Steal Some Babies:
The Monster Hunter franchise is one of those hardcore titles that can feel incredibly difficult to break into. As the series has progressed the hunting, crafting and strategizing of the titles have become more streamlined and accessible, but never less deep. Enter Monster Hunter Stories, a game just as obsessed with rearing monsters as it is with killing them. It’s an easier descent into the madness that is Monster Hunter, and it’s an absolute blast.
“Monster Hunter Stories” starts strong, with a beautiful and enjoyable cutscene depicting your avatar and their friends messing around in the woods, pretending to be ‘Riders’ – a monster hunting and rearing role they all aspire to be. Whilst they’re out playing their village is attacked by a dark monster that causes some serious damage, and sets in motion the plot of the entire game.
It’s all a little reminiscent of How to Train Your Dragon in the early hours, and it’s a surprisingly great story throughout. I really wasn’t expecting much from a narrative standpoint to a game that’s obsessed with collecting them all, but MHS surprised me at every turn. From its infinitely likeable cast including an emotive twist on the silent lead stereotype, to the really impressive cutscenes, Monster Hunter Stories really knocks it out of the park with its story. It can be a little cringey at times and thanks to its long runtime there are stretches where the plot meanders, but these are all negligible when you get to watch another endearing cutscene.
Monster Hunter Stories presents the world, the characters, the gear and the grinding of Monster Hunter without any of the confusing mechanics to bog it down. Add in an addictive monster-collecting heart that serves as the core of the game and MHS effortlessly delivers a pretty unstoppable combination that eats up huge chunks of your free time.
Once you have your Rider license and can venture into the impressive open world, you can set about following the critical path of the story or get distracted by the alternative opportunities the game presents; namely collecting upgrades and finding new monsters to raise. You do this, rather upsettingly, by sneaking into an innocent monster’s hideout then stealing their eggs – sometimes right from under them – and booking it back to town to hatch the little guy and pretend you’re its mother.
If you get caught, or intentionally run into a monster on the field, you’ll be sucked into the game’s battle system. In a wild departure from the chaotic and deadly battles the series is known for, these are chilled out turn based affairs that you can take your time with. You and your companion monster (or Monstie’s, as they’re called here) can duke it out with some pretty intimidating opponents. The usual stable of moves is here, such as attacking, defending, using items or buffing/debuffing friends and foes respectively. When you and an enemy charge each other simultaneously, however, you play rock-paper-scissors with them to see who comes out on top – though if you’re paying attention you can usually make a pretty educated guess as to what the enemy will choose. The battles are fun, fluid and pretty showy, and longer fights even allow you to ride your Monsties into battle to make for an unstoppable team-up.
There’s a lot of fun to be had here, though it rarely challenged me to really make the most of the systems present. This means that over the lengthy course of the game the battles can feel a little repetitive without the threat of death looming over you, but MHS negates a lot of this problem by allowing you to speed up the gameplay. This is a feature I’m seeing in a lot more RPGs as of late – especially Square Enix ones – and all I can say is PLEASE KEEP FOLLOWING THIS EXAMPLE. It’s a fantastic addition that does more to alleviate RPG fatigue than any other mechanic I’ve seen thus far.
- 1 2