Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin

 

Review by · June 13, 2024

It’s time to ride on, pawtner! Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is the second spinoff game for the challengingly rewarding Monster Hunter action RPG series. MHS shakes up the formula by putting you in control of a versatile monster rider instead of a formidable monster hunter. Monster riders form close bonds with the territorial and often temperamental creatures that inhabit the game’s colorful fantasy world. However, this peaceful coexistence is still seen with fear and suspicion by those who view monsters as dangerous beings needing eradication.

In Monster Hunter Stories 2, we begin with a celebration at Mahana Village, a tropical settlement known for its monster riders. For the first time in a long while, reluctant monster hunters are in attendance, seemingly to build a rapport between the two groups. However, the monster hunters have an ulterior motive, as an intense chase through the wilds outside the village occurs during the unsuspecting riders’ ceremony. The elderly monster protector of the region entrusts a young Wyverian woman named Ena with a unique monster egg. The egg and the region’s protector, known fondly by locals as Guardian Ratha, are Rathalos, a dragon-type monster. The sea color changes to red as many Rathalos fill the sky, flying toward an unknown destination.

Soon after these events, the grandchild of the famous Red, Guardian Ratha’s human rider with an ability to “talk” to monsters, sets out on their quest as a rookie monster rider, joined by a talkative Felyne named Navirou, a returning character from the first Monster Hunter Stories. Ultimately, their path crosses with Ena’s as they take an expansive journey to uncover the world’s truth. What happened to the missing Red and the swarm of Rathalos? Why are strange pits appearing worldwide, causing nearby monsters to become violently frenzied? Why is everyone convinced that the creature born from that particular egg in Ena’s care will bring calamity and ruin with a mere flap of its wings? Our heroes will ally with powerful friends and a whole host of monsters in their travels to uncover the truth, prove the strength of Kinship, and, hopefully, save their world.

Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin has a surprisingly deep story hiding beneath its colorful and often cutesy veneer. I became invested in seeing how the plot thickened as I progressed, and there are emotional moments throughout that primarily focus on the player character (who I’ll call Rider for the sake of this review) and their developing bond with the recently hatched Ratha, the Rathalos who may or may not have the dreaded Wings of Ruin. The narrative deftly explores Rider’s formed friendships with fellow riders Alwin, Avinia, and Kayna. The character of Red is a kindhearted, gentle presence woven throughout the story, and I adored the details of the later tale involving their devoted Guardian Ratha. Ena takes more time to warm up to as she comes across as a tagalong character at first, but I grew rather fond of her after learning more about her connections to everything and why she wants to help Rider and Ratha. The dynamic that develops between our leading group, along with monster hunter Kyle and his Palico ninja Tsukino, is a delight to witness, given how initially distrustful they are of one another. Admittedly, Navirou and his cat puns are an acquired taste, but even he grew on me. Other returning characters from the first game, like Reverto and Lilia, are lovely to see again, and I was particularly pleased by Cheval’s story coming full circle.

One could quickly look at this game and think it’s more geared towards children. However, the plot does take a darker turn later on with the reveal of the main antagonist’s motivations. Some story scenes have me thinking this is a family game or one geared more towards a preteens and up audience. I love the later narrative reveals, and the ending is fitting and surprisingly touching. This game’s story is a few years after the events of the first MHS, but it’s unnecessary to play both to enjoy this title. However, familiarity with the first game certainly adds another layer of appreciation to the narrative.

Of course, you didn’t come here just to read a plot synopsis, so let’s get down to what sets Monster Hunter Stories 2‘s gameplay apart from its action RPG counterparts. The game’s central conceit is that Rider collects different types of monster eggs, hatching them to create a veritable powerhouse team. A handful of these monsters can travel with Rider, Navirou, and Ena across the differing locales of their journey. Fields are massive and very close to an open world, with monsters having unique abilities that allow them to traverse areas that would otherwise be inaccessible to Rider. For example, Tiger can climb ivy to reach high up chests while Ratha gains the ability to fly. Battles occur when you encounter a hostile monster on the map, with Rider and your Lead “Monstie” engaging the enemy in turn-based combat. Rider can equip three different weapon types, each with unique abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. You can switch between them or choose which reserve Monsties you want to use instead in combat. You can manually control what your Monstie partner does per turn or leave that up to the computer and focus on Rider’s abilities instead.

