The world of Monster Hunter isn’t all about eco-friendly slaughterfests, you know. There’s legends, tales, stories, that kind of thing. You just don’t tend to hear about them much if all you do is go out, beat up a giant killer lemur or something, come home to make some chaps out of its butt and go to bed to repeat the next day. It’s a living, sure, but do you really have the time to appreciate culture when you’re doing all that?
The legend of Razewing Ratha, a monster with the power to destroy the world, is kind of a big deal with the more tree-huggy parts of the Monster Hunter world, and it’s a big deal insofar as the existence of a world-ending monster might be a problem. Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is all about you, your almost-Gottfried cat pal and a rotating series of friends teaming up to learn more about the Wings of Ruin and to try and keep the world from getting torn to bits.
Much like the first game, Wings of Ruin takes the Monster Hunter experience and boils it down to a delicious turn-based stock that you can sip delicately rather than the spicy hellbroth that makes up the more difficult bits of the main series. Plenty of your favorite elements are present. You’ve got the vast array of beasts, crafting items before an important battle, wearing a coat made of your most recent kill…it’s all familiar, but it’s all been tuned from “Bronze Age pseudo-survival sim” to “Saturday morning cartoon.”
And you know what? It kind of works, actually. Monster Hunter’s menagerie was just begging to be explored a little further beyond just being kicked around as baddies, so let’s turn them into Pokémon instead! Rather than controlling a Monster Hunter, you play as a Rider, a member of a tribe with the mysterious power to tame and befriend monsters. As the name suggests, this means you’re capable of riding monsters around as well as teaming up with them in battle. By seeking out and collecting monster eggs, you can hatch new monsters, which then become your best friends, so we’ll call them Monsties. Yes, really.
The turn-based battles in question have been significantly improved since the first game. Pretty much everything has been, really, but the battles in particular are a lot more enjoyable. They focus on a sort of rock-paper-scissors system where attacks can have Power, Speed or Technique traits, with Power beating Technique, Technique beating Speed and Speed beating Power. Unlike the first Stories, the AI behaves in a much more predictable way and you’re given many opportunities to choose the right tactics rather than just kind of hoping things work out.
It ends up playing a bit more like Fire Emblem than Alex Kidd, which is a relief. The vast array of Monsties you can recruit, weapons you can equip and skills available to you, your Monstie pals and your story-mandated companions go a step further to make combat feel great. It’s not quite the same level of adrenaline-pumping action you might be used to from Monster Hunter but it’s a great time. Finding just the right combination of Monstie, weapon and armor to deal with a particularly tough Royal Monster in the field makes for a wonderful feeling that helps hold Wings of Ruin together.
You can go even further by customizing your Monsties’ genetics in order to get the most out of them, and thankfully there’s plenty of postgame content to encourage this sort of tweaking.
Wings of Ruin is a pretty solid and fulfilling experience, but the best part about it really might be that you can play it on systems other than the Switch. It’s a perfectly acceptable game on the hybrid console, of course, but Wings can really spread its wings on a machine with a little more horsepower.
Turns out that it’s a lot easier to appreciate the more colorful and friendlier take on Monster Hunter this game offers when it’s running at a full and glorious 60FPS. One look at this and we can’t wait to see fellow spinoff Monster Hunter: Rise show up on PC sooner than later.
Monster Hunter fans are the obvious target for this one, but newcomers and folks who aren’t as inclined toward punishing action games might appreciate being able to dip their toes into the series without having them chomped off. It’s just fun to have a pet killer lemur rather than just making chaps out of it, especially if you’re also wearing chaps you made out of its friends. Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin is less morbid and benefits from the change. If you’ve got a solid fifty hours or so to spare, get your lemur saddle ready and take a look.