Available On: Switch, PC (Steam)
Played On: Switch
Monster Hunter Stories is a spin-off RPG of the main Monster Hunter series that began in 2016, on the 3DS. The sequel, Wings of Ruin, expands the combat and gameplay in many satisfying ways, though falls victim to one of the more common and annoying JRPG tropes: it takes forever to get going, and ultimately wears out its welcome in the end.
Pits of Despair
Like the first game, I create a custom Rider who’s part of a small village of Monster Riders who live in harmony with the large beasts of the world, which they call Monsties. Ominous pits have begun appearing around the world, spewing a red light that causes nearby monsters to become “rage-rayed” and vicious.
My young Rider gains a special egg, which eventually hatches into a Ratahlos said to posses the titular Wings of Ruin that will destroy the world. Throughout the journey, I’ll make friends, defeat monsters, discover more of the legend, and try to keep Ratha safe from those who would seek to destroy him.
It’s a solid JRPG story, enhanced by frequent cutscenes and full voice acting, but it’s agonizingly slow to unfold. It’s a solid ten hours before I even unlock one of the best parts of the game, the Rite of Channeling.
Every monstie has a randomized three by three gird of genes depending on their type and rarity. Genes are what give monsties their abilities and attacks. By performing the Rite of Channeling, I can take a gene from one monster and give it to another. It’s a great excuse to constantly hunt for new monster eggs and build up my team of customizable monsties.
It takes nearly another ten hours for that dang Rathalos egg to even hatch; a weird choice narratively as he’s supposed to be your main buddy throughout the story. And I didn’t unlock his awesome flight ability until after 40 hours (in comparison, the entire first game was about 40 hours long). Though it’s not an open-world game (and monster dens are disappointingly repetitive), flying through various zones is a big quality of life improvement when searching for rare monster dens, eggs, ingredients, and monsters. Despite the frustratingly slow pace, the excellent combat helped keep me engaged.
Power of Friendship
Combat is entirely turn-based, with my Rider and my lead monstie battling other wild monsters. Each monster has different elemental strengths and weaknesses, weapon style weaknesses, and targetable monster parts. Every monster also favors one of three different attack styles: power, technical, or speed. The three styles work in rock-paper-scissors to each other (power beats technical, but is weak to speed attacks).
Facing a new monster for the first time can be a challenge as I work out which style it favors, and which weapons, elements, and monsties I should use. Successfully exploiting those weaknesses adds to my Kinship gauge, which I use to fuel both my and my monstie’s skills, as well as unleash big Kinship skills, each with their own screen-shattering cutscenes. Things get trickier when monsters become enraged, however, gaining powerful new attacks and changing their favored attack style. It’s like a second-stage boss fight that occurs several times in a battle, keeping battles fresh and engaging.
Just as in the main Monster Hunter series, the more I face a monster, the more familiar I become with their movesets and weaknesses, making it easier to take them down. When they’re weak, I can hurl a Pokéball, er, paintball, and force them to retreat to a monster den where I grab an egg to add that monster to my team (or their genes, at least!).
By breaking certain monster parts and performing better in combat I earn better monster loot parts, which I can then use to craft new weapons and armor. While it’s impressive that every monster has two to four weapons and a suit of armor to craft, I only felt the need to stick to a couple in each new area. It’s also disappointing that Monster Hunter Stories lacks the weapon variety in the mainline series. Out of the 14 weapon types in the main series, only six are available here: hunting horn, hammer, bow, great sword, sword and shield, and gunlance.
Monster Hunter Stories 2 is rated E10+ with Crude Humor, Fantasy Violence, and Mild Language. It’s more youth-oriented in the story, art design, and gameplay that the mainline series, while still retaining much of the series’ hallmark difficulty.
In moving from the 3DS to the Switch, Wings of Ruin is a big step up from the original game, with a more engaging story and more satisfying combat. It’s a solid mid-level monster battler that lies between the ease of Pokémon and the more serious and daunting Shin Megami Tensei series. Unfortunately the horribly slow pacing in the first half holds it back from achieving an S-rank.