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Catch a Ride | Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin

D’awww.

Monster Hunter. It’s a series synonymous with hunting monsters. I mean, not synonymous,, that implies the title doesn’t just say the thing that it is…except when it doesn’t. Well, not entirely. Is this off to a sensical start? ‘Cause it seems like it’s off to a non-sensical start. Look, what I’m getting at is that Stories is about monsters but not explicitly about hunting them…kinda. I mean, you do hunt monsters but that’s not your express goal. Okay, so it is your express goal but for different reasons than usual… Did any of that make sense?

Rambling aside, Wings of Ruin is about assuming the mantle of a Rider—someone who forms a bond with monsters. Though the world has Hunters who preserve the balance of nature through slaying dangerous and erratic monsters, Rider believe that people can forge an understanding with them and live in harmony. Of course, beliefs on both sides are refuted throughout the story, but the fact remains that monsters are what this world revolves around. More specifically, the plot revolves around Rathalos and their odd behaviour after the appearance of mysterious lights that emanate from seemingly bottomless pits that have appeared in many locations. You, the protagonist, are given the egg of Guardian Ratha, the Rathalos protector of your village, and tasked with learning more about what in the world is going on. Tale as old as time, really.

Shine on, Kinship Stone.

As you journey from place to place, you come across a myriad of familiar monstrous faces from Monster Hunter history. I’m not going to list every monster, since I’m pretty sure they number over a hundred, but I will say that there’s a high chance your favourite will appear at some point. Regardless, nabbing a monster for your team is an interesting affair. Rather than taming a creature you beat, you must find an unhatched version of any given monster. Dens appear naturally throughout the world, containing random eggs of species native to the area, allowing you to waltz in and claim a new ally. Should chance not fall in your favour, each monster has a chance to flee after they’re defeated, creating a den that only houses eggs of that species. Though the chance is fairly low, fulfilling monster-specific requirements will increase said chance—such as using a specific type of weapon or breaking a certain monster part. It’s a unique and pretty fun mechanic, though I will admit some level of frustration towards monsters who don’t return to their den after I’ve met the chance-increasing requirements multiple times. It says there’s a fifty-five percent chance you’ll retreat, Lagombi, why do you refuse to do so?

Rider-wise, you are given the option of six types of weapon; well, three if we’re being honest. Why three? Well, of the six weapons only three types of damage are represented: slashing, piercing, and blunt. Since you are able to carry three weapons to switch through on the fly, you’re probably going to settle on a representative from each category. Personally, I went with shield and sword, hunting horn, and gunlance—forgoing great sword, hammer, and bow. You’re more than welcome to carry one of each and swap between them outside of battle, I just found it better to learn and focus on the abilities of three. For example, though it lacks the multi-target strikes of the great sword, the shield and sword gives you access to counter attacks, should you be ganged up on by foes. The hunting horn gives access to team-wide buffs, as is its wont, and the gunlance allows for rapid charging of the Kinship Gauge. What is the Kinship Gauge? It’s this nifty little thing that grants you access to special skills, most noticeably the ability to ride your Monstie (the term for a monster ally) and unleash an attack so powerful that it gets a cutscene. It’s pretty cool. Even cooler if you time it with your NPC ally, combining both of your skills into a super-combo that damages every enemy. That being said…

Nice rides.

…NPCs can be dumb. If the implication wasn’t enough, you acquire a series of allies throughout the story, joining your team in their respective area and giving your team a little more oomph. Helpful. The AI choosing a Technical attack when the opponent has exclusively used Power? Unhelpful. See, battles in Stories have a scissor-paper-rock mechanic to them. If a line indicates that a monster is targeting a specific character, said character must choose the type of attack that wins that exchange—with Power beating Technical, Technical beating Speed, and Speed beating Power. The AI tends to not do this with any sense of regularity. Though, to be fair, allies lack the collection of Monsties you can acquire, meaning they are locked into their inherent techniques. Still, just because Monsties have types and specialise in one form of attack doesn’t mean they can’t use the others. Any Monsties or ally can use any type of attack…they just don’t. Looking at you, Avmar. Still, it’s nice that head-to-head clashes can end in a draw, which mitigates some of the frustration. Though, why winning one still blast you with splash damage I’ll never know.

Speaking of Monstie types and skills, did you know that they can have any of them? Of course you didn’t, I haven’t explained that yet. Whoops. Through another unique and interesting system known as the Rite of Channelling, you are able to power up your Monsties with the abilities of another. Say, for example, you love your Velocidrome’s attack that can ignore enemy speed and strike first but you don’t want said monster on your team. Well, you can pick another Monstie and have it learn that attack from Velocidrome…at the cost of losing Velocidrome. Yep, you can sacrifice Monsties and have one of their genes pass into another, which is a cool as it is grim. The idea behind this being that you should hatch oodles of eggs and use the resulting Monsties’ genes to create a squad of really tough allies—such as passing on a monster’s resistance to fire to a monster normally weak to the element. There’s also a bingo system involved in Monstie genetics, where abilities are buffed if genes of the same type or element are aligned on the three-by-three board. Or you can just ignore min-maxing and have a fire-breathing Monstie that also breathes lightning, water, and poison…not that I totally did that because it’s really cool or anything. (Note: I totally did that because it’s really cool).

Always a good omen…

So, long story short-ish, is Wings of Ruin a good game? Weird question. Games aren’t good or evil, they’re just collections of code. Is Wings of Ruin a fun game? Yeah. Yeah it is. It’s a cute game that boils down to a combination of Pokémon and Ni no Kuni: you collect monsters and fight to save a brightly coloured and borderline saccharine world. If you’re not the type to trust solely praise, I will say that the story is a little shallow, occasionally preachy, and possesses character inconsistencies that are just present to push the next message of friendship. For example, one cutscene has the squad decide to track down a monster that has been terrorising an area; the next cutscene has half the squad berate the protagonist for focusing solely on tracking said monster and pushing their Monstie too far. What? It wasn’t even the protagonist’s idea. Plus, the squad also decides to question the protagonist’s brashness after they do something that everyone has been doing for the whole game: fighting crazed monsters. It’s not a major issue, it just sort of ticked me off that characters were clearly behaving certain ways just to convey a wholesome message of love and friendship…in a world where people’s lives revolve around slaying monsters and/or stealing their unhatched young. Call me crazy, but that’s some seriously dark stuff. Anyway…fun game.

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