Game review: Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin (PC)
My only exposure to the Monster Hunter franchise was the recently released Monster Hunter World. I was not even aware of the first Monster Hunter Stories game released in 2017 exclusively on the Nintendo 3DS. Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin, like its predecessor, swaps out action combat for more traditional Japanese RPG-style battles.
Players start as a young novice hunter on Hakolo Island, under the mentorship of an experienced hunter, Kayna. Across the world, the monsters known as Rathalos have disappeared causing chaos for the monster population. The player’s character meets a girl called Ena who was a friend of the novice hunter’s famous grandfather, the monster rider, Red. Entrusted with a special Rathalos egg the pair, plus a Felyne called Navirou, leave the island and set out on their adventure.
As with most JRPGs, the story is a huge part of the game. Wings of Ruin has that delightful and playful anime storytelling feel about it.
For the most part, the game involves exploring the various locations and embarking on quests that usually end up with a boss fight and a new monster egg as a reward. Eggs can also be found in dens that area dotted all on the game world. In the monster nest, one egg can be chosen, with Navirous’ expert help to get the best one. Eggs can be hatched at the stables and added as your mount.
The ethical dilemma posed by the characters’ actions is totally ignored by the game, which otherwise has an almost innocent Pokemon-style tone. The game delivers a sense that our heroes are seeking to preserve some sort of holistic balance for the monster population (which the game nauseatingly refers to as “monsties”). This is in stark contrast to the game’s primary mechanic of killing monsters, stealing their eggs, and raising their hatchlings as their own. Adding insult to injury, these domesticated monsters are then ridden into battle to kill more monsters. But perhaps I’m overthinking this.
The cell-shaded style of the character and monster designs are superb. Similarly, the character animation is also very well done. The game environments are a bit sparse compared to the main Monster Hunter games. The visuals do feel more appropriate in fidelity to that of Nintendo Switch than a PC sporting an RTX 3090 graphics card.
As is the way with RPGs customisation is a big part of the game. Finding materials and forging new weapons and armour to make a unique and powerful character is great fun and very rewarding.
As well as upgrading your player character, you can also swap monster abilities using the Rite of Channeling to transfer genes from one monster to another. This can create unique monsters with abilities that they would not have naturally.
Mounting monsters allows players to traverse the world quicker than walking. Some monsters have extra abilities that enable them to climb, swim and fly, etc. to reach out of the way places.
The combat is a relatively simple turn-based affair with each of your party plus their monster mounts having an attack round. There are three basic attack types to choose from - speed, power, and technical. They work on a sort of rock, paper, scissors basis when attacking head-on. Speed beats power, etc.
There is also as that when filled unlocks special kinship attacks that be performed when mounted. These can be doubled up if another of your party performs the same attack.
There’s no avoiding that the game feels like a Nintendo Switch game ported to PC. The camera is very twitchy. Despite my best efforts, I was unable to adjust the sensitivity in a manner that made it feel smooth. A small issue, though, and one that I got used to. The game loads frequently as you move to different zones, likely due to the memory constraints of the Switch.
Loading doesn’t take long, but it is noticeable and completely unnecessary on PC.
Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is a charming spin-off of the main Monster Hunter series. It’s a bit lighter and easier to play, as well. It feels more like a portable game than one suited to PC. I imagine that it makes for a good Switch game that can be played on the go. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my time with the game more than I did with Monster Hunter World due to its more casual feel. The combat is fun without being overwhelming and the story is great as well.