Monster Hunter Stories 2 main image

Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin Review – The Pokemon game we deserve?

Monster Hunter Stories 2 score card

Monster Hunter Stories 2 is the second entry in the Monster Hunter spin off series. Taking a lot of the same ideas and concepts from the mainline but putting it into a turn-based package. Releasing on the 9th of July for both the Switch and PC.

There’s a lot to cover so let’s get straight into it.

Gameplay? 9/10 – A really complex, deep, and competent turn-based RPG. Thoroughly enjoyable, wide and open, and tight. I especially like just flying around looking for eggs to snatch.

I really, genuinely, like the gameplay loop of Monster Hunter Stories 2. From battles, to exploring the areas, to hunting through many dungeons looking for eggs. It kind of makes me think of the wild area in Pokemon Sword and Shield but on steroids. If you’re a fan of games like Pokemon this could very well be a must try.

Combat

The combat in Monster Hunter Stories 2 is surprisingly complex yet competent. There are a lot of moving pieces throughout each battle, not just hitting the attack button. So I’ll try to quickly cover each bit. There’s so much to go over that it’ll probably just seem like a list.

You fight against up to 4 enemies, sometimes people and ‘monsties’, mostly groups of monsters. For your team you’ll have yourself, one of your monsties, and a partner, who sometimes has a monstie too.

There’s a rock-paper-scissors system employed in Monster Hunter Stories 2. For this game though the prongs are Tech, Speed, and Power. Tech beats Speed, Speed beats Power, and Power beats Tech.

Monster Hunter Stories 2 fluffy

This leads into head-to-head battles, when 2 opponents attack each other, the one that wins rock-paper-scissors attacks properly. So whatever attack or skill they chose will be used and the enemy does base damage instead. So it cancels out the effects of the enemies attack. This is a really interesting mechanic because you can basically cancel out powerful attacks from the enemy.

There are also elements, like water and fire. Each monstie, weapon, and armour set has different strengths and weaknesses. For example a Ratha deals fire damage but is weak to electricity. This reminds me of the Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth series, in that the rock-paper-scissors gameplay is more important. The elemental nature of the attacks barely matters in my experience which I don’t like very much.

Your team and your partner’s each have 3 fights to fight with. Each time the player or monstie hits 0hp you lose a heart, if you lose all 3 the fight is lost. Also when a HP bar hits 0, it immediately refills and all status effects are removed. Loss of hearts also carries over between battles. So you need to go to a town or use items.

There’s more..?

Yeah there’s still more.

Firstly is the dual attacks. This is a form of combination attack between two members of the same team. If they both use the same type of attack and target the same monster or part. So if you and your monstie use a tech attack against a monster’s horn, a dual attack can activate. They basically make one combined extra powerful attack that does a lot of damage. Both to the enemies health bar and their monster part.

Then there are kinship attacks, hoo boy. These are the biggest attacks, doing the most damage. After building up your kinship gauge you can ride your monstie and then unleash hell. There’s a really well animated attack cutscene that typically culminates in a grand explosion. A nice touch is that if your partner has their gauge full too you can do a combined kinship attack. This does just even more raw damage and the cutscene includes both parties. It’s a real neat idea.

Monster Hunter Stories 2 kinship

A very nice inclusion to the combat system is a speed up system. Going from regular speed to twice and then thrice as fast. Skipping most attack animations and the like, it makes grinding and exploration go much quicker. Meaning that looking for eggs or gaining levels goes significantly smoother.

Rewards after battle are based on the score of the battle. Doing dual attacks, kinship, using skills, and winning quickly all add to your score. You get a letter grade at the end, and the better the letter the more rewards you get, mostly materials. So getting consistently good scores makes crafting new gear and upgrading stuff quicker.

Finally there’s one other very nifty inclusion, quick finish. In some games the enemies ignore you or run away when you’re too strong. Monsters do not care about your strength in any way at all in Monster Hunter Stories 2. They’ll still chase you to the ends of the earth no matter the strength difference. Only now you can instantly win the fight with the top grade,

Monsties

Monsties are basically the Pokemon of the Monster Hunter Stories 2 world. Even down to hatching from little eggies. One nice little touch is that each egg has a unique look, either in design or colour scheme. Monsties of the same genus will have the same pattern but different colour. So each flying wyvern egg will look similar but easily distinguishable based on colour.

