Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin gives us our second dose of Monster Hunter this year, not long after Monster Hunter: Rise released. It’s a good time to be a Monster Hunter fan with a Nintendo Switch, although this one was also released on PC.
The original Monster Hunter Stories was a 3DS exclusive JRPG that took place in the Monster Hunter universe. If you missed it because you didn’t play on the 3DS, then you’ll be glad to know that the sequel can be played as a standalone adventure. Being familiar with the Monster Hunter universe helps of course, but the story is self-contained.
While most Monster Hunter games (understandably, given the title) cast you as a hunter, you’re a young rider in this game – looking for monster (or monstie) eggs. Once they hatch you can train and battle with them, or use them as mounts when traveling. There’s a large selection of them in the game if you feel like collecting them, and most have different/unique attributes as well so it pays off to switch between them, but this isn’t the core of Monster Hunter Stories 2.
The most defining aspect about the game isn’t about monster hunting, but the turn-based combat system that is going to be familiar to anyone who’s played a JRPG before. You and your monster/monstie buddy will often be facing off against others, with you controlling your own character while your buddy is in charge of its own attacks. You have separate health bar, although there’s a point system where you lose a battle if a health bar gets emptied three times – no matter whose health bar was emptied the most.
This encourages and even forces you to work together, making decisions that not only work well for you but also protect your buddy. You’re often joined in battle by other duos as well, which makes battles even more interesting from a tactical point of view – while also making you less vulnerable, especially in the early stages of the game. With a lengthy story campaign it’s nice that there’s an option to speed up these battles as well, but this is likely something you won’t do until you’re very comfortable with what you’re doing.
While the story is excellent, the core story missions aren’t always very exciting, so even though there is dozens of hours’ worth of content it’s good to go on little side missions every now and then. A rich world full of side quests and new monster eggs to discover makes sense you don’t get bored easily, and the scope of the game is impressive for a game that can be played as a handheld title as well.
Speaking of which – the game does perform better in the Switch’s docked mode, but despite a few framerate drops this is a nice looking game with fantastic monsters and decent battle animations. There’s also a great deal of voice acting in the game, which helps with the storytelling aspects of the game – which as the title suggests is at the heart of the experience here. Having said that though – if you feel like gathering up monsters/monsties and crafting, much like you would in a mainline Monster Hunter game, then you can spend tons of time doing that as well.
With its excellent JRPG mechanics and story, this is a great title to pick up even if you’re not super fond of the monster hunting mechanics of the core games in the franchise. A rare AAA production on the Switch that’s not from Nintendo, this one is heavily recommended.