Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin in out in just a few short weeks, but ahead of that launch we were able to get our hands on it and were granted the luxury of giving you all a bit of a whack from the ol’ impressions stick. The first game came out on the 3DS in the West after the Switch had launched and didn’t perhaps get the audience it deserved, so the pressure’s on for this sequel to grab the audience share it missed out on. So, how’s it looking so far?
Well, if you’re not familiar with Monster Hunter Stories as a concept, it differs from the standard Monster Hunter formula in a number of ways. First and foremost, you are not a hunter, you’re a rider. Whereas hunters kill monsters, riders kill monsters with monsters that they’ve befriended. The gameplay is also leagues apart from the mainline series, as Stories takes on the form of a turn-based JRPG.
Similarly to something like Miitopia, you’ll have numerous members of your party, but you’re only in direct control of your player character rather than your 'Monstie' (a term used to distinguish friendly monsters from your bog-standard common or garden monster) or any partners that might be tagging along.
This at first may seem detrimental to your control and efficiency as a unit, but the game is very open with what moves and/or attacks everyone else on your team is going to use before you make your final decision, meaning that you can plan accordingly and apply tactics where necessary. You can also command your Monstie to use specific special moves called Skills if you really need to, so it’s a limitation only in part.
When it comes to attacking you have a fair few options at your disposal. You can perform a Power, Technical, or Speed attack, and this trifecta functions like a rock-paper-scissors system, with Power beating Technical, Technical beating Speed, and Speed beating Power. This is important because if an enemy is targeting you (which the game also kindly highlights) and you decide to target them back, you’ll enter a head-to-head situation, whereby the winner of the conflict – through the rules of the three attack types we just mentioned – will get to attack, and the loser will deal no damage whatsoever, which can be crippling for said loser.
Each monster also has weaknesses and resistances to specific weapon types, categorised into Slashing, Piercing, and Blunt. When you first encounter a monster you’ll have no idea which weapon is most effective, so you’ll have to get experimenting by swapping out your weapon, which you can do once per turn and thankfully doesn’t ‘use up’ your move for that turn.
There are also tactics where you and your Monstie can perform a Double Attack against a foe, and ride your Monstie mid-battle when your Kinship gauge is full, and it’s all these little wrinkles that add up to what is really quite a detailed and nuanced system, even if on their own they’re relatively simple. The end result is a combat system that’s really rather excellent, and provides intense battle situations but without overwhelming the player at any point. Nice work, Capcom.
But combat isn’t everything this game has to offer, you’ll be exploring vast swathes of land littered with monsters, resources, and – most importantly – Monster Dens. These dens are essentially little mini-dungeons with monsters, resources and – most importantly again – nests, where you can find eggs to hatch into new Monsties to join your party.
If that sounds a bit Pokémon then yeah, it is a bit, but that’s no bad thing whatsoever. Each time you find an egg your partner Navirou will give you an indication as to whether it’s a good egg or not, and the patterns give away what kind of Monstie you can expect. It’s a fun system that makes each Monstie feel deserved, but we did see quite a few duplicates from time to time, so bear that in mind.
The world of Monster Hunter Stories is rich and diverse, and its art style is just to die for. The whole game pops visually, cutscenes are engaging and don’t outstay their welcome, and the cast of characters is (mostly) endearing. Our feelings about the Felyne Navirou are a bit mixed; he’s clearly the comic relief of the story but his Bubsy-like voice and relentless use of cat puns did grate on us. We miss the Felynes that just went ‘mrow’.
All in all, Monster Hunter Stories 2 is looking to be a fine spinoff that truly feels like it fits in the Monster Hunter universe, but without simply emulating the mainline games. From what we’ve played so far we have high hopes that this is going to be an RPG well worth your time, so keep an eye out for our full review when it rolls in around launch day on 9th July.