 2 offer a wide world to explore and each area feels distinct and to accompany these areas are Monsters that would make the most sense in these areas (e.g. The Wolly mammoth-like Monster Gammoth being in the snow area or the lava spewing leviathan Agnaktor lives in the volcano area). 

What helps you to appreciate these areas more, is that you are able to ride your Monsties to further explore and find hidden areas, treasure chests or “Royal Monsters” (Monsters that have appeared in an different area, earlier on in the game), which rewards exploration and smart-party building so you can take on a Monster normally way higher level than your current party.

Music. Whilst quite understated in this game (compared to the most bombastic and in-your-face songs from the traditional Monster Hunter games), Monster Hunter Stories 2 has a lot of great tracks that go underused due to wanting to focus on the environmental songs.

My favourite probably being “Scarlet Land lit up by the Heavens” which is sung in English if you are playing the English dub of the game, which was a nice touch that many games do not bother to accommodate for and is also sung at the beginning of the game, as well as the ending of the game. I will not spoil the ending version, but the beginning version shows beautiful visuals of the starting island where your Rider is from, as well as the traditional culture of your people (seems to be similar to Moga Village from Monster Hunter Tri) and gives us a great insight into your characters culture compared to traditional Monster Hunter games, where you are just a normal Hunter who does not have much connection to your hometown as you tend to just focus on the Monster Hunting.

I wish the background tracks for the zones were more prominent, as otherwise you are exploring the environment in almost silence, so a lot of the time I just put some music on to fill the void.

Con:

Battery drain. In Handheld, I found that my Switch battery charge would drain from 100% down to 20% in just over 2 hours. So I would recommend everyone who wants to play this game, to either get the revision of the original Switch (HAC-001(-01), released in late 2019), as that helped solve some of the battery issues, as the original model battery life went from 2.5 – 6.5 hours on a full charge up to 4.5 – 9 hours, or to wait till the Switch OLED model comes out to get a longer battery life. 

For reference, I was playing on an original Switch model from 2017 so it may just be due to the natural process of self-discharge, where all batteries naturally start to lose maximum charge overtime.

Of course this battery issue is only for the Switch version of the game and does not apply to the PC version, since most PCs are directly plugged into the mains and not portable.

Quest variety. While the quests are fun during the main story, the main bulk of these breakdown into either; Go to location A and kill a particular Monster, or gather a certain amount of resources e.g. Flowers. These are a fun distraction and encourage you to explore each of the new zones. It is a shame that they have no impact on different zones, as all of the zones are the same from when you first enter them, to when you finish the story, missing out on doing some environmental storytelling that this game would have benefitted from.

Framerate. Unfortunately, Monster Hunter Stories 2 suffers a lot from its large variable framerate. This is because the framerate itself is not capped, meaning that the FPS (Frames per second) can vary wildly depending on the situation that can make gameplay very jarring, as I have experienced it go from the overworld being mid 20s with occasional stuttering when moving the camera to the FPS jumping, to about 60 when in the smaller enclosed den areas, as the Switch does not have to render the entire overworld map at once when in a den.

I have heard that these issues are less prevalent on PC, but it is a shame that the Switch version is poorly optimised as this is my major gripe with the game, and hopefully it gets fixed with a patch or the rumoured “Switch Pro” in the future.

Repetitious Dungeon Design. The most important part of the game is the “Monster Dens” where the player goes into to find new monster eggs, and as you go through the game, you encounter potentially hundreds of these dens and you realise that most of the rooms that make up these dens, are recycled quite often and that they all start to blend together. 

So more unique dungeon rooms would have been appreciated, especially when you are farming for high quality eggs, spending several hours in a row trying, it can be frustrating and would rather just be put straight into the Nest than just running through the same rooms over and over.

Late game battles. Whilst for the most part, the battles are not normally that long, but this changes a lot for late game and postgame battles, where they can last for over 20 turns. Whilst there is an option to speed up gameplay, it does not help that much.

This is a problem that a lot of JRPGs suffer from towards the end of most games, in that no matter how high your stats are, that the enemy has too much HP (Health Points), and are basically just health sponges that take a long time to whittle down, leading to aggravation if it is a difficult Monster that cycles through a lot of different Attack Types 

Ally Artificial Intelligence. The Battle Buddies you encounter throughout the story that join you for battles, are completely outside of your own control meaning that they will perform whatever options they want, targeting random monster parts even when the monster part you and your Monstie are targeting is almost destroyed, they will still have a good chance of targeting another part that is probably at full health.

This is not a bad idea in itself, but they always appear to make the poorest options in battle. This is mostly evident in that they do not adapt to enemy Monsters’ attack patterns when the Monsters change their pattern to use new moves, and will almost always use the weakest move compared to what the enemy is using. This means they will lose a lot of the time in the head-to-heads against the enemy monsters. Also, they use potions with reckless abandon, as I have had times when they use potions or steaks when they have only lost about 10HP and have a health pool of over 200HP.

Writing. While this game does have a good voice acting cast for both the English dub and Japanese dub, with almost all fully voice acted cutscenes, a problem I had was with some of the writing that lead into bad line reads. The character that exemplified it the most, is the feline character of Navirou, who is the tag-along character who is constantly making cat jokes and repeating information, that is either obvious to the player or holds no relevance to the situation.

Save system. A minor problem that really bugs me, is that you cannot save at any time whilst playing the game, or in the overworld, and you have to instead fast travel to a “Caravan Stand” and select the save option from there. I do not see a reason as to why they have done this as if you are in a new area or far away, then you have to fast travel to one then spend a while trekking back to where you were as the game does not have an “Auto Save” feature. However, I found that the system is not as reliable and it mostly saves when you enter or exit an area.

Conclusion: This was a fun foray back into the JRPG series for Monster Hunter, and is definitely a good game. If you can get past the poor framerate for Switch, or if the framerate was patched to have a better performance, then it may of scored similar to Monster Hunter Rise when that launched.

So if you are a Monster Hunter fan, I would recommend this easily, and even if you have not played a Monster Hunter title and only play more traditional JRPG’s like Pokemon, then this is a good transitional game if you want to bridge the gap to get into the Monster Hunter series. 

Score: 8.6

Reece Imiolek
Anime Amigo and Nerd Consultant

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