It’s easy to fall into the trap of expecting a wholly different game when starting Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin. But dismissing the spin-off sequel as a title to fill the gaps between mainline releases – with Rise still a Nintendo Switch exclusive – would be quite a shame. Capcom has managed to deliver a fully-fledged turn-based RPG that does its own thing while remaining very conscious and making excellent use of the name it carries.
In Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin, you’re a fledgling Rider who’s been entrusted an egg that could hatch a Rathalos with the power to bring ruin to the world. You set off in search of a way to stop that from happening, all while battling and collecting Monsties but also gaining understanding about Kinship with these creatures.
Where Hunters spend most of their time tracking down and hunting monsters to preserve the ecosystem’s balance, Riders actually form bonds with their chosen Monsties. This is a central plot point in Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin and your silent protagonist just so happens to have been paired, through a mixture of convenient storytelling and heritage, with one particular Rathalos that’s seemingly destined to bring ruin to the world.
The story itself has its share of light-hearted and humorous moments to balance out its outright dramatic moments. But while it comes with high stakes and a few twists, it never really stands out, resorting to a lot of familiar tropes and clichés to get its point across. The characters you meet along the way are fine, but attachment comes from battling alongside them, rather than striking personalities.
The story takes up a bigger chunk of time but mainly acts as a reason to get you moving through different areas, battling monsters, grinding parts, and crafting new gear. You can easily follow its events without having knowledge of the previous game in the series, but our hunch is that having played the original may help you get more out of a few particular encounters.
Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin looks and feels like an interactive anime, which sometimes works in its favor, but also leaves something to be desired. The monsters are easily the stars of the show, brimming with detail. Beautiful, stylish colors may not immediately betray how lethal a Legiana or a Tobi-Kadachi can be and you might be tempted to laugh at a Conga’s goofy look before it debuffs you with a well-aimed fart. But get your first glimpse of a Nergigante, with its sharp horns and spike-covered wings, and you’ll know you’re in for a world of hurt.
Their attack animations also do a great job of translating the sheer power and speed of some of these monsters, despite the fights’ more static nature. Kinship skills are the cherry on top and triggering these massively impactful, over-the-top strikes pretty much suggest that you may be willing to end the world yourself just to get that one Barrioth’s fang, so you can put it on a long stick and look cool.
Similarly, the weapons and armors you make from different monster materials have an impressive amount of visual variety that had us debating whether we really wanted to give up our stylish top hat just because the monster we had to fight next dealt additional damage while we wore it.
Unfortunately, Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin’s locations don’t hold up so well. Sure, you do trek across a handful of biomes, but the environmental textures have a consistent low-quality look to them. The same can be said about the flora, which is present in a much smaller quantity than in a game like World. Whether it’s a snowclad mountain peak, a wide-open desert, or a tree-covered forest, most of the areas you’ll go through feel desolate, almost like they’re there just so you can collect ingredients and initiate the inevitable monster fights. Certain moments benefit from expertly used colors, instilling a mood that’s woefully lacking while exploring, but they’re few and far between, failing to create a cohesive world.
Audio & Music
The music and voice acting hold up enough to carry the story forward. The cast fits the different character archetypes but, again, it’s the monster sounds that really stand out due to how they turn opponents, whether scaly, furry, or horned, into tangible threats once engaged.
Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin retains the core loop of exploring the world, battling monsters, and improving your character’s gear, which should be familiar to players of the mainline entries, while adding a couple of its own spins to it. Its turn-based combat relies on a rock paper scissors attack system that, while simple, manages to keep things consistently interesting thanks to a handful of supporting mechanics. Both you and your foes have access to three main attack types: Power attacks that beat Technical attacks, Technical attacks that beat Speed attacks, and Speed attacks that beat Power attacks.
If you attack an enemy that’s targeting you, you initiate a Head-to-Head that weighs your attacks against theirs. Whoever wins, deals an increased amount of damage to their opponent. If both you and your Monstie target the same enemy with the same “winning” attack type, you initiate a Double Attack that deals higher damage while robbing them of their chance to strike back. These are powerful tools and can sometimes make the difference between using tons of consumables or even losing the fight. Pulling them off is not just satisfying by itself but also increases your Kinship Gauge, which you can use to unleash a devastating attack. Better yet, you can also pair these special attacks with those of your Battle Buddy – characters that join you at fixed points in the story – for even more devastating effects.
Aside from regular attacks, you also have access to a set of weapon skills that change depending on the chosen type you wield, out of a total of six. Greatswords get flashy slashes, Gunlances can shell opponents or use the powerful Wyrmstake once you gain enough ammo through performing regular attacks, while the Hunting Horn provides useful party-wide buffs that remove status effects, gradually heal allies, or increase their combat capabilities. Weapons also deal a certain one of three types of damage which is effective (or not) against different monster body parts.
