For many years, Monster Hunter was a game series that was as complex as it was beloved. With the release of Monster Hunter World on PlayStation 4 (later on PC), players have been able to partake in hunts with greater ease. At its core, Monster Hunter games are all about locating and hunting giant monsters to harvest for parts or capture for study. Players craft a variety of different weapons, armour, and items to better help with their hunts, in addition to enlisting a chef to cook meals to eat before going out on an adventure. Your handler will give you quests for hunts, which become more and more challenging and complex the higher level your character is.
Monster Hunter Stories, which is an offshoot of the Monster Hunter core series, focuses on villages that don’t believe in hunting monsters. Instead, they befriend them and train them from hatchlings, creating strong bonds with their “monsties.” Monster Hunter Stories – the original is available on the Nintendo 3DS and on mobile – is more akin to Pokemon’s animation style than the more “grown-up” animation style of the core Monster Hunter games. You still need to hunt down some monsters, which is justified in the story as to why, but the focus is far more on creating bonds between the protagonist and a bevy of monsties.
Monster Hunter core games are pure action games that require quite a bit of reflex and skill. Monster Hunter Stories games are turn-based roleplaying games and rely on strategy to be successful in monster encounters. Newly minted “riders” will wander around the world map to collect eggs from monster dens and gain experience for their squad of monsties by defeating aggressive monsters.
Monster Hunter Stories 2, available on the Nintendo Switch and PC, is a follow-up to the original game from 2016. It’s not necessary to have played the original game, but it is beneficial for story purposes. Monster Hunter Stories 2 takes many of its design and gameplay cues from the original game, but refines the combat so that it’s less reliant on guessing what form of attack a monster will take (power, speed, or technical). Much as with the core Monster Hunter games, Monster Hunter Stories 2 encourages players to get to know the monsters in the world by fighting them over and over again. Players will learn a monster’s moves, how their tactics change when they get angry or use special abilities, and which weapons are most effective against their various targetable body parts.
It sounds violent, right?
Monster Hunter Stories games do not rely on gore or blood. Pieces will not go “missing” as you’re playing, so that the monster’s character model stays intact during battle. Monsters will fall over when they are defeated or will run away back to their den once they’ve taken enough damage. If players chase monsters back to their dens, they will have an opportunity to take one of their eggs and hatch them with the village Monstie caretaker “Felyne.” Felynes are cute little cat creatures that speak and have culture of their own. They’re featured heavily in core Monster Hunter games, too.
The story in Monster Hunter Stories 2 is much more accessible than its predecessor. Without getting too deep into the narrative weeds, the story is a journey of exploration and discovery as much as it is about saving the world from the Wings of Ruin. The Wings of Ruin refers to a particular kind of Rathalos, which are held in deep reverence by both hunters and riders alike, that is born with stunted wings and will awaken to its powers under great duress and destroy the world with its fully formed Wings of Ruin. As a descendent of the original game’s main character, Red, your character is met with the task of raising monsties and helping young Ratha discover who he really is.
(Fingers crossed that he isn’t actually responsible for the Wings of Ruin.)
Monster Hunter Stories 2 is rated E10+, which means that it’s appropriate for children 10 and over. Much of the game has voice-over, though it still has a fair amount of reading to do, so it’s not quite right for children who aren’t reading at a third or fourth-grade level. Strategically, the game will teach players everything they need to know about how to play. There will be some guesswork involved as players get to know the monsters they’re fighting, but it’s not particularly frustrating to do that extra work.
This game is such a treat to play, both in terms of its methodical gameplay and its adorable aesthetic. It’s a delight to be swept away by each of the different biomes in the game, even when it gets mighty cold or particularly hot. Fighting the monsters themselves can be challenging, especially when players get to the most powerful monsters in the game, but it’s like solving a great puzzle. Players will feel like absolute champions when they get through those high-level fights.
One of the downfalls of Monster Hunter Stories 2 is how repetitive the gameplay can become. Once players have fought a monster the first time, they’ll likely have to fight the same monsters over and over again as they make their way through the story in a given region. It’s very much the kind of experience that repeats itself as you go from region to region. It’s comforting, but it can get a little boring if you’ve been playing for many hours at a time.
For children that love games like Pokemon, where they can collect little friends to play with, Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is a fantastic new experience. For teens that have enjoyed core Monster Hunter games, like Monster Hunter Rise on Nintendo Switch, Stories 2 provides a break from the intense action, allowing players to focus on both strategy and story. And for the new players, Monster Hunter Stories 2 (even more than Monster Hunter Rise) is an incredibly accessible way to dip a toe into this prestigious game series without diving into its core action full force.
Beyond its repetitive gameplay, Monster Hunter Stories 2 is a beautiful, sweeping RPG experience that straddles the line between Pokemon and Monster Hunter with elegance and ease. There’s just something satisfying about having a squad of monster best friends to roam the world with, meeting new people, protecting villages, and saving the world. Just take care of Baby Ratha.
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