You can get monstie eggs two main ways. Either going into a random den that you find in the world or by making a monster retreat in battle. The first is simple: go into a den, get to the end and pick up an egg. Second, you need to make a monster retreat after the battle. This is done by chance at the end of a fight when you’ve beaten a monster. You can do things to increase this chance, and each monster has different ways to do so, like breaking all parts or using a particular element for example. 

Monster Hunter Stories 2 egg

Genes

I’ll be honest, this started off pretty confusing for me. It may or may not have been due to my own stupidity… maybe…

Basically each monstie can have up to nine genes. They start off with some, they’ll have some that require levels to unlock, and others need an item. These genes work as a bingo sheet, with the elements and attack types both giving boosts. For example, getting three red genes in a line gives a fire attack boost. Getting another three power genes in a line gives a power attack boost. It’s a really neat system that, if you keep on top of, can make a real difference in battle.

To get new genes on a monstie you already have you have to basically sacrifice another monstie. It’s both an interesting mechanic and a clever way to encourage more exploration and egg hunting. Doing so basically just makes your favourite ones stronger.

Another interesting inclusion is that genes dictate skills for the monsties. So if there’s a thunderbolt gene on one monstie and you channel it into one of your main ones. That main monstie now has the skill for thunderbolts.

Worth noting is that when you get better eggs they can have either more starting genes or rarer ones. Like having rainbow ones that are universal and can combo with any others, or maybe a special dragon gene.

Equipment

For your equipment you can buy, forge, and upgrade multiple weapons and armour. Buying notwithstanding, you can create weapons and armour based on the monsters you defeat. This is taken directly from the mainline Monster Hunter games. Defeating a monster will yield certain materials, if during that fight you break their parts you can get more. So for example, breaking a horn or a tail can give more materials.

Monster Hunter Stories 2 final equipment

Each piece has a material value, a number that can be used to forge and upgrade. To make a weapon or armour you will need a high enough score for that monster’s materials to make it. Maybe a great sword needs 6 pieces of a monster, you can use 6 of one material or maybe 2 of another. It’s a really clever way to make fighting more monsters and focusing on breaking parts during battle.

Each part on a monster will likely need a different damage type to break it. They’re typically weak to one of them and then strong against the other two. The types of weapon damage are slash, blunt, and pierce, and each of these have two kinds of weapons that deal that type of damage. Great swords and swords and shields do slash. Bows and gun lances do pierce. Hammers and hunting horns are blunt. Each weapon also has different skill types and ways to build up charge.

For example, greatswords need to use specific skills that build charge whilst hammers need to win head to heads.

Dens

Dens are the mini dungeons of Monster Hunter Stories 2. They pop up all over randomly, some are constant, and others can be made to appear. I think they all follow the same concept though. There are a selection of different “rooms” that can be procedurally stitched together and then filled. At the end of each one will be the same room with a mounded nest that has some eggs. The aesthetic changes depending on the overworld region you’re in, so it might be an ice cave or a beach cave for example.

Sometimes there is a monster prowling, sometimes one sleeping, and others nothing at all. You can only hold one egg when in the den but you can search the pile for a different one. You’ll see the pattern and the lights and information that Navirou gives you will let you know its value. You want a heavy and stinky egg, which does not mirror real life at all. If you go to make scrambled eggs and the eggs are heavy and smell, just bin them.

When you take too many eggs bad things can happen. LIke the eggs disappearing and leaving you with a bad one for example. Or you might be chased by an awakened monster or one that appears. It’s very funny to see you run slowly with a giant egg with a monster running you down.

Monster Hunter Stories 2 elder dragon

There are special rare dens that can appear that will have a higher chance for better eggs. Either rarer species or better eggs for the other species. These appear as dens with a golden coating, they look pretty cool. During the post game even better ones appear with red instead of gold.

Exploration

Traveling around the overworld might be the most fun part of the whole game. Which is a weird thing to say for any game that isn’t a walking sim or similar. Mind you this doesn’t become the case until a fair bit into the game, when you can fly. Flying in Monster Hunter Stories 2 is very simple, just up, down, and side to side. It being simple doesn’t diminish anything though. It’s frankly just so good. For such a small part of the game that doesn’t exactly solve anything, it really is fun.

Apart from the flying though, running over the entirety of the maps is pretty good too. With each monstie feeling a bit different to ride. Along with that, there are obstacles on the map that require different monster abilities. Like vines to climb, gaps to jump, and rocks to smash. You then need to have the right monstie with you that has that ability, it’s very much like Pokemon’s HMs. It’s nice though that they’re not progress locking, it’s just to get more items or chests.

