When Monster Hunter Stories launched for Nintendo 3DS in 2016, it was an odd experiment. To date, the Monster Hunter series had mostly focussed on actually hunting monsters, but this was a title asking players to befriend them. Like Pokémon before it, Stories riffed on the monster-raising genre and gave players a chance to explore the vast wilderness with their ‘monstie’ pals. The game’s sequel, Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin, does more of the same — but it’s infinitely prettier, and way more fun. Here’s the Kotaku Australia review.
In Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin, you play as the grandchild of a legendary hero named Red as you make your mark as a Monster Rider, a hero who uses ‘monsties’ in battle. While you are still hunting down monsters and travelling through wild plains, the goal here is to form better relationships with your squad and grow your strengths as the story progresses.
While the story itself is relatively one-note (an ancient prophecy foretells the end of the world and you must stop it), the gameplay is so fun and vibrant, it hardly matters. Quest after quest will fly by as you roam increasingly more wonderful biomes, hunting down monsties and saving the world.
Monster Hunter Stories 2 is absolutely gorgeous
From the moment you open the game and enter its bright, shiny world, you’ll be stunned by the game’s detail and art style. ‘Realism’ is so often valued in video games they forget to be fun, but Monster Hunter Stories 2 is filled with so much style it’s a sight to behold.
The colours of the ocean are enchanting, character designs are fabulous, and even wandering through a forest is a real joy. It’s a game filled with colours, and one that pushes the Nintendo Switch to its absolute limits. If ever there was a case for a ‘real’ Nintendo Switch Pro, Monster Hunter Stories 2 is it. But I do say this with a caveat: in some areas, it feels like Wings of Ruin needs a Switch Pro to run.
For the opening chapters set in the beautiful Hakolo region, the game runs smooth as butter. Trees whiz past in a bright and colourful blur, and action is incredibly sleek.
But the moment you approach the game’s second region, Alcala, you’ll notice frame rate dips and slower loading times. When you’re playing in docked mode, you’ll also notice some spiky rendering issues along the edges of character models.
This was mostly obvious in Rutoh Village (pictured above), and not in the main overworld, but it was disappointing to note my (first gen) Switch started to noticeably heat up once I reached Alcala.
It wasn’t an issue that cropped up often and didn’t mean I enjoyed the game less, but it is something to note. If anything, it’s testament to the game’s sheer ambition and just how much it stretches the limits of the Switch.
Combat carries over from the original
Like the original Monster Hunter Stories, Wings of Ruin uses a turn-based RPG battling system based on rock-paper-scissors. While you do have special move sets and the ability to Ride your monstie for higher-powered moves, the majority of battling relies on pattern-recognition and using the correct ‘technique’.
Basically, it goes like this: Technical moves beat Speed moves, Speed moves beat Power moves, and Power moves beat Technical moves. If a monster picks a Technical, you need to pick a Power. If you succeed, you’ll knock them out and won’t take any additional damage.
This relies on luck as well as observation — so you can end up losing by ‘chance’ but it does make every battle feel very strategic. You’ll need to plan ahead, learn to recognise monster types and balance conserving your energy with landing a killer blow.
It also means every battle is an edge-of-your-seat affair, with each fight becoming progressively more difficult and stressful throughout the story. The learning curve here is relatively steep if you’re unfamiliar with the gameplay system, but one you get the hang of it you’ll thrive in the heat of battle.
As for difficulty, I’d put this game in the easy-to-mid range. 15 hours in, I’ve barely had to grind to succeed — but there have been several story-based battles I’ve struggled through or needed to repeat.
Egg hunting is still a blast
Alongside hunting, the primary activity your Monster Rider will do is ‘egg hunting’. Here, you’ll be able to track down Monster Dens and hunt for rare monsties by literally snatching them from nests. Is it mean? A little bit. But are the rewards worth it? Absolutely.
By nabbing rare monstie eggs, you can improve your existing monstie stats via a gene transferal ritual (known as the Rite of Channelling). Here, you can build out your perfect monstie, prepare for battle and equip devastating skills for toppling your enemies.
But the best part about hunting and exploring in the game is hands down the game’s map. As you travel, you’ll leave dots that track exactly where you’ve been, meaning you know when you’re re-treading old ground. If you’ve ever gotten stuck in a game because you don’t know where to go, Monster Hunter Stories 2 understands you, and loves you.
You’ll never get lost even when the Dens become more labyrinthine — and it’s such a fantastic system that reduces all the usual frustrations of exploring in dense RPGs.
But beyond these mechanics, exploration in Monster Hunter Stories 2 is just so fun.
Around every corner is a surprise, and around every corner is an egg or some other collectible worth your while. The rewards for finding rare goods can be massive, and it means you’ll want to poke in every delightful nook and cranny of the game.
It also means you’ll be easily distracted, but the game shines even off the beaten path.
Wings of Ruin is the perfect entry point
You don’t need to have played the original Monster Hunter Stories to enjoy Wings of Ruin. You don’t even need to have played a single Monster Hunter title, really. While some familiar gameplay elements are carried over, coming in fresh is simple and easy.
The game’s plot doesn’t rely on callbacks to Stories, the characters here are mostly fresh (although Felyne Navirou does return) and there’s plenty of early lore establishment to clue new players into the world of the game.
Really, it’s the best place to start with the Monster Hunter franchise as a whole — and the perfect excuse to start learning your Palicoes from your Paolumus.
After 15 hours, I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of Monster Hunter Stories’ unique world. There’s so much to explore, so much to collect and so many wonders to marvel at. It really is a beautiful game, and one well worth diving into regardless of your experience with the franchise. It might be the most accessible Monster Hunter game yet.
Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin launches for Nintendo Switch on July 9.