Disclaimer: This is my most media heavy post yet, after the text wall I’ve uploaded the entire collection of screenshots I took within the game. That being said the actual post is very light on media in an effort to not be repetitive. If you’d rather just take a look at the photos scroll to the bottom and enjoy!
I’ve never played a Monster Hunter game before. Once upon a time, I gave Ultimate 4 a shot on the 3DS and found rather quickly that it didn’t grab my interest. It could have been the case of a bad demo, but regardless it turned me off from the series as a whole. I remember when Stories came out in 2017 to glowing praise and the promise of a unique Monster Hunter experience. I had a sneaking suspicion that Monster Hunter Stories would be my kind of game but like most other less prolific titles, it fell into the depths of the backlog. Monster Hunter Stories 2 was recently announced, and it was the final push to convince me to dedicate time to this experience.
Monster Hunter Stories is a coming-of-age saga. At the beginning of the game, your home village is attacked by a “blighted” monster, forcing you to become a Rider and set out and destroy the source of darkness. This simple premise drives most of the story, but it does intertwine new adversaries along the way. Honestly, the story itself is nothing groundbreaking, but the cozy vibes from each character you meet still make the game worth experiencing. The undertones of friendship, love, peace, and crafting strong bongs are all present and imposed upon the player throughout the story. The final 30% of the storyline is where things begin to pick up. Before this, I was content working through a story mission followed by 10-15 subquests, tackling another story mission, and repeating. A mixture of intrigue alongside wanting to finish the game after 60+ hours of playtime drove my desire to steamroll the remainder of the story missions. At times the story felt like it didn’t know where it wanted to go, but it finally realized its self-worth near the ending. If you are in the middle of this game and are wavering on the thought of completion, let me cast out any doubts. The final moments of the game are worth the payoff.
Monster Hunter Stories has a handful of different components: monsters, monster dens, and resource gathering points. Wild monsters roam freely on the map, and engaging with them begins the combat sequence, so if you are the type that despises random encounters, fear not. Monster dens contain egg nests to pilfer, allowing you to hatch new partners to aid you in battle. The dens aren’t very long, so it helps stave away the repetitiveness of it. Resource gathering points allow you to harvest ingredients to combine into powerful items. Everything in Monster Hunter Stories has a rarity level, so there is a certain satisfying feeling that you get from stumbling across a rare den, knowing that you will likely find a worthwhile monstie egg inside.
Monster Hunter Stories’ gameplay loop is primarily stat driven. In the beginning, this isn’t extremely important, but as you progress, it becomes more focused. For some players, min-maxing their battle party will be the primary driving force behind the gameplay. After reaching a certain point, you unlock the ability to transfer monstie skills from one monstie to another, gaining the ability to create and combine powerful allies with unique abilities.
Obtaining new monsties and completing the monsterpedia intrigued me more than anything (at the time of this writing, I am at 87% completion). You get items every time you hatch a new monstie, and early on, these items can be beneficial. For me, I was most interested in seeing each monstie’s Kinship move (more on that later).
At the core, Monster Hunter Stories is an easily accessible, turn-based RPG. There are three main pillars of combat, regular attacks, skill attacks, and kinship moves. I got a bit carried away with how in-depth I described each system, but I think it was well implemented and deserved focus.
The battle mechanics rely on a “rock, paper, scissors” (power, technical, and speed) style system, and while this may sound simplistic, it can be surprisingly in-depth. You have limited control over your monstie; you can only explicitly choose how it attacks if you use a monstie “skill,” which requires Kinship energy. To gain Kinship, you need to “win” a head-to-head attack; for example, you choose a Speed attack, and your opponent selects a Power-based attack. If you are not utilizing skills, the monstie acts independently, choosing between regular attacks and skills as it sees fit. Each monster has a particular affinity toward one of the attack powers, so if you are fighting a monster that uses speed attacks, it would be beneficial to swap out your monstie to one that favors Technical skills. Using a Power aligned monstie will not only end up causing it massive damage but also fail to earn you any Kinship points. Riders also have some benefits to using Regular attacks. Depending on the weapon choice, you can perform combos and deal more damage than a standard attack. Executing combos is easy, and most weapons detail how to achieve them on the equipment page. For example, while using a Hammer, landing three consecutive power attacks will grant a combo bonus. Your combo breaks when losing a head-to-head, so be mindful of the enemy you are attacking.
Kinship is redeemed for monstie skills, causing status effects such as dizzy or paralysis. Riders also have their own set of skills, mostly dependant on the type of weapon wielded. Monstie’s learn skills naturally through level advancement while adding Rider skills to your repertoire happens most frequently by completing subquests. While most Skills have no damage type, some skills also inflict Power, Technical, or Speed based damage. You can use these to have a greater level of control over your monstie.
These attacks are showstoppers. Not only do they deliver massive damage numbers to your foe, but they also a unique cutscene for each monstie, most of which are hilariously over the top. Once the Kinship stone on your screen has filled up with enough power, you can ride on your monstie. You and your monstie now attack as one, delivering more overall damage while simultaneously receiving less. While atop your monstie, you are unable to use any skills or items. If you fail in a head-to-head twice, you will be knocked off of your monstie and forced to start the process all over again. However, you succeed during the head-to-head, you increase the power of your Kinship Move. The power can be increased twice, up to level 3, where it will deal the most damage.
Using each facet of the battle system effectively will help to dispatch your combatants promptly.
Monster Hunter Stories turned me on to the world of Monster Hunter. Seeing chibi versions of these terrifying fiends brought me tons of joy, and it gave me a point to latch on to for future Monster Hunter entries. While the gameplay might be vastly different from mainline titles, the emphasis on preparation (something I’ve heard is significant in the mainline titles) shines through here. The announcement of Monster Hunter Stories 2 was the push I needed to dedicate time to this game. Now, not only am I looking forward to fully exploring what the post-game has to offer here, but I’m excited for Stories 2 and even Monster Hunter Rise. If you are a Monster Hunter fence-sitter or have had trouble getting into the series, I’d recommend giving Stories a try. At the very least, it will charm your socks off, and at the most, it could give you an easy latching on point in the series. The soundtrack is terrific, the art direction is beautiful, and the gameplay is simple to learn but challenging all the same.
If you are interested in my expertly crafted tweets on this game, feel free to check out this moment I’ve curated. It contains every tweet from me regarding this beautiful game.
Finally, below is a (mostly) chronological collection of over 230 screenshots from my journey. Please be aware that there might be spoilers for locations, story, monstie designs and other major events. Enjoy :3