Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin (Switch) Review
When it comes to Monster Hunter, fans have been spoiled this year. Not only did we get Monster Hunter Rise, but we also get this, Monster Hunter Stories 2. Replacing real-time combat with turn-based combat in what could be a more approachable Monster Hunter game. With MH Rise so well received, can Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin soar with this monster franchise?
You’re the grandkid of the island of Mahana’s legendary rider Red, who was the rider of the Guardian Rathos. After a dark omen, the Rathalos have taken flight, and the monsters are acting strangely. Legend has it when the dreaded Razewind Rathalos flaps its wings, it will bring ruin to the world. Soldiers are also hunting for Rathalos and pursue a mysterious woman who holds an ominous Rathos egg. You, of course, get caught up in everything, and the fate of the world may very well be in your hands. Quickly having to learn how to be a rider, you’ll travel throughout the world helping out towns as they deal with the monsters who are wreaking havoc. Along the way, also finding out more about Red as you have quite the legacy to follow. Let’s not forget that you’ll be building up a party of ‘monsties’ raised from eggs to fight alongside you as you face down the calamitous events befalling the world. The story is okay; it feels familiar yet still enjoyable. It’s nice to spend time within the Monster Hunter world, getting to take on some serious monsters in a more manageable way. It’s also hard not to be drawn into the world, especially when it feels like a grand adventure within the Monster Hunter realm.
If you missed out on the original Monster Hunter Stories, you won’t need to have played it to understand what’s going on. For those who have, you’ll recognise a familiar face very early on; Navirou! It is a sequel, and you get to see what happens after the blight was stopped in the last game. Even if you haven’t played the first game, it would be beneficial to be a little familiar with the Monster Hunter games. If you’ve been waiting to see what happened after the first game, there are even more familiar faces along the way.
Monster Hunter Stories 2 isn’t just some spin-off trading on the Monster Hunter name. You’ll still be forging and upgrading weapons and armour from the collected parts of Monsters you defeat. Strategies used on monsters in the main series can apply here; fans will have no problems being prepared for the strengths and weaknesses of the monsters they face. When travelling to areas with more extreme temperatures, you need items to help protect you and your party if you don’t have suitable armour or monsties. It may not seem like much, but now and then, the game will surprise you with traditional MH stuff included here. Just like other MH games, you’ll be gathering resources out in the wild. They’re all over the place, to the point it gets tiring grabbing everything nearby ‘just in case they’re a side quest item’.
The Stories series differs from the main games in having your own ‘monstie’ to battle alongside you. Countless dens have a nest where you can grab an egg throughout the world and take it off to town to hatch at the stables. There is some strategy and luck involved in getting eggs that have the best stats. It’s important to be tracking down eggs to keep your roster fresh once more elemental types become available and because of the abilities, monsties can use in the world. Like Pokémon’s HM techniques, you’ll have monsties who can jump from jump pads, some that can break through rocks, some can swim or climb vines. While Pokémon has moved away from having to dump all the HMs on your party, MHS2 brings it back. It forces you to keep your party full of monsties you only have around for an ability you barely use. At least they’re kind enough to auto switch over once you hit the prompt; just remember to switch back.
The combat is turn-based over the usual MH action, using the same rock, paper, scissor (Power, Speed and Technical) triangle from the original MH stories. When you and your Monstie or buddy select the same type of attack, you’ll have the chance of launching a hard-hitting combo. When your meter builds up enough, you can hop on your monsties back and unleash an even more powerful attack, along with some cool over the top (skippable) cutscenes to show off. Not only does the type of attack matter, but there’s also whether the monster is weak or strong against your weapon types. You can hold three weapons at once, so it pays to keep a sharp, blunt or ranged weapon on hand. There isn’t the same range of weaponry usually on offer, but there’s enough to provide some variety.
Just as with the main Monster Hunter games, you’ll need to be strategic about what parts of a monster you’ll target. Can they unleash a devastating attack with their tail? Do they breathe out something deadly? Or maybe their belly can be weakened. Different parts will be weaker to different weapons or types of attacks. It’s always fun seeing it all pay off when they lose the ability to launch really damaging attacks.
