I have a difficult relationship with Monster Hunter. I love the world, the lore, the whole design, even the loot collecting loop of the gameplay, but as someone that is mainly a single player gamer, there’s usually a difficulty spike that emerges so that I just can’t progress. This usually results in me picking up each new entry (since Tri on the Wii) and loving it for about a month before bouncing off it and never going back. I fully admit that the blame here lies squarely at my own door, but I never learn.
The one exception to this tragic tale was Monster Hunter Stories game on the Nintendo 3DS. Being a single player JRPG, I was able to fully immerse myself, and absolutely loved the more cartoony and kid friendly approach. Suffice it to say that I jumped at the chance to check out Monster Hunter Stories 2: Winds of Ruin and have worked my way through the early game available for this preview.
First things first, Capcom gets a big thumbs up for letting anyone that plays the recently released demo transfer their saves to the full game. Having played so many demos over the years only to have to sit through the same turgid tutorials and setup tasks, this is a real bugbear of mine. Wings of Ruin certainly has more than its fair share of tutorials, so it’s particularly welcome here. Unlike its big brothers, though, the actual process of playing this game is far more streamlined, with many of its more complex mechanics slowly being introduced and only reallyneeded for boss fights or for those who want to max their armour and weapon abilities.
On booting up Monster Hunter Stories 2 for the first time, I was struck by just how beautiful it is. There are the occasional stutters due to the Switch not being quite as powerful as I might like (I imagine it runs like a dream on PC), but the whole aesthetic is absolutely gorgeous. The bright colours, almost cel-shaded take on traditional Monster Hunter items and creatures, and wide open areas to explore just invite you to jump on your Monstie and get hunting – or not, actually, as in these games you play as Monster Riders rather than Hunters. This links into a story about a tribe who live at peace and harmony with the monsters, but this is quickly undermined by how many other monsters you fight and farm along the way. In this world, some monsters are more equal than others.
The epic narrative here revolves around a prophesied evil Rathalos and its titular Wings of Ruin, following the battle between hunters to hunt it down and your Rider character as you try to protect it and discover the truth behind the myth. To do so, you’ll explore various islands, confront feral monsters and collect endless amounts of materials to forge and upgrade your equipment. In essence the game plays out like the main series but with turn based combat and a more explicit storyline driving the game forward.
Alongside upgrading your equipment, you’ll find monster eggs which can be hatched to grow Monsties – monsters that will accompany and fight alongside you. Each of the different monster types has different strengths and abilities in battle and also has exploration skills that must be used to fully explore the environment. Some will jump, others will be able to swim or climb vines, and so on. This is a nice touch as it encourages you to make a balanced party of monsties rather than settling with one type. The rock, paper, scissors combat also plays into this as certain monsters are stronger against others.
After my time with the first few hours of the game, I am hugely impressed with Monster Hunter Stories 2. It was honestly my most anticipated game from this year’s E3 presentations so this isn’t a surprise, but I wasn’t sure how much of an upgrade from the first it would prove to be. Functionally they are similar, but the sequel immediately feels so much more polished and beautiful. It remains to be seen how the narrative shapes up and, equally importantly, how much grinding is needed later on, but I’ll report back on that next week with our full review before the game’s 9th July release.