The first battle against a new monster is always thrilling as you don’t know what to expect. It takes time to learn their patterns and, even once you’ve figured out their preferred attack types – which can change as the fight progresses and they enrage – most monsters also use abilities you can’t directly counter using attacks. Once you get blasted to bits with an ice beam, you’ll start anticipating when to guard or which body part to prioritize attacking. See a flying monster take to the air and prepare to crash down upon you? Items like the Flash Bomb will bring it down in an instant, rendering it vulnerable for an entire turn. Just like your gear, monsters have strengths and weaknesses. You can equip up to three weapons when going into fights and, having one that deals elemental damage to which your opponent is vulnerable helps you hold onto the three hearts that, when lost, trigger an instant retreat.
During battle, you can also get a handful of quicktime events that are straightforward enough to spice things up without becoming annoying over time. All these variables can seem overwhelming, especially as you keep encountering new monsters for the entire game, but they’re introduced naturally throughout the campaign, easily becoming second nature after a while. Better yet, some of this knowledge also translates to the mainline games, which makes Wings of Ruin a great point of entry into the series. Since fights can drag on for quite a while, you can also speed up animations with a simple button press.
But what’s all this talk of Monsties? Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin also has a creature collection aspect to it that’s very important. Where other riders have one Monstie that they always stick with, you get to have lots of them, alongside your awesome, possibly world-ending Rathalos. Monster Lairs randomly spawn across the world, giving you the opportunity to essentially steal eggs, which can then be hatched at your stables. These Monsties then join your party of up to six and you can freely switch between them during battles. They all have a preferred attack type, which means that proactive switching is encouraged when you know the opponent plans to change strategy. Naturally, they also come with their own elemental affinity, Pukei-Pukei’s poison tail be damned.
On top of that, different types of monsters have their own traversal abilities that let you reach otherwise inaccessible places as you explore, grabbing some extra resources and currency in the process. Your Monsties level up while in your party or sent away on expeditions, making them stronger, while also unlocking abilities and gene slots. Each monster gets a random set of genes when they’re hatched.
These offer different abilities and can be improved or switched using the Rite of Channeling, which allows one Monstie to inherit genes from another, at the cost of losing the latter Monstie altogether. You have a total of nine slots to work with and lining up genes of the same type or color grants Bingo Bonuses that further enhance a monster’s capabilities. Coupled with the vast array of Monstie abilities, this is yet another reason to go out into the world and get as many eggs as possible, especially from Rare Monster Dens.
The sheer amount of creatures you encounter adds a good deal of variety to fights. But grind, as with any Monster Hunter game, is a big part of Wings of Ruin. It’s not as necessary as in World, but you will need to chase better equipment as you transition between areas if you’re looking for an easier time battling monsters. It goes without saying that, sooner or later, fights become repetitive to some extent, which can make or break the game for some players. But figuring out enemy patterns, pulling off Kinship attacks, switching between weapons and monsters on the fly, along with the prospect of filling your stable with more Monsties and manipulating genes to unlock their true potential is more than enough to keep you going.
You mostly control your Rider in Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin, which means that your Monstie and Battle Buddies are key to besting whichever beastie stands in your way. For the most part, the AI does its job quite well. Enemies pose a challenge without making things unfair.
The friendly AI never really felt like it was hampering our progress and only caused us to fail in a handful of tougher fights, ironically enough, due to not targeting the body parts their dialogue prompts suggested that we target. Of course, you shouldn’t expect it to perform flawlessly, and keeping consumables on hand is always a good idea, but Battle Buddies and Monsties are there to help you through the fight and it shows.
While out in the world, enemy monsters only chase you once you get very close and pursue for only a short amount of time, letting you more or less pick your battles, outside of areas with really tight spaces, and you always have the option to run away, removing them from the area until you return back at no penalty (aside from missing out on relevant parts). It’s a convenient solution that helps make the grind easier to deal with.
MONSTER HUNTER STORIES 2: WINGS OF RUIN VERDICT
Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is very much so a Monster Hunter game. Its main focus still falls on the core loop of battling monsters, gathering materials, and using them to craft badass gear suited for different situations. Infused with a rock-paper-scissors turn-based combat system and creature collection elements, it does, nevertheless, provide a different spin on things that adds extra reasons to sink your teeth into its inherent grind.
The narrative acts as a small, mostly harmless, reward in between lengthy bouts of grinding, largely pushing you from area to area. Barren locations and unappealing textures do kick things down a notch when exploring its world, but you’ll forget about them as soon as you enter combat and bask upon the detailed, epic monster models and their special attack animations. It’s not perfect, but underestimating Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin would be a disservice to fans and newbies alike, as it’s a fully-fledged turn-based RPG that also has a lot of the mainline entries’ DNA baked into it.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Defeating Nergigante and turning it into awesome gear after getting our butts kicked several times.
Addictive core gameplay loop of battling monsters, gathering materials, and crafting gear
Monstie collecting and gene manipulating adds another satisfying gameplay layer
Excellent monster, armor, and weapon models
Tons of monsters to fight and Monsties to tame
Some of the knowledge gained here applies to other Monster Hunter Games
Lackluster environmental textures
The grind can, still, be too much for certain players
Narrative fails to do anything that's particularly interesting