The truth is, the latest instalment in the Monster Hunter series is no different from the rest of them: in terms of gameplay, it’s the same addictive, hyper-realistic mix of action and resource management that the series has always been famous for. The only problem is that the new one is packed with a few more added extras that, while they make it a more engaging, enjoyable and downright addictive game to play, are also a bit too much for those who want to play it casually and on the go.

Monster Hunter Stories is a spin-off game in the Monster Hunter series, developed by Taiwanese studio, Capcom and released in Japan and later in North America and Europe. The game features the player as a young man or woman who attends Monster Hunter Academy to learn to hunt monsters.

In recent years, the Monster Hunter franchise has become one of my favorite games of all time. Between the fantastic Monster Hunter World, Iceborne and Rise games, I’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of hours with these games and I can’t count them anymore. I can’t get enough of these games. Monster Hunter Stories was a niche game that didn’t get much attention, and I didn’t know it at the time, but most people who played it liked it. With the popularity of the Monster Hunter franchise being so high, we have the latest installment: The Wings of Ruin.

Wings of Ruin not only allows you to fight monsters, but also to form alliances with them.

In Monster Hunter Stories 2: In Wings of Ruin, you play as a rider. You are the descendant of the legendary Razerwing Ratha Rider Red, but mysterious red ray pits have appeared all over the world. Years later, you receive an egg from Rathalos, which according to legend has the deadly wings of doom. On the run from the hunters, you must protect your new Ratalos and reveal the true power of the Wings of Ruin.

Monster Hunter has never taken a story-driven approach, but as the name suggests, Monster Hunter Stories 2: In Wings of Ruin, the story is much simpler, telling an intriguing tale of the bond between a rider and a Ratalos capable of wreaking havoc in the world. It’s full of clichés and won’t suit your taste, but it’s a good hobby. Except for your Felina companion, Navariu, who returned from the first game. Navariu follows you around most of the game and most of the time he’s just annoying. His involvement in the game is totally unnecessary and doesn’t add much to the story.

The hunters in the Monster Hunter universe are very different from the hunters you play in the main series. While hunters kill everything in their path to make a new hat or weapon, horsemen use kinship stones to raise them from birth so they can make a new hat. They explore the game world on the backs of monsters, but they also help you in turn-based combat games.

Here, you, your monsters, and your other story companions fight monsters in turn-based battles that follow a simple but surprisingly effective rock-paper-scissors approach to combat that goes by the name of force-tech-speed : Strength beats technique, technique beats speed, and speed beats strength. If the monster you’ve captured also has its sights set on you, you’ll find yourself in a one-on-one situation where the choice of combat tactics is crucial. The right or wrong choice will result in great harm to one of the parties. Not only that: If your monster uses the same type of attack as you, perform a combo attack during a battle won.

Narcakuga is the best monster… I changed my mind.

It’s an incredibly simple combat system that makes Wings of Ruin incredibly easy to understand, but there are other layers. Changing monsters and weapons plays an important role in the battles. You try to fend off enemy attacks by targeting specific items, limiting their abilities and being rewarded for doing so. As you fight your enemies, your kinship grows, eventually allowing you to ride on the back of your monster and even perform an incredibly powerful attack. The game has a lot going for it, but the tutorials do a fantastic job of explaining how the game works without being exhaustive.

Overall, I found the combat system to be not only very fun, but also useful. It’s important to know what your opponents are attacking and when they change direction so you can adapt quickly. But once you’ve learned the monster’s behavior pattern, that’s it, and it doesn’t help you add variety to your battles, often making the game a bit simpler and ultimately a bit repetitive. Fortunately, the pace of the new monsters keeps the game from getting too boring, as boss fights and more difficult types of enemies are included throughout the game world.

Like Pokémon, you have to create an army of monsters. However, the approach is somewhat different. To add a new Monstey to your collection, you must climb into one of the many holes in the game and collect an egg. Return this egg to your home camp and you can hatch it to add to your Monstey collection. Each egg has a unique pattern, making it easier to know what kind of monster you’re getting.

And you can drive!

In Wings of Ruin, you can collect a wide variety of monsters. Also, it’s not a waste of time to get a Monstey double, as Wings of Ruin does a great job of constantly moving you forward. With Rites of Direction, you can take a trait from a monster (and sacrifice it in the process) and put it into another monster. This is where the RPG elements really come into play, as you can upgrade your monsters in all sorts of unique ways, giving them abilities they otherwise wouldn’t have access to.

Going through a monster cave eventually becomes boring, as there is often nothing interesting in these mini-donjons except for the egg at the end. Sometimes I just ran away from the monsters in the open world to get to my destination. However, there are ways around this problem. Each monster type in the game has a unique advantage in the open world. Narcakuga can become invisible for example, a good way to dodge enemies you don’t want to face. While other monsters can jump over ledges, swim and destroy parts of the environment, giving you access to valuable loot and resources.

Wings of Ruin uses a more kid-friendly art style, with cel-shaded tones that are striking and sometimes just gorgeous, with amazing use of color that makes the setting just breathtaking. The same attention to detail as in the other games returns here, with uniquely designed weapons and armor making them a little more interesting, even though they look the same for the most part. Although some pop-ups, especially in grassy areas, and poor textures can reduce it a bit. Also, at least in the PC version, there are small black bars on each side of the screen. Not enough to ruin the game, but something I noticed. When I played with the RTX 2060 and 3600X at 1440p resolution, I always achieved 60fps and the GPU performance was always adequate. It’s a very well optimized game, and it’s also very beautiful.

Wings of Ruin is fantastic sometimes.

The sound design is well done for the most part. The Monster Hunter franchise has always had a great soundtrack that makes every victory, every moment a little more epic. However, the sound design is not perfect and the voice acting is not very good, some characters are just boring.

Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is a much better game than I expected. It’s a very clever take on the Monster Hunter formula, with a cute art-style, turn-based battles that are easy to master regardless of your RPG experience, a solid story, and more than enough depth and side missions to keep you busy for hours.

Wings of Ruin has a strikingly beautiful art-style, but is occasionally let down by the lack of detail and pop-in. The turn-based battles are a good addition to the Monster Hunter formula. The overall gameplay also has some clever RPG elements. Exploring dungeons can get boring at times, but the game does its best to introduce new mechanics to liven things up.
Monster Hunter is once again accompanied by a great soundtrack, but the voice acting could have been a little better. Wings of Ruin is a very enjoyable installment in the franchise that I didn’t expect to enjoy as much as I did.
Final decision: 8.0

Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is already available on PC and Switch.

The test was conducted on a PC equipped with Ryzen 5 3600X, RTX 2060 and 16GB of RAM.

A copy of Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruins was provided by the publisher.

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