I’ve been trying to get into the Monster Hunter series for years with no luck. I’m keen on the idea of tracking and taking down a powerful beast. I love the series’ unique and imaginative monster and armor designs. I just can’t seem to come to grips with playing the demanding action RPG. Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin, with its exciting turn-based battles, compelling story, and bright anime-inspired visuals is much more my speed.
Proper Monster Hunter games like Monster Hunter Rise or Monster Hunter World are very rich and dense. No matter how hearty a tutorial I am given, I always seem to have trouble grasping the ins-and-outs of crafting, gathering, and battling. Which weapon should I use against which creature? Which armor should I be wearing? Do I have a spare half-hour to track and battle a single large creature? The answers are, in order, I don’t know, I don’t know, and probably not. If I had the time and inclination I’m sure I could be on par with fans who’ve been playing the series for years. Sadly I lack both, and so I’ve satisfied my craving for big, beautiful Capcom beasts by watching from the sidelines.
Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is a different sort of Monster Hunter game. Like the original Monster Hunter Stories, released in 2017 for the Nintendo DS, this new game is a traditional turn-based role-playing game. We’re still roaming the lush wilderness where massive, majestic beasts roam. The difference is that instead of engaging those monsters in active real-time battles, the screen shimmers and our characters and their monster friends take turns attacking the opposition. Instead of having to think on our feet, which is frankly exhausting, we can put down the controller in the middle of a battle and go get a sandwich.
Yes, in the Monster Hunter Stories series, monsters are our friends. Instead of hunters, we are riders, members of a special tribe that befriends the creatures Monster Hunter proper players have been murdering for years. We collect their eggs, hatch them, and add them to our party, where we can switch them in and out of combat on-the-fly. We form a kinship with them, which allows us to team up to perform powerful attacks with entertaining, often over-the-top animations. Sure, we still kill our enemies and use their bits to make new armor and weapons, but instead of carving bits off of their corpses they just show up as rewards at the end of fights, which is much more humane.
We take those bits back to the blacksmith, who makes and upgrades flashy new weapons and armor. We gather bits of plants, minerals, and animals while roaming the field in order to craft medicines or fulfill side quest objectives. These are very straightforward actions in Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin, intuitive and easy.
Monster Hunter Stories 2 is also big on storytelling, which seems like a good move given the game’s name. You play as the descendant of the main character from the first Monster Hunter Stories game. Years after the events of the DS game the draconic Rathalos have begun disappearing all over the world. A mysterious young woman appears with a Rathalos egg that contains a creature fated to destroy the world. It’s up to your player character to befriend this supposed legendary creature of ruin and keep bad things from happening.
While I’ve never played the original Monster Hunter Stories, I don’t feel at all lost in the sequel. The game explains who I am, what I am doing, and otherwise sets up the plot quite neatly, leaving me free to revel in my pink-haired character creation’s adventures in one of the most entertaining turn-based battle systems I’ve encountered.
It’s an evolution of the battle system from Monster Hunter Stories. It uses the same rock-paper-scissors hierarchy of technical-speed-power attacks, with players and monsters clashing in head-to-head battles using normal and special attacks assigned those attributes. You can carry up to three signature Monster Hunter weapons into battle, swapping them on-the-fly to take advantage of their special abilities and enemy weaknesses. Your monsters fight of their own accord for the most part, save when your kinship level reaches max. Then you can perform a super-powerful kinship attack. And should a guest character in your party perform a kinship move with their monster at the same time, a spectacular team-up occurs. You can see all of this in action in the video below, in which I show a feral Anjanath who is boss.
It’s the kind of dynamic turn-based battle system that leaves me smiling every time. Even the easiest battles feel exciting, and I keep finding myself steering my monsters into encounters even when they’re nowhere near the path I am supposed to take to my next story objective. That’s not something I normally do. If anything I usually try to avoid battles to speed the story along.
Though I’m only a few hours in playing the PC version (it’s also out on Switch), Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is making me very happy. I’ve finally found a Monster Hunter game that caters to my personal tastes and strengths. I get the chance to hang out with Capcom’s gorgeous bestiary without the stress of trying to find a party, harvest the best armor bits, or chase a single creature across a map for a half-hour hoping to get a kill. It’s one of the chillest Monster Hunter games going, and I’m here for it.