Visuals? 9/10 – A heavy stylized game that has some of the best animations I’ve seen in a game

Style over resolution. This game on Switch falls under that category. Some of the draw distances and close up details and things are not great. Yet, flying around a map and looking out to sea for example looks gorgeous. There’s just a lot of roughness around a lot of the edges that can’t be ignored. 

I’m gonna make a bold claim, well reaffirm one from my demo impression. Are you ready? Monster Hunter Stories 2 has some of the absolute best and endearing animation in any game I’ve ever played. I don’t know how to explain or describe it, nor do I think images do it justice. It’s definitely one of those things you should experience for yourself.

Monster Hunter Stories 2 fly you fools

To go on top of the animation, I think the character, equipment, and monster designs are just phenomenal. The monster and weapon being well designed is pretty much a staple of the Monster Hunter series. That by no means that it shouldn’t be praised regardless.

Even when some of the monsters are pretty much just colour swaps. Not only do they look sufficiently different, they also often perform differently. This is a pretty good way to fit in double the monster count without having to design a couple hundred monsters. It’s a smart kind of design without being lazy about it.

Audio? 9/10 – A great sounding game that does a good job with making combat especially sound weighty and satisfying

Overall the audio is pretty stellar in Monster Hunter Stories 2. There are some really good tracks, the combat sounds weighty, and the voice acting is well mixed. Even down to the foot(paw) steps of the monsties you’re riding sounds really good. 

I especially like all of the effects during combat. Monsters, monsties, swords, hammers, horns, bows, and explosions. So many explosions. Everything is made to be as satisfying as possible and I think they succeeded.

If I were to point out one real issue about the audio design it would be the silences. Sometimes, whilst explorationing the music will just stop. Not cut out or any other kind of audio bug, it will just stop. So you’re running across a field and all you hear are your monsties footsteps the whole time. It’s not great because the steps can get annoying but only when that’s pretty much all you hear.

Monster Hunter Stories 2 bubbles

Story? 8/10 – A pretty decent story that is engaging for almost the entire game. The villain could do with some more work but that’s about it

The story is pretty good in Monster Hunter Stories 2 overall. I don’t think it’s going to win any awards for storytelling but it’s more than good enough to hold up. There’s some pretty high stakes, some good characters, and a super saiyan cat.

You are a member of a tribe on an island where your people bond with monsters. As a novice rider you are tasked with getting your first monstie. Things very quickly escalate as you are handed an egg that could lead to the world’s destruction. Your Ratha that hatches from this egg is said to be the bringer of the end. Or at least that’s what the legends say.

You must travel the world to both learn the truth of the legends and to stop the catastrophe. Along the way you will meet many different people, most of whom have a different viewpoint. Most of whom are scared of Ratha and wish him harm, or want to drive him out. 

There major shortfall of the story is that there isn’t a clear villainous presence. There’s no recurring Team Rocket, or Kuja, or Sephiroth. There are a couple of meetings and then it’s just the end of the game. What this game really needed was a specific villain to latch onto and to pop up a lot more. The villains are the only part not competently presented in the whole game.

Acting? 9/10 – Other than the surfer bro it’s all really good in English

The acting is pretty good for almost every character and for the whole game. I played with all English voice acting, it does have Japanese VA but I didn’t try it. It’s just nice to keep getting competent English VA. Keep up the good work and not provide constant Victorian London peasants as all English characters. I have 0 complaints throughout the whole of the game.

Monster Hunter Stories 2 kayna

Except the one… There’s some surfer bro that teams up with you for a bit that I do not like. It’s a completely stereotypical surfer that lives in a desert. I’m not saying there’s no water around but there’s also you know, a desert. Why’d they have to be weird about it?

Writing? 9/10 – Decent writing that keeps you engaged all through. Really just needs a better villain

The writing in Monster Hunter Stories 2 is overall really quite good. There are some nice setpieces, a decent amount of character interactions, and reasons to travel. The stakes are constantly pretty high.

I do especially like the use, or re-use, of past areas. So going back to each region, for further investigations, or big old battles. There’s also a good explanation as to the progressing strength of monsters, even in these older areas. I don’t know if a lot of people will care about that but it’s a nice touch that I do appreciate.

The only real drawback for me personally is how little presence the main villain has. There are kind of two villains, both of unequal representation. Just a few cameos and then basically just the final confrontation. For a game with so many moving parts put together so beautifully it’s weird that they fumbled this bit. 

