Review: Monster Hunter Stories 2
Monster Hunter Stories 2 is a brand new Monster Hunter title available for both Nintendo Switch and PC. Although there are some connections to the first part that appeared on the 3DS and smartphone, you don't need to have played the first part to enjoy Stories 2 to the fullest.
In Monster Hunter Stories 2 we get into an RPG that feels very different from your traditional Monster Hunter game like Rise and World. Stories 2 is in fact more of a JRPG and in this case is very similar to games such as Pokémon. We take a break from the intense action with perfectly timed attack combos from the Action RPG series and give way to a turn-based combat system like we see in many JRPG games.
It's a breath of fresh air for the hugely popular Monster Hunter franchise. Where the implementation of a brand new gameplay system feels surprisingly natural for a franchise that has been leaning on a rock-solid foundation for more than 15 years. The achievement of Monster Hunter and the more traditional way of playing as we are used to from a JRPG makes for a very entertaining adventure that can keep us busy for hours even after the fairly long story.
Monster Hunter Stories 2
In Monster Hunter Stories 2 we take on the role of a young rider. Riders have the power to bond with Monsties. These are the well-known Monsters from the Monster Hunter franchise, but can be tamed. By performing a certain ritual and personally hatching the eggs of the Monsters, you ensure that they listen to you and you can use their unique powers and properties.
We travel through a continent that consists of different vegetation areas and of course these come with their own types of Monsters. From weak to strong in the order the story takes you through the continent. Quite early in your adventure you will be greeted by an Ena, one of the characters who will accompany you on your journey. She carries an egg from a Rathalos, a Rathalos who served as guardian of the island you come from. Somehow she feels that the egg belongs to you, because you are the grandchild of the legendary Horseman, Red. A rider that everyone knows and everyone admires.
However, it is not yet that far to hatch the egg. Baby Rathalos and us, just starting our adventure, are not yet strong enough to get in touch with each other. After some relief efforts in nearby trouble situations and threats from Monsters plaguing inhabitants of the various villages, it's finally time. The egg may hatch and we become a proud owner of our very own Rathalos!
Wings of Ruin
Ratha, the Rathalos that just hatched is unique. The bystanders are startled when Ratha appears. The wings are black and are not fully grown. This Rathalos cannot fly. This Rathalos has the 'Wings of Ruin'. According to an old legend, one day a Rathalos with short black wings is born and causes ominous events and ultimately the downfall of society. At this moment the adventure begins to find out what is the relationship between Rathalos, these events and how to stop it without giving up our cute Ratha.
On the road with an army of Monsties!
We set out with a batch of Monsties that we raised ourselves. Obtaining these Monsties is a unique gameplay mechanic that allows for a lot of interaction between the fairly open world of Monster Hunter Stories 2. Each vegetation area has one large area that splits into a few small narrow areas. In all these areas there are Monsters that you can fight with. In a battle, you can make a Monster retreat to its nest after a battle in order to steal an egg from the Monster. But random nests are always scattered throughout the game world, although you don't know beforehand what kind of egg you'll find here.
Eggs differ from each other in color and pattern. This way you can always look back in your Monsterpedia after the first time to see what an egg looks like for a certain monster. Navirou, your feline companion will help you determine if you've got a good egg while picking up an egg. The heavier and the more smelly the egg, the better the Monster that is inside the egg. While picking up an egg, there can also be a gold or rainbow coloring effect which in turn ensures that rare genes are paired with the monster from the egg.
Navirou's description of the egg and the combination of the genes will ultimately determine your Monstie's stats. Something that you don't have to pay much attention to in the beginning, but which becomes more interesting as the difficulty level is shifted a little further in the game.
Monster Hunter Stories 2 wouldn't be Monster Hunter if you didn't hunt monsters. Of course, this is also a big part of the game. Whether you're training for experience points, completing quests, collecting eggs for new monsters, or playing through the story. You are constantly fighting monsters. Just like in the traditional games, every monster has strengths and weaknesses. Not only for elements, but also weapon types. And then you also have to deal with a lot of monsters, where you can break the tail, head, back and so on just like in the traditional games for extra materials and combat bonuses.
Because just like in the traditional games, you also have a lot of equipment in Monster Hunter Stories 2, or rather in Monster Hunter Stories 2. After each battle, monsters leave their materials behind and you get some of them depending on your performance during the battle. Were you able to exploit the correct weaknesses of a monster? Then you get more points which ultimately ensures that you get extra materials from the monster as a reward. With these materials you can then make weapons and armor, each of which has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Since there are over 120 monsters in total, 80 of which you can tame, there are just as many types of armor and weapons to choose from. So you are also constantly improving your equipment through upgrades and eventually new weapons and armor from the new monsters you fight.
Combat in Monster Hunter Stories 2
As I said, we are moving away from traditional intense combat and making way for a turn-based combat system. You fight alongside your monster and alternate partners, depending on your progress in the story, against the monsters you encounter. Every monster has strengths and weaknesses, and so does your own Monstie. Each Monster also has its own attack style. These are Power, Technical or Speed attacks. If you know a little about the nature of the beast, you can guess in advance what kind of style suits the monster. The styles function as a balance triangle like rock-paper-scissors. Speed attacks beat Power, Power beats Technical and Technical beats Speed.
This is good to know as soon as a monster is after you. You can see this by a line that is drawn while fighting. If the line points to you in gold, the monster will attack you. When a monster gets angry, its attack style also changes. For example, this allows the monster to suddenly use Speed attacks, while it normally only uses Power attacks.
If you use the same attack type as your Monstie, the monster is targeting you or your Monstie and both of you attack that monster, your and your Monstie's powers are combined for a special attack. This greatly fills the Kinship meter allowing you to use special attacks or eventually step on your Monstie to use unique Monstie specific powerful attacks.
Monster Hunter Stories 2 is incredibly entertaining. It is a very colorful game with a lot of content. A long story and a lot of monsters. The possibilities in combat are endless and finding the perfect egg of your favorite monster is a pure joy. The turn-based combat works very well and the way in which the well-known Monster Hunter elements are acquired in this game can only be called very clever. It's quite surprising how deep this game actually is. The only real downside is that the performance on the Nintendo Switch often leaves something to be desired. The frame rate is anything but stable 30 and occasionally this is a thorn in the side. That while Monster Hunter Rise, a much more graphically demanding title, remained fairly stable overall.
All in all, it's surprising how much love Capcom puts into the Monster Hunter franchise. It is undoubtedly one of the most respected game series on the market with part after part an enormous amount of attention to detail, heart for the franchise and most importantly, rock-solid gameplay. And that's no different in Monster Hunter Stories 2.
And to think that in Stories 2, just like in previous Monster Hunter games, we are provided with new content and updates every month.
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