Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin - Review (Nintendo Switch)

Monster Hunter has always had a captivating world and lore surrounding it, but has suffered from having minimal story in the main lines games. Thankfully, Monster Hunter Stories fixes that by giving us an RPG that manages to tell a beautifully captivating story, alongside engaging gameplay. Check out our full review below!

Disclaimer: This post contains very heavy spoilers for Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin. If you have yet to finish the game, or wish to remain unspoiled, please check back at a later date

Instead of hunting Monsters, the Stories series has you battling alongside them, channelling your friendship with your Monsties (called Kinship), helping those in need. You start off as a rookie rider, the grandson of the famous Rider Red, when suddenly you're thrown into the world of Monster Hunter Stories, meeting an assortment of quirky  characters along the way.

The main gameplay loop comes from farming and hunting for Monster Dens. Entering these Dens brings you to Monster Nests, these nests house eggs which you can hatch and then add to your team. There are common and rare dens, with the rare dens usually holding better monsters with more useful genes, and I found myself spending hours neglecting the story just to farm Dens.

The combat system is simple, yet elaborate, and admittedly can take a little while to really get the hang of, but once you do, it hits nice. Essentially, you have an attack triangle, of Power, Speed, and Technical attacks. Power beats Technical, Technical beats Speed, and Speed beats Attack. The main draw is learning what type of attack your opponent will use, and then using the type of attack that counters that type. You really need to learn the attack patterns, and if you listen to Navirou's hints, they'll help take the guess work out of the equation for you.

Every attack you deal helps build up your Kinship Gauge. Once this is filled, you can ride your monster, and continue building the gauge for more damage, or  you can unleash use a powerful attack with you and your Monstie. Riding your Monstie will heal a substantial amount of health to both you and your Monstie, and a Kinship skill will deal a huge amount of damage to your opponent, potentially staggering them and preventing them from attacking that turn. The use of your Kinship Gauge can really help you out in a pinch!

You can also use the power built in your Kinship Gauge to use a number of weapon skills. These skills depend on the type of weapon you're using, and can come in handy. The Sword and Shield can have you use a counter to take less damage from your opponent, then retaliate with massive damage, or use the more passive Hunting Horn for a critical hit boost! You can also use the Gauge to have your Monstie use specific abilities they've learned.

Your weapon types have been cut down to 6, rather than the full 14 from the main series. The Sword & Shield, Great Sword, Hammer, Hunting Horn, Bow and Gunlance are the only weapons available here, but they all do the job and give you the slash, blunt, and pierce attack type. I found the combination of Sword & Shield as my main go to, paired with the Hunting Horn and Bow the best. The added defence from the shield, plus it's counter move was helpful for learning Monster attack patterns, before going on the full on assault. If I found myself struggling, going in with the Hunting Horn for some buffs helped, and then using the Bow when attacking from a distance was necessary, I was able to breeze through most of the story.

The combat system is really a whole other level that could be explained in an entirely separate post. Instead of going over it here, I urge you to look at your YouTube tutorials to really get the hang of it. It took me a while to get the hang of it, but once I did it was a breeze. There's even a plethora of smaller, weaker monsters to help you get the hang of it, to make sure you can be your best during any boss fights!

The boss battles weren't all that difficult, and they're not all too punishing if you fail. At worst, you just lose the handful of healing and hunting items you used in the fight. As long as you're upgrading your weapons and armor, forging new ones as you progress, and using healing items as necessary, there shouldn't be too much of a struggle. The game autosaves and has a number of fast travel points in the Catavan Stands, so if you need to go back to the Village for a free auto heal, or grab some more supplies, there really isn't any reason not to.

Personally, the game remained rather steady difficulty wise, until we reached Oltura, that is. That final boss made me fail a good couple of times before I finished it. I also found Kyle's audio to be very faint during those scenes compared to everyone else. It's also weird that it's shown to have these massive tentacles that eat Rathalos, but they don't appear in the right. I was looking forward to more of a "horror" themed Monster when those tentacles are first scene (which gave me big Dala'madur vibes), so it was a little disappointing to see it's just another Dragon.