Performance? 8/10 – Didn’t crash too often or even drop frame. Did run the Switch a little hot though

I played this game on the Switch, mostly in docked mode but I did take it handheld too. So in the full 56 odd hours it took me to finish the game I had one required reset. One of the loading screens when I traveled just didn’t stop loading. I left it for literally like 10 minutes and nothing happened, the little loading symbol was still moving too. It was really odd but it was pretty much the only time I closed the game at all.

Monster Hunter Stories 2 face

The other issue is definitely the bigger one for the Switch anyway. It’s clearly very hardware intensive to run this game in Switch. I also have to preface that I have the day one Switch so not the better battery one. That being said, this game drained the battery faster than any other game I’ve played. Maybe partly due to how mad the fan was going the entire time.

This game runs hoooooooooot. For real. The fan, whether docked or handheld, never stopped going at seemingly top speed. I’ve not had a game be like this before. Luckily the fan seemed to keep the Switch from just melting in my hands which was nice! Just be warned that in a hot room or without enough airflow, I think this game would be a problem.

Fun Factor? 9/10 – An incredibly fun game for sure. The online co-op parts were surprisingly fun

The combat is complex and engaging, I love the animations, and the flying is exquisite. There’s really not all that much in this package that isn’t fun. There’s even less to complain about either. It has been one of the most well made and enjoyable monster capture RPGs I’ve pretty much ever played.

One pretty big surprise for me was how good the online functionality was. Now it’s not like I had to play a competitive shooter where I need -1000 ping to even have a chance. You just explore a den with another player, fighting some monsters and picking up some eggs. It did connect quickly, the connectivity stayed strong, and there were basically no delays in combat. It was a perfect experience and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I did this after the first update for the Palamute monstie so that I could have a good old doggo.

My only real complaint for Monster Hunter Stories 2 here is that it ever so slightly overstayed its welcome. Ok, that sounded way more negative than I meant it. I never stopped enjoying the game, or stopped liking flying around the map. The problem for me is that the final stretch was a little too long for my liking. I should note here that this is just a product of most JRPGs that I’ve played. The final push, boss rushes, and multi-phased fights are just not a bit of me. It took me like 6 months to finally finish Final Fantasy 9 because I didn’t like the final area.

Monster Hunter Stories 2 palamute

Value? 10/10 – Unbelievable value. A fantastic game that is incredibly fun, long playtime and post-game, and then a small price tag

I’ll just start off being direct, this is high hecka value, there’s just no way around it. The standard edition will set you back £50 on either Switch or Steam. So already that’s a pretty good deal out of the gate. Then there’s the fact that just for a single playthrough of the story you can get over 50 hours. For me specifically I took 56 hours or so just for the story. That’s not even mentioning the fact that there’s a decent amount of post-game content.

New red crystal dens that have even rarer and stronger monsters and monsties, like being able to get little baby Rathas which is very cool. There are also a bunch of super powered monsters throughout these dens that give better material. Upgraded versions of the ones you got through the game, which can now be used to make even more powerful versions of the weapons and armour. So you can just keep progressing and getting stronger and stronger, which I really like.

There’s also the fact that they do seem to be supporting it too, at least on the surface. Bearing in mind that it was out for less than a week, they already released a small update. This update, I’m sure, did things, the important part is there was a new monstie added. The Palamute, the pupper friend from Monster Hunter Rise was added as part of a co-op dungeon reward. So by going online and playing with a stranger you can explore a den and fund a Palamute egg. Which I thoroughly enjoyed. If they add more like that I will be extremely happy and will return to the game.

There’s just a lot of content packed into a pretty reasonable price.

How Much Did The Reviewer Enjoy It? 9/10 – A really good JRPG. Frankly this might be the best made Pokemon game you’ll ever play

Monster Hunter Stories 2 is a surprise hit for me. I’m not into the Monster Hunter franchise and I’ve not played the first game in this series before. I was quite interested in trying this game anyway, however the free demo solidified that interest. Now that I’ve finished the game I can safely say that the game is really good.

I said this in my demo impression but this should definitely be the direction that Pokemon should take. If you just switched (get it) the Monsties for Pokemon this would be the most impressive Pokemon game ever made. I know the team at Game Freak are both innovative and talented. They just haven’t made something this gorgeous or so well put together.

Monster Hunter Stories 2 fly away

Back from that tangent, Monster Hunter Stories 2 is a long, well put together, competent game. That should be enough frankly to enjoy any game. What this game brings that I like the most is the animations. I have never been so in love with any animations in a game more than I have this.

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