I'm almost embarrassed to admit this but I've never played a Monster Hunter game before. I've often been tempted to give Monster Hunter: World a try, and this year's Monster Hunter Rise caught my eye a few times, but neither game has really lured me in. The reason why is simple: the apparent complexity.
I'm not against complex games but I don't undertake them lightly now that my backlog is a high three figures. There's always the fear I'll bounce off what could be a great game because my mind wanders during a natural break in play sessions. However, Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings Of Ruin somehow made me commit to trying it out, and what followed were nights filled with fun, engrossing gameplay. Switch owners, this is a game you won't want to miss.
Check out the trailer for Monster Hunter Stories 2 here
Monster Hunter Stories 2 sees you working alongside your own personal monsters - known as monsties - as you set out on an epic quest to save the world from armageddon. Everything kicks off when you discover a rare monster egg that will one day birth a creature capable of wiping out everything with its eponymous 'Wings of Ruin'. I won't say much more about the plot to avoid spoilers, but it's an enjoyable tale with all the hallmarks you would expect of a fantasy journey.
The monsties are the best bit of Monster Hunter Stories 2. As you explore the world, you find monster dens randomly scattered about. Each den houses a nest containing an egg for you to plunder, hatch, and then raise as your own. Occasionally you'll find a gold-coloured rare monster den which offers a potentially more exciting egg. The more eggs you acquire, the more monsties on your team, and who doesn't want that?
Your monsties fight alongside you in battles, and doing so levels both you and your sidekicks up. This isn't the only way to strengthen your companions;there are quests which reward you with experience points. There's also the 'Rite of Channeling', which allows you to sacrifice one monstie in order to pass on a gene to another, unlocking a new ability for your chosen critter. Seeing your little animals grow stronger through all of this is thoroughly satisfying, and encourages you to find more and more monsties as you go. I imagine this is what having kids is like.
The battles are turn-based, and use a sort of 'rock paper scissors' mechanic. Attacks are mostly split into red (power), green (technical), and blue (speed) categories. Red triumphs over green, green beats blue, and blue topples red. Although simple in principle, there's more levels to the action. For instance, at the beginning of each turn, you can pick which enemy you want to fight. You can also see who your enemies are targeting, giving you the choice of facing them in a head-on clash. If you and your monstie target the same enemy, you'll unleash a double attack that overwhelms your foe and usually prevents them from striking back.
In combat, you have basic attacks, skill attacks, and items. Skill attacks use your charge meter - a bar that builds up as you use your weapon - and tend to do increasingly more damage than your basic attack (basic attack critical hits may differ). Then you have your items, which range from heals to buffs, to single-use weapons. As you battle, you'll build up your kinship meter, which lets you unleash a 'ride' attack. This is where you mount your monstie and hit your foe to do more damage. It has to be said that the combat is marvelous, with slick gameplay and some wonderfully over the top action sequences. There's also a ranking system at the end where you earn more rewards based on how highly you're scored.
When you're not engaged in battle, there's no shortage of gorgeous places to explore in Monster Hunter Stories 2. There are the Zelda-esque villages full of cute NPCs, offering you places to rest and resupply. These peaceful areas also offer smithies where you can buy and sell weapons, armour and other related items. They also offer forges where you can make your own accessories using parts harvested from downed monsters. This part in particular is great fun, letting you build numerous sets of handsome armour (the Basarios set looks especially good), as well as all manner of deadly weaponry.
Then there's the wide-ranging overworld, full of monsters, dens, treasures and gorgeous vistas. You can head out to take in the sights whenever you like, but the main quest will have you covering most places anyway. There are also fast travel points located throughout the game so you can retreat and recover with ease.
Your monsters are vital to traversing the world. As you ride on their backs, different critters will offer different ways of moving. While they all tend to run along the ground, some also have the ability to jump across ravines or climb vines. These extra forms of movement allow access to new areas, often leading to treasure chests.
Monster Hunter Stories 2 offers both versus and co-op multiplayer modes. The former pits you against other players, as you fight with your monsties in a turn-based duel. Then there's the co-op mode, where you'll fight together against various monsters. Sadly, neither of these options were available to me throughout my review so I can't say anything about them yet other than I'm keen to see what they offer.
It's worth noting that although Monster Hunter Stories 2 is a very pretty game for the most part, there are noticeable frame rate drops during some cutscenes. There are also issues with texture pop from time-to-time, and the way your character's armour and weapons merge is a tad jarring. None of this bothers me anywhere near as much as your felyne sidekick Navirou.
For the uninitiated, Felynes are basically the Monster Hunter universe's version of cats. They stand on their hind legs, they speak human languages and they are very, very cute. Sounds perfect, right? Unfortunately, Navirou seems determined to drive the stock of these creatures down by constantly making puns. I can handle one or two of these pitiful attempts of humour. I like to think I'm an understanding person, but I have my limits and Navirou doesn't respect that. The amount of puns is heinous, and I honestly wish I could yeet the little twerp off cliffs repeatedly until all his nine lives were spent and I could forge a new hat from his skeleton. I'm sure it would look purr-fect!
There's also the age-old issue of your protagonist not having a voice, or a name that is ever spoken by NPCs. This is nothing new for games where one designs and names the main character, but it still shatters the illusion whenever Navirou introduces me to someone as "my buddy", especially as I am not your friend, Navirou. Can you not see the contempt I hold for you in my eyes? Sorry, the anger is flowing through me so it's time to wrap this review up.
In short, Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings Of Ruin is an excellent turn-based RPG for Nintendo Switch. Raising monsties is a rewarding experience thanks to a variety of ways to strengthen your creatures. Battles are always satisfying, with great rewards for when you perform well. The world is beautiful and fun to explore. Although I was unable to test the multiplayer functionality, I can honestly say Monster Hunter Stories 2 is a marvellous game and a must-have for Switch players.
Pros: raising monsties, gorgeous world, fun battles
Cons: occasionally janky visuals, insufferable puns
For fans of: The Legend Of Zelda, Pokémon, Monster Hunter
Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings Of Ruin releases for Nintendo Switch and PC on July 9 2021. Game tested on Nintendo Switch with code provided by publisher. Find a guide to GAMINGbible's review scores here.
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