Monster Hunter Stories expands the world with a shiny, new, undeniably cute coat of paint. But don’t let that deter you, because Monster Hunter Stories’ heartwarming story is served with amazingly fun RPG gameplay that never gets old, even beyond the 50-hour campaign.
Instead of slicing your way through beasts and wyverns in real-time action a la the usual Monster Hunter style, Monster Hunter Stories features a turn-based battle system with you and your monster pal at your side against up to three enemies. These ally monsters are called “Monsties,” a kind of cringey but funny term, and it definitely isn’t the sole instance of questionable nomenclature. But I was able to easily overlook the silliness, and even began to enjoy it in between the action.
When in battle, the three rock-paper-scissors style basic attacks – Power, Tech, and Speed – forced me to put thought into my choices even before considering the special skills, combos, single-use items, or elemental strengths and weaknesses of each monster.
Winning a rock-paper-scissors matchup against an enemy grants power to your Kinship Gauge, a meter that feeds special skills and lets you ride your Monstie, a mechanic that in turn lets you unleash devastating and super cool Kinship Abilities. Different weapon types with different skill sets, such as Great Swords with damaging slash skills, and Hunting Horns with supportive melodies, provide even more variety to every battle. With up to five combatants on the field at once, the multiple animations can drag a bit, but to keep things at a fast pace – literally – you can up the animation speed.
There are a lot of nuances to the battle system, and together with more than a hundred different monsters to encounter with different attack patