Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin Review

Rock, Paper, Slowdown!

There are some games you can recognize that are great and, while they may not be for you, you want to find a way to appreciate them. In my very limited knowledge of the Monster Hunter franchise, I thought jumping into Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin would be a great starting point — it’s turn-based, there are adorable monsties to hatch, and it still offers a wide world to explore. There is a lot to adore in this game, but there are also some gameplay elements that hold it back from being fantastic overall.

Taking on the role of a young newbie rider, players are thrust into a world full of monsters and wonder. During a festival on Hokolo Island, an ominous red pit of light appears, creating a mass disappearance of the Rathalos dragons and agitating the other monster species that go near it. During these disappearances, the player character meets Ena, a young Wyverian girl, who has been trusted with a Rathalos egg by the beast Guardian Ratha. Legend has it that the Rathalos in the egg will bring doom and destruction to the world. As the story progresses, the player and Ena travel to different locations and villages in hopes of learning more about the legend of Guardian Ratha, and the mystery surrounding the red pits of light that aggravate the monsters near them.

Monster Hunter Stories 2’s narrative is easily one of the most wholesome players will find in an RPG. It has a generic base story of “the power of friendship will save the the world”, but it’s hard not to love how utterly sincere the game weaves its tale. It’s predictable, and a little corny, yet it does a great job of players wanting to continue to solve the overarching mystery. It helps that the game has such a wonderful cast of characters that are easy to connect with. Ena’s character is gentle yet has so much resolve, and Navirou, our amnesiac felyne traveling companion steals the show with useful information and laugh-out-loud moments. Many of the allies the player meets have backstories that connect them to previous events in the original Monster Hunter Stories, but the game provides context for those who may not have played the first game.

Take to the skies!

What also complements the charming story is the game’s localization and voice work. There are great bits of dialogue, particularly from characters like Navirou who inject so much life into this wondrous world. While Monster Hunter Stories 2 takes itself a bit too seriously throughout its thirty-hour runtime, it also recognizes the importance of communicating a clear and concise story that directs the player throughout the duration. The voice work also enhances the localization a great deal, as many of the performers do a phenomenal job of breathing life into their characters and monsters, while also making the world feel lived in. Wyatt Bowen, the voice of Navirou also does a great job of being the player’s sidekick, without becoming grating. There’s a lot to love in terms of the story’s presentation and how emotional the line delivery is from the game’s voice actors.

However, while Monster Hunter Stories 2’s combat is interesting in concept, it’s unfortunately dull in execution. Players must learn patterns based on an enemy’s typing and use the correct attack against them, with Power trumped by Speed, Speed by Technical, and Technical by Power. If the player selects the correct attack type against an enemy, they will initiate a head-to-head, which if successful will fill the player’s Kinship. Kindship is a special ability that allows the rider and monster to unleash a devastating attack together, and this can also be paired with allies who also have their gauges filled. If the player and their monstie choose the same attack type, there is also the chance for a synchronized attack against an enemy, which again, helps fill Kinship. The problem with this is that players can only choose their attack for their rider, while the AI selects every other ally’s attack. This makes for a lot of frustrating moments, taking control away from the player. Party members will often choose poorly, and it makes battles a slog. The additional interactive elements such as the moments where monsties go head to head in QTE battles with enemies such as flying, breathing fire, or headbutting, just don’t add enough depth.

It doesn’t help that it’s an incredibly boring and slow battle system. While it’s interesting that players can break different pieces of large monsties, it takes forever. Even battles against smaller foes with no parts to break can take quite a few turns, even with attack pattern recognition. Later battles are a chore because many of the enemy monsties have multiple parts to break, and some can even regenerate those parts once they have been broken. While there is additional experience provided by doing optional content, such as side quests and monster expeditions, the grind that Monster Hunter Stories 2 demands is frustrating. For a game that features giant monsters, one would assume a more interactive and engaging experience, but what players are given is a very slow and uninspiring rock-paper-scissor battle system.

My monstie is bigger than yours!

Despite the uninspired battle system, the same cannot be said for the game’s exploration elements. To get new monsties to join, players will have to delve into Monster Dens and steal eggs from unsuspecting monsters. There is nothing more hilarious than stealing an egg and watching the player character tiptoe out of the den like something out of a classic cartoon. Once an egg has been stolen, players can hatch it in any hub town and can begin the process of leveling them up. Players can also fuse monsters to provide additional bonuses, and send monsties on expeditions to level up, find rare items, monster parts, or hone other skills. There is also a prayer pot that allows the player to insert charms that can offer unique bonuses, such as gathering more rare resources and having Kinship fill faster. There is lots of content to enjoy and many monsters to tame and test out in one’s party. The sheer amount of variety of monsties is quite impressive and it’s a joy to fill the Monsterpedia.

The world of Monster Hunter Stories 2 is visually stunning, as every location is vibrant and just begging to be explored. The visuals on many of the monstie designs are gorgeous, with tons of intricate details. There is a small amount of palette swapping, but this is a minor complaint. There is something so inviting about the game’s visual presentation; from the characters’ expressions, to the use of colour, to even the overall designs of the open spaces, Monster Hunter Stories 2 is impeccably designed. The same can also be said about the game’s sound department, as the soundtrack has a nice variety of ambient and epic tracks that complement the events of the game quite nicely. Even more impressive is the amount of unique monster noises and sounds, as players can truly hear the weight of a larger monster’s footsteps or one nomming on a tree. These little additions are fantastic, adding to the overall presentation.

Capcom has definitely found its footing in terms of creating a kid-friendly Monster Hunter spinoff series, as Monster Hunter Stories 2 has a lot to offer for newcomers and veterans of the series alike. While the battle system is fantastic for a younger audience, it does lack depth and can feel like quite the slog, especially late game. While the story won’t wow anyone, it is sincere in its approach that it’s hard to be disappointed in it. Monster Hunter Stories 2 is great for monster-taming fans, and those who don’t mind a slow-paced game in a gorgeous and inviting world.

Disclosure: This review is based on a free copy of the game provided by the publisher.

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'Good' -- 3.5/5
20-40 HOURS

Gorgeous world worth exploring

Fantastic soundtrack and voice work

Monstie designs are nifty

Combat is very slow and repetitive

Frustrating AI

Additional combat elements are meh

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