Review – Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin
Over the past few years the Monster Hunter franchise has become one of my all-time favourites. Between the fantastic Monster Hunter World, Iceborne, and Rise, I have poured hundreds upon hundreds of hours into these games and counting. I can’t seem to get enough of them. Monster Hunter Stories is a niche title that didn’t get too much attention and I wasn’t familiar with it at the time, but was loved by most people that played it. Now with the rapidly growing popularity of the Monster Hunter franchise we have the latest entry: Wings of Ruin.
In Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin you play as a Rider. You are the descendent of the legendary rider, Red, who rode the famous Razerwing Ratha, but mysterious pits with red beams started appearing around the world . Years later you are handed over an egg of a Rathalos, who according to legends possess the deadly Wings of Ruin. On the run from Hunters you must protect your new Rathalos and uncover the true power of the Wings of Ruin.
Monster Hunter has never taken a story-driven approach, but as the title suggests, Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin puts its story much more upfront, telling a intriguing tale of the bond between a Rider and a Rathalos with the potential power to wreak havoc on the world. It’s full of clichés and won’t blow you away, but it is a good enough time. Except for your Felyne companion Navariou, who returns from the first game. Navariou follows you throughout most of the game an will spend most of his time just being annoying and its inclusion is completely unnecessary, adding very little to the story.
Riders in the Monster Hunter universe vastly differ from their hunter counterparts you play as in the main series. Whilst hunters go out and kill everything on sight to craft a fancy new hat or weapon to help them, riders use kinship stones to raise them from birth to help them craft a fancy new hat. You explore the game world on the monsters’ back but they will also help you with the game’s turn-based combat.
Here you, your Monsties, and other story based companions you have with you will help you in battle against monsters in turn-based combat. They follow a simple but surprisingly effective rock-paper-scissors approach to the combat, going under the names of Power-Technical-Speed: with power beating technical, technical beating speed, and speed beating power. If a monster you are targeting is also targeting you, then you will be placed into a head-to-head instance where your combat tactic choice matters. Picking correctly or incorrectly will end up in one party dealing massive amount of damage. Not only that, but if your Monstie shares the same attack type as you whilst winning a head-to-head you will perform a combo attack.
It’s an incredibly simple combat system that makes Wings of Ruin incredibly easy to pick up, but there are more layers to it. Swapping out your Monsties and weapons play a critical role in the combat as you try to counter your opponents attacks by targeting particular parts, limiting their abilities and netting you a reward in the process. On top of this, as you fight your opponents, your kinship will build up, eventually allowing you to ride on your monster’s back and even perform an incredibly powerful attack. Whilst there is a lot to take in, tutorials do a fantastic job of explaining the mechanics without being exhaustive.
As a whole, I found the combat system to not only be a lot of fun, but also rewarding. Learning each of the enemies attacks and when they switch is key so you can quickly adapt. However, once you’ve learned a monster’s pattern, that’s pretty much it. It won’t do much to mix up the fights, as much the game can often fall a bit on the easier side, eventually becoming a touch repetitive. Thankfully, the pace new monsters are introduced stops things from becoming too stale by sprinkling boss fights and adding tougher enemy types throughout the game world.
Much like Pokémon, you will be building up on army of Monsties. However, how this is done is slightly different. To add a new Monstie to your collection, you need to delve into one of the game’s many dens and collect an egg. Bring that egg back to your home camp and you will be able to hatch it, adding that Monstie to your collection. Each egg has a unique pattern that makes it easier to identify which Monstie you will get out of it.
There’s a wide variety of Monsters that you can collect in Wings of Ruin. Not only that, but getting a duplicate Monstie isn’t a waste of time, as Wings of Ruin does a fantastic job always progressing you forward. Through the Rite of Channelling, you can take a trait from one monster (sacrificing them in the process) and place it in another monster. This is where the RPG elements really shine as you can upgrade your Monsties in many unique ways, giving them abilities they would otherwise never have access to.
Going through the Monster Dens does eventually get tiresome, as these “mini-dungeons” often lack anything interesting other than the egg at the end. Sometimes I would also just run away from monster encounters in the open world just to get to my objective. However, there are ways around that. Every monster type in the game has a unique perk in open world areas. Narcacuga, for example can turn itself invisible, a good way around enemy encounters you just don’t want to deal with. Whilst other monsters can jump over ledges, swim, and break parts of the environment giving you access to precious loot and resources.
Taking a more child-friendly look, Wings of Ruin uses a cell-shaded art style that is striking and and at times absolutely beautiful with stunning use of colours that make the environments just pop. The same attention to detail used in other games returns here, with unique weapon and armour designs that make them just that little bit more interesting even if they play mostly identically. Though some pop-ins, particularly in grassy areas, and poor textures can bring it back down a touch. Also, on the PC version at least, there are small black bars on either side of the screen. Not enough to ruin the game, but something I otherwise noticed. Playing on an RTX 2060 and 3600X at 1440p, I was achieving 60 frames per second at all times, with plenty of headroom on my GPU. It’s a really well optimized game and looks pretty good as well.
Sound design, for the most part, is pretty well done. The Monster Hunter franchise has always had an excellent soundtrack that makes every victory, every moment feel just that little bit more epic. However, the sound design isn’t perfect, with some poor voice acting and some characters that just get annoying.
Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is a much better game than I could have ever anticipated. It’s a very clever spin on the Monster Hunter formula, with a cutesy art style, turn-based combat that is easy to pick up regardless of your experience with RPG games, a serviceable story, and more than enough depth and sidequests to keep you busy for hours.
Wings of Ruin has a strikingly beautiful art style, but is occasionally let down by a lack of detail and pop-ins.
The turn-based combat puts a smart twist on the Monster Hunter formula. There are some smart RPG elements thrown into the overall gameplay as well. The dungeon crawling can be exhaustive at times, but the game does a good job at introducing new mechanics to spice things up.
Monster Hunter once again comes in with a killer soundtrack, but its voice acting could have been a little bit better
Wings of Ruin is a highly entertaining entry to the franchise I really wasn’t expecting to enjoy as much as I did.
Final Verdict: 8.0
Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is available now on PC and Switch.
Reviewed on PC with an Ryzen 5 3600X, RTX 2060 and 16GB RAM.
A copy of Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruins provided by the publisher.