Attacking has a rock-paper-scissors component: you pick one type of attack while your opponent decides on another. For instance, speed trumps power, so if you choose speed and they go for power, you get awarded the higher damage output. If you both pick the same thing, it’s a draw. Anticipating and correctly countering an opponent’s behavior also raises your Kinship level. Raise it high enough, and you can perform a special, over-the-top, devastating move against the opposition with your Monstie. Your Monstie also attacks alongside you, and if you both pick the “correct” attack type, you cause double the damage to the enemy.

It’s relatively simple to describe on paper, but the process is surprisingly robust and strategy-oriented. It helps to memorize each monster’s different behavior types and how those might change depending on whether the creature becomes enraged. Some creatures bury themselves underground, forcing you to use items to flush them out. More enormous monsters have multiple body parts to target as well. Focusing on and destroying one part could hinder their future actions. Fights are often long, drawn-out affairs that test your patience as you whittle away a monster’s massive HP pool. Fortunately, when you’re at a higher level than an enemy monster, you can quickly end the battle with a Quick Finish move.

In each new area you visit, Rider becomes buddies with a fellow monster rider and their Monstie or a monster hunter. These buddies join you in fights, though AI entirely controls them. If their Kinship gauge raises alongside your own, you can perform damaging combo attacks. You must keep in mind that you have three hearts shared between you and your Monstie as well. When your or your Monstie’s health depletes to zero, you lose a heart. Losing all three means you’ll automatically forfeit the fight and get sent back to your area’s headquarters.

Fortunately, there isn’t a set limit for your item inventory. You can buy in bulk or craft your own with collected resources once you have a recipe for an item. You gain materials through exploration or defeating enemies, and you can also use those parts to create new weapons or upgrade existing ones in your arsenal. Constantly gathering resources and upgrading gear is vital to survival. When you acquire eggs by exploring monster dens in the field and bringing them to stables to hatch, you welcome a Monstie into your fold or use it in the Rite of Channeling. This process lets you upgrade another Monstie’s abilities or gain entirely new ones. For instance, I gave my mainstay Tigrex, who I oh-so-cleverly named Tiger, access to Poison Spit. You can also send Monsties who are not in your active party out on group expeditions to continue collecting resources and experience.

There’s a wealth of things to see and do in every region, such as numerous side quests in conjunction with the main story. You can spend hours fighting monsters, exploring dens for new eggs to hatch, and using them to help build up your collection of Monsties. Even limiting my searches to only rare monster dens due to the odds of finding stronger monsters, I often got sidetracked for a long while from the main plot. That isn’t even getting into the meaty post-game content after the credits roll!

There’s not much I can say that’s negative about Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin. It has a slow-starting story at first, but the plot picks up considerably as you progress. There’s a rather significant difficulty spike in the last third of the game, but you can circumvent that by leveling and purposely getting sidetracked to stock up on items and resources along with monsters. I noticed a lot of loading screens on the PS4 version, but they barely managed to scratch below immersion-breaking.

Graphics-wise, I love how vibrant and expressive the game visuals are. Engaging, colorful details help bring imaginative areas to life, and the cartoonish aesthetic fits the game’s overall story themes. The English voice acting is well done, with several actors giving standout performances throughout. The music presentation is very fitting and moving, too, especially the battle themes you often hear at length. The translation and script work is great throughout, too!

I enjoyed playing the first Monster Hunter Stories on the Nintendo 3DS and found it a cute diversion. I expected similar from its successor, but Wings of Ruin‘s narrative surprised me with its hidden depth. It’s easy to lose yourself in Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin‘s monster-collecting world, and you can become invested in the plot more than you might initially expect. I’m glad I finally had the opportunity to play it! To channel my inner Navirou, Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is pawsitively clawdacious!


Pros

Wealth of content, strategy-laced combat, a plot that you’ll eventually get invested in, vibrant visuals and soundscape.

Cons

Sharp difficulty spike in last third, battles can become drawn out affairs, loading screen shows up a lot on the PS4.

Bottom Line

Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is a content-heavy, heartfelt monster-collecting adventure.

Graphics
85
Sound
89
Gameplay
95
Control
91
Story
82
Overall Score 91
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Audra Bowling

Audra Bowling

Audra Bowling is a reviewer for RPGFan. She is a lover of RPGs, Visual Novels, and Fighting Games. Once she gets onto a subject she truly feels strongly about, like her favorite games, she can ramble on and on endlessly. Coffee helps keep her world going round.