With each new location in the game, you aren’t often alone with your monsties for long, meeting other riders to team up with as you work together to inevitably stop whatever monster is going wild and posing a threat to people and monsters alike. These rider buddies really help out more often than not. They help heal the party and can do plenty of damage along with their monstie, but also gives you more opportunities to form combos. While you might be good at choosing the right type of attack, you’ll find your monstie and your buddy often aren’t on the same page, leading to weak attacks. I guess it’s understandable; the game doesn’t want you to be an unstoppable wave of destruction raining down pain on monsters’ weak points. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to have them a little smarter with attacks.
When you face a new monster, you don’t get to see the health bar or what type of attacks it will use. This leaves you with a few minutes of hoping you haven’t bitten off more than you can chew. You must work out what weapons work best, what type of attack to counter theirs, and what parts of the body to target. It can feel overwhelming when you start going up against some of the bigger, badder monsters. But once you’re getting in some solid attacks it’s easy to get right back to enjoying the battle. Paying attention for changes in types of attacks or if there are more parts to target.
The island and the world around it are bright and colourful, and so are the monsters. Their more cartoonish features allow for exaggerated designs and vibrant colours. As you travel throughout the world, you’ll see various environments befitting a Monster Hunter game. The open areas look lovely and scenic, and the sunset can look so lovely. However, the dens feel more like generic, randomised dungeon areas, a mish-mash of connecting areas mixed with corridors with dead ends. Given how often dens show up, I understand you can’t have continual uniquely distinct areas; they just get boring after a while. I was never tired of the monster designs, especially for my VIP Pukei-Pukei, the best lizard bird with a poison tail ever.
When your level is much higher than the enemies, you can choose to hit both trigger buttons and auto win. Given their levels are low enough for you to get this option, it’s not like you can exploit it, but at least you get some XP and items. If you want to try and keep at the top of your game, you’ll find you’ll be doing a lot of grinding, especially when combat rewards you with too little XP. You can rack up some XP by turning in tasks at task boards in each town. Once you’ve hatched a new monstie, they, fortunately, level up pretty quickly to catch up with your group.
There is still the Rite of Channeling to help you get the best genes from your spare monsties as you pass on their abilities. It’s a bit odd playing Monster geneticist, although you can get by with light genetic tampering if you don’t want to overcomplicate monstie management. If you’re going to make the best monsties possible, you could be spending some time trying to get the best genes and running around collecting eggs to hatch.
A disconnect I found hard to get past throughout the game focuses on the more peaceful riders and how they have bonds with their ‘Monsties’. But a lot of the game has you hunting monsters, all the same. The only difference is you’ve raised their own species to kill them. As well as raiding monster nests to steal their eggs while you play, gene judge on what monsties are good enough. At least the Monster Hunters just killed them and made some fancy weapons and armour. But then Pokémon is making your cute fluffy best friend fight other creatures and sometimes a giant guy with four very muscly arms; you don’t want to overthink it.
12-15 hours into the game, you’ll unlock the ability to battle in multiplayer if you want to work with a friend to take down the most deadly of monsters. Pre-launch, I haven’t been able to dive into that section of the game, you can fight against rival riders and their monsties or work alongside a friend. Before even delving into the online section, you’re already looking at many, many hours, especially if you want to take on every side quest and royal monsters.
On the Switch, MHS2 looks nice, making the most visual style introduced in the original game and the anime. Running on the Switch, it doesn’t have any real performance issues that impact the game, although the choppy framerate at times will stand out to those who care about frame rates. Being a turn-based game never impacts the combat or messes you around in the open areas. If you must have the best frame rate and nicest graphics, then PC might be your best bet, but it plays well enough on the Switch.
Monster Hunter Stories 2 gives Monster Hunter fans even more monsties than they bargained for in 2021. This spin-off from the traditional games is an enjoyable adventure, even if the story is a little generic. If you’ve wanted to enjoy the Monster Hunter world without all of the pressure from the main entries, Monster Hunter Stories 2 is an excellent game for fans and people looking for a time to jump in.
+ A great entry point for newer MH fans
+ The combat system retains strategic elements from the main games while making battles more accessible
+ So many fun monstie designs
- Monster dens all feel the same
- Managing monsties for traversal abilities
- Leveling up feels slow no matter how many fights you get into