08 Jul 2021 11:35 AM +00:00

Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings Of Ruin Review - Soaring To New Heights

Monster Hunter Stories was an intriguing 3DS spin-off several years ago. Offering a more traditional RPG experience, Stories saw us playing as a Rider, letting us bond with Monsters and utilised turn-based combat. Four years later and fresh off Rise’s heels, Capcom's brought us Stories 2: Wings of Ruin on PC and Switch, a brand new story that thankfully isn’t reliant on playing the first game. This isn’t your normal Monster Hunter experience by any means, and Capcom’s onto another winner.

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Read More: Does Monster Hunter Stories 2 Demo Progress Carry Over Into the Full Game?

We're Soaring, Flying

You can customise the protagonist's appearance.
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You can customise the protagonist's appearance.

Our adventure starts on Hakolo Island, where Monster Riders revere Guardian Ratha, who once bonded with a famous rider, Red. Playing as Red’s grandchild, our protagonist begins their journey as Rathalos disappears from this world, entrusting his egg to a mysterious Wyverian girl, while a rage-inducing light begins infecting monsters everywhere. With nature in disarray and growing concern over the “Wings of Ruin” prophecy, we’ll be joined by several new allies - including returning Feylne Navirou – in discovering the truth, taking ownership of Ratha’s egg.

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Presenting an engaging mystery and great cast of characters, it didn't take long to find myself hooked. While Wings of Ruin opts for a more family-friendly experience - think Pokémon meets Monster Hunter - there's a wonderful spin-off within, one that builds upon the original game’s foundation nicely. Because our protagonist remains silent, Navirou often fills the speech gaps and unfortunately, he's a bit of a loud-mouth. That's slightly annoying, but far from a dealbreaker.

Once we begin exploration, you'll visit several vast open areas, ranging between tropical islands, snowy mountains, harsh deserts and beautiful forests. Within Wings of Ruin, our Riders using Kinship Stones to form bonds with monsters (or “Monsties”), raising them after hatching eggs, giving them nicknames and setting a lead Monstie to join you in combat, forming a small party. Each holds specific skills like smashing boulders, swimming and jumping across platforms, often required to advance during exploration.

Rock, Paper, Scissors!

Yes, he's called Ian.
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Yes, he's called Ian.

While players can just proceed with story missions, exploration is half the fun. Across these visually stunning locations, you'll find numerous treasure chests, collectable materials and side quests to undertake, many quests being based around those two activities. Monster Dens allow you to obtain eggs from within, while “Rare Dens” offering creatures with better genes, which give stat boosts like increased attack or elemental resistances. Not long in, players learn the “rite of channeling” that lets us merge two Monsties into one, letting them inherit specific genes.

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Monsters are everywhere across these lands and walking into them starts a fight. Retaining Stories' turn-based approach, Wings of Ruins contains 4-person parties, including yourself, an NPC and both of your lead Monsties, though only the protagonist is directly controllable. During battles, players draw upon special Kinship Skills through your Stone’s gauge, and if it fully charges - built up by normal attacks - you can team up with the lead Monstie to launch a powerful strike, alongside Double Attacks should you choose the same attack type.

While combat isn't entirely reliant on this system, Wings of Ruin implements a “rock, paper, scissors” style approach, and combatants perform one of three attack types: Power, Technical and Speed. Power beats Technical, Technical beats Speed, while Speed beats Power. Most enemies can be hit without much consequence, but if you and an enemy target each other, that creates a “head-to-head” battle, so your choice determines who lands the hit.

Riders Unite

Bit intense...
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Bit intense...

There are six weapon types to consider too - Great Sword, Sword & Shield, Hammer, Hunting Horn, Bow and Gunlance – which can be upgraded, forged and bought from an armoury, alongside body armour. They can be forged using materials obtained during exploration and item drops from defeated monsters. Combat lets you switch between three different weapons, and each monster reacts differently. For example, monsters with harder shells won’t take much damage from swords, but hammers are a different story.

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Mostly, I enjoyed this approach. There’s good depth here allowing you to strategise, great customisation options and a wide choice in recruitable Monsties. My only real gripe is with the attack types system, since that can make battles feel slightly luck-based if you’re fighting a Monster you’ve not previously encountered. That said, enemies usually favour specific attack patterns and though it makes learning them slightly repetitive, you’ll learn what to expect after repeated fights.

Better still, you don't have to play alone, either. While Wings of Ruin is primarily a single-player experience, Dungeon Exploration quests allow players to search with friends, fighting freely or joining each other in battles, while Battle Challenges offer competitive side quests, and both are available offline with NPCs. There's also Versus mode, letting you take on other players in 1v1 or 2v2 tag-team matches, so while it's far from a fully cooperative adventure, that does give players a few options.

Verdict

It's a bit frosty today.
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It's a bit frosty today.

Ultimately, Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin marks an excellent sequel to its 3DS predecessor. By offering a vibrant setting, open-ended gameplay, an engaging story and mostly entertaining combat, this is one entry that’ll suit both established series veterans and Monster Hunter newcomers alike. If you consider yourself a fan of RPGs, you won’t want to miss it.

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4/5

Review copy provided by the publisher

Reviewed on PC