If you are struggling through the story, the game does give you a number of tools to help you out. Traps and knives aren't really explained, but if used mid-combat, and stop a Monster from attacking you for a few turns if you're really struggling. The Monster and Monstipedia can also help you out if you're looking to add a specific Monstie to your party. I just wish it had a little more detail on the Monster weaknesses, such as what attack type they use when enraged. It does tell you where Monsters located if you want to try nab their eggs, as well as how to increase their retreat rate.

The Prayer Pot is another useful tool that can really help you out that is more of left unexplained. If you're struggling, you can use a Charm to have a prayer effect active for 30 minutes per charm offered. You can only use one specific charm at any given time, though, so you can't use it to buff your attack and defence, but if you're looking to grind EXP, need some passive healing, or want a defence buff before going against a boss, the prayer pot is really worth checking out. It levels up the more you use it, too! There's a number of nutrients you can give to your Hunter and Monsties to help raise stats, which can further give you that extra boost if you're struggling.

The EXP and levelling system is easily balanced so if you ever want to add a new Monstie to your party, it doesn't take too long for it to level up to the rest of your team. You can use the Monstie Expeditions to let Monsties in your stable level up and gain EXP if you ever want to use them later, but simply adding them to your party one at a time works like a charm. When my Monsties were in their mid 40's, I wanted to add a new Monstie to my party, which had just hatched at Level 1. After one battle, it gained enough EXP to reach Level 38, and was more than capable of matching the strength of the rest of my team! Once you've reached a certain part of the story and our team is strong enough, you'll be able to press ZR and ZL to quick finish a battle, instead of having to go through the entire battle sequence. This comes in handy when you need to grind EXP, or are after certain monster materials.

The biggest let down with the story is the silent protagonist trope. In some games (like Zelda) it works really well, but here, they're trying to show your bond with your Monsties and Ratha, but it completely falls flat and feels awkward due to your mute character, and having Navirou hold the conversation for you. Thankfully, your character is animated rather well during these cutscenes, so they're able to convey their emotions properly, but the lack of voice acting does feel rather dumbfounding at times.

Through out the game, the only character whose voice acting fell flat was Roverto. Most of the characters you meet sound how you'd expect - the cats sound like cats, the humans sound like humans - but then there's Roverto, whose stereotypical "dude/surfer" dialect just sound jarring compared to the rest of the cast, and doesn't seem to fit in. By all means, Roverto's isn't bad, but his accent is what makes him feel off at times. The cutscenes are absolutely beautiful, with stunning visuals and flare, so as long as you can look (or listen) past a few jarring voice clips, you're in for a good time.

The story itself is alright. It does a good job pacing wise and manages to keep you moving and interested the majority of the time. A tonne of Rathalos are fleeing the lands, a girl named Ena is given a Rathalos egg from Guardian Ratha, which she chooses to protect after the tale of the Wings of Ruin claim this Rathalos egg could mean the end of the world. You protect the egg, hatch the egg into a little baby Rathalos, and battle with it, watching it grow alongside the player. Ratha is nice and cute, but once he's fully grown, there really isn't anything else distinguishing him from a regular Rathalos (minus a slight change to the wing pattern); it would have been nice to give him a little more design quirks to make him stand out.

Throughout the story, Ratha has some ups and down, being unable to control it's true power, you manage to harness and control it after being kidnapped by a group of hunters who want to use Ratha for some unknown reason, all whilst you're travelling the world, trying to figure out why all these pits have opened up, which cause nearby Monsters to go enraged. There's a tonne of progression that really keeps you interested.

Apart from the afore mentioned silent protagonist issue, the rest of the story blends perfectly well, albeit a bit predictable at times. The starting village ends up being near the home of Oltura, but outside of the games opening, there's almost no connection to bring you back here until the final battle. If they managed to loop back Mahana Village to the story a couple more times - and either improved the silent protagonist trope, or removed it entirely - it would have raised the stakes just that little bit more and had the finale feel like a true, personal ending to an epic adventure.

