Review | Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin
"Are you ready Pawtner? Capcom sure is, and you should be too if you like them Pokemon monsters in a turn-based adventure that will make you hunt, hatch and grind whatever you find."
Well, yeah, turn-based JRPG. I’m just a sucker for those. I never tried MH Stories and I had no idea it is a turn-based game. As a huge fan of MH World & Iceborne this piqued my interest after seeing latest few trailers, and here we are, 46 hours later. I enjoyed my journey, so let me paint through words – who knows, maybe it finds someone and help to decide about buying this one.
Make the Hero and be the hero
Monsties and Riders
Imagine a Pokemon game but in the MH universe. Instead of Pokemons, you hunt and make friends with old crew such as Legiana, Nergigante, Glavenus and the rest of the fauna. Of course, you are to become the saviour and the best partner any monster can wish for.
After you customize (pretty basic stuff) your hero (and he will stay muted the whole bloody game), certain events will guide you and teach you about what will you do for the rest of the game. That is: train to develop monster-rider bonds, hunt for monster eggs, make them stronger, and defeat the whole world of monsters plus save world as they know it. If this doesn’t sound as something you like, add deep armor/weapon development system that will awake your RPG hunger and feed it while you slowly forget about the bad stuff. This is not a perfect game, but I just loved it. Let’s see why.
Like mentioned, this is a turn-based JRPG, just mostly with monsters. Anyone remember Monster Rancher games? I loved them. And I can pull some similarities from there, but let’s just explain what this is. What do you need when monsters outside your village start behaving angry, attacking others and whatnot? You need someone with a big-ass sword to calm the situation. Luckily enough, you will prove to be a rider – someone who can instruct monsters to fight alongside of you. You are a descendant of a previous hero, how could you not have the power to be the next great saviour?
Sorry for the pics in HandHeld mode! The game opens early, which is a good thing and kind of a bad as well. I wished there was more to it (when it comes to developing your character and battles)
Don’t expect deep story, but if you do like the crew, you can even end up enjoying it
The story is decent, but don’t expect much. The worst part of it is the flow; village, dungeon, new village, dungeon, monsters everywhere, defeat, go back, repeat. What you experience in the first few hours of the game is what will “haunt” you until its very end. When you stack this with generic dungeons it just doesn’t sit well. But, there is a “but”. Not a big one, but still.
I kinda grew with the crew. Throughout the game you will be accompanied with certain characters from their villages you go across your journey. Each “carries” a part of the story, nice cut-scenes and act as partners in battles. As you raise your bond of friendship with Ratha (the main story monster ally) they will help, they will stand by your side. The concept is very basic and straightforward, but when they wrap it up in such a lovely animated scenes, it’s hard not to stay interested. I miss cut-scenes like these in games, I love the animation and since the voice-overs are also good – this part is quite positive. Seeing some old “Monsties” beautifully drawn and animated reminds me why I love the series. It’s all about the deep monster system here, and that is the best part when others lack that kind of depth.
Even the quirky loco cat is good, maybe the best of them all (altough I know some of you will absolutely hate the cat!). You know how are JRPG has that irritating humoristic wannabe child that is all but mentioned? I loved the cat-friend, he is goofy with a good voice-over, which ended being not-irritating. Opposite of story being simple and linear that kicks in, making you enjoy its pace and core.
Dislike on the exploration, like on the world map, love for the Pawtner and big love for all crew members.
Exploration factor in the game’s worldcrafting
I want to cover the bad stuff first, so I will continue with exploration, dungeons and the world. Each part of the global map comes with story dungeons, optional ones and monster dens where you can farm your monsters. The problem is that they are all just too generic, even with concept of reaching different areas when you find monsters with certain skills (swimming, jumping, boulder destroying) they lack that stamp of uniqueness. They are very similar, the differences being the environments (based of a region you are in), size, and loot.
There are many crafting items, so basic pickups used for potions and such will grew all over the place. We can call that a common loot farming points. Then you have common treasure chests, accessory chests and Coin chests (exchange those for special weapons/armors/talismans/items). So, you reveal the map, switch monsters to reach all needed areas, pick up everything on your way while fighting vicious monsters on the way. That never improves, when you see the first dungeon, you’ve seen them all. Loading times will help, and fast travel always helps to ease the pain (I also love having the world map!).
Personally, I’m not a fan of open-world-bigger-generic dungeons thingy. What makes it bearable is the great equipment/crafting system. Each monster you defeat grant some reward monster parts (rewards being better when you get a better rank at the end). You can then visit the blacksmith and develop some weapons and armors from that monster. To get needed monster parts, destroy their parts and try to get better battle rank (S will grant the most drops). Each set comes with a certain weakness, but also strengthens you for battles. There are so many great-looking sets, so much to craft, I loved it. That is where MH excels in, so having many similarities from the main titles is something that I welcome in this case. Oh, and there is an option for Layered armors, which means you can wear the strongest set and just change the appearance to some you already had. Cool stuff!
Even though busting eggs is not something spectacular, what you do with Monsties and your equipment is cool. Some sets are so damn cool, but I miss more depth here. Even so, you will be happy when you defeat someone new so you can run back to craft its set.
Pikachu, I choose you
You can form a party of 6 monsters. That just means you carry them with you, ride whichever you want and use 1 in battle with possibility of changing any of 6 per turn. The concept of battles can be easily described as paper-rock-scissors system. When you attack you can switch weapon (3 categories of those) and a monster per turn. You want to do that because monsters come with one of 3 types of attack. You have power, speed and technical – each having advantage over other. When an enemy attacks with power, you want to use speed attacks to reduce the received damage and raise the damage towards an enemy and their parts. That also fills the bond bar with your monster depending of success of the turn. Skills also come with a type. Using skills differs depending on the weapon category (sword, hammer, arrow), which means swords have their own skills and so on.
Pretty simple and basic. Controlling monsters and allies is what I disliked. Basically you only have full control over yourself, but before choosing your action you can also see what they will use for that turn. Combining 2 of the same type attacks against weaker enemy action boost your output while completely cutting the turn of the enemy. Not every attack can be countered, so you need to observe the scene to act accordingly. It’s good to have a backup of the same type monster, the current one you use can often change the type of its attack, making the enemy attack stronger in that turn. When you switch to the different monster, its first attack is always of the type he defaults in (monster skills can be also used, but they require bond meter points).
What is good is that there are many monsters out there (more than 50 for sure), so always acting in your advantage is not going to happen all the time. When you learn the patterns, which monster part to destroy to bring it down so you can get an extra critical turn, then you will have a breeze, otherwise you can get killed real good. You can’t just drag the same weapons and armors through the long section of the game, you need to craft stronger ones and upgrade them. There is enough to entertain you through this somewhat simple battle system. And when you’re OP as hell, you can just obliterate the enemies in one move. Neat.
Spend some time to memorize the patterns and obliterate everyone. Animations for special attacks are awesome, they put so much effort in them
The bad part of the whole levelling system is lack of weapon skills. Few basic ones and some that comes with a weapon is all you will get. Why not have more Capcom? I guess they also want you to use items like traps and bombs to cut in line of their attacks, but that was just not enough for me.
The cool part are the special rider-monster attacks, which are basically limit breaks. Each monster you obtain have its own animation. Absolutely insane! You can also time this with your co-fighters when they travel with you to activate even stronger unique attack (although the same animation plays for each monster you use at that point).
Timing your turns is your key to victory, so learn to use your advantages.
Like you can battle a huge variety of monsters, you can also find their eggs and hatch them to get some monster. You can find different ones in each region, usually by visiting Monster Dens or optional dungeons (at the end there is an egg). Monster Dens usually lets you dig an egg or 4 – until you get one you want. You can distinguish them by the colour and the patterns; for example Nergigantes egg is a beautiful brown one with a star symbol.
Only Ratha (which I used the most) is a story-monster (well, the initial one as well), others can be found and raised in village stables. They come with some skill perks that are mostly random, which you can later fuse by sacrificing one to transfer some of their skill to the first monster. I didn’t bother much with this, the main goal is to get as many different monsters you can to reach all dungeon areas (by that I mean treasure chests blocked by a terrain obstacle). Then you also change your rooster with stronger ones, level them up for battles and develop different, yet similar strategies.
You can’t explore everything at the start. Some environment skills are carried by monsters in regions locked at the beginning, so expect a little backtracking. If you only follow the story you will not backtrack much, but if you want to finish side-quests and “catch ‘em all” you will have to re-visit dungeons. There is nothing stopping you from just enjoying the story, even though quests are easy to solve (and grant some recipes, unique items and skills). Maybe doing the quests tied to the villagers is enough, but if you want more, just visit the quest board and accept everything (you will solve most by just following the story after having them accepted). Grindy a bit, yes, but I like this kind of grindy.
Overal I enjoyed my time here, loved the high number of monsters and what you can craft, how the story is animated and how cute some things are.
Switch version comes with 30 FPS – I can’t say they are stable, especially in handheld mode. When you reach bigger areas you travel the main map, it stutters a bit. Pop-ins are also heavily present right in front of you. PC version is your aim if you prefer more stable FPS, but don’t expect much better performance. I just want to be clear, this is not bad, but it’s like that. After some time I get used to it, I was more into battles and animations anyway.
Also, zero issues, not a single crash. I guess that is just something that says Nintendo, it’s always great with their quality when it comes to developing a complete game as intended.
When you put all that on paper, include good sountrack (with some really awesome tracks), you can decide if this is for you. Decent characters, turn-based MH game with many mechanics from the main titles, simple but not boring story – I was up for it! The feeling of marching through the game to see what awaits dragged me all the time, and the 25-30h for the main story is just enough. If you want more, there is a post-game content which involves Elder dragons and more of the MH grind.
This is a simple, cute turn-based pokemon monster hunter JRPG you can love, but don’t expect the unexpected.