There is a cutscene where Ratha completely destroys part of Kuan village, but in the actual game it's perfectly fine. Not to mention, once it's destroyed, Avinia is clearly upset and hurt for trusting you and Ratha, resulting in the destruction of her hometown, but this feeling of betrayal and disappointment is quickly forgotten about and all is forgiven. That could just be down to me misinterpreting  the scene, but if this side to her had further been explored, she'd probably take the top spot for best companion character, with that spot instead being given to Kyle and Tsukino.

Being a sequel, there are references to the previous game, not so much that they affect the story, but they do leave you with questions of wanting to go back and play the original. Characters like Cheval have their backstory perfectly explained, but as for Navirou, it's never mentioned specifically how he got his super-sayan Zinogre powers - they just pop up in the middle of the story and never get mentioned again - and giving a little more depth and explanation to these characters wouldn't hurt. This could also help to explain why Roverto sounds the way he is, but having barely touched the original I can't say for certain. With any luck and a little success, it would be nice to see the original game ported to the eShop at some point.

Other than that, there really isn't a whole lot to complain about storywise. It was really nice seeing Mahana Village and the nearby area looking like the apocalypse is near once Oltura has awoken. A lot of games seem to have this "impending doom" feeling coming, but then when you go back to previous areas there's no visuals indicating anything is out of the ordinary. Here that's not the case, and the feeling of horror can be seen as you explore the island of Mahana. If you travel to the other areas, everything is as normal, but with Mahana being an off-shore island away from the rest of the world, this makes perfect sense.

The different areas you can explore are really nice to look at. Other than Loloska feeling more linear with small pathways and less open-world than the previous areas, and the beautiful visuals and cherry blossoms of the Pomore Garden not getting more space, every region manages to feel distinct, with the Lamure region being the standout for us. Each region has their own assortment of Monsters roaming the overworld, which change as you progress through the story.

My only gripe with Monsties is some of them feel like they should have more than 1 riding action; which are skills to help you traverse the overworld. Monstie's that can swim help you travel the oceans and rivers, some can break rocks in your way, and even climb up vines. For example, Mizutsune feels like the perfect fit to be able to swim, but it's stuck with the single Dash ability. The same goes for Tigrex, Rock Breaker and Ivy Climb seem much more beneficial, but it's stuck with Ivy Climb and Dash... 

A lot of other Monsters suffer this problem, too, with only being stuck with one action, when they could easily benefit gaining an additional one. Anjanath and Zinogre are such cool Monsters I'd love to have on my team, but they're stuck with the single circumstantial skills of Roar and Jump, respectively. Having one of each attack type on your team is easy enough, but then balancing that so you have enough riding skills to reach any hidden areas and chests becomes a challenge. Thankfully, other than the fly ability, most of these field abilities are only really needed to grab chests in the overworld that have rewards.

There are Monsters from every main line Monster Hunter game included, but there's a severe lacking of Iceborne and Rise Monsters. Iceborne only has Velkhana and Fulgar Anjanath, whilst Rise only has the Palamute for representation (there could be a few more, I'm just going off memory here). It's understandable, as these games were all in development at the same time, but they managed to make way for 2 Iceborne Monsters, they could have easily given some of the base World monsters their subspecies. This is just a minor nitpick, and comes down to my greed of wanting lots of Monsters in the game.

On the topic of Riding, some of their movements feel very... odd. When riding Zamtrios - whilst classified as an amphibian and loosely based off a frog - it hope and bounces around so much, despite all its movements in every other Monster Hunter game not showing this. It does make sense though, and hey, Pokemon did the exact same thing with Venusaur, but its movement just feels very awkward...

The game does offer multiplayer, but I've yet to touch that as of yet. From what I've seen online, it's a fun experience to play with friends, and if you don't have anyone to play with, you can always have computer join you, and the AI seems decent. Capcom also has a roadmap to add updates to the game through out the end of September, which is sure to add a tonne of powerful Monsties to the game, so there's a heap to look forward to once you finish the main campaign.

If you're a fan of the world of Monster Hunter, RPG's, or have just been interested in the Monster Hunter series, this is a good starting point! It's a lot less attentive than the main series game, but still hold it's charm, lore, and world building that the more classic games have. If you're still unsure, you can always download the demo available on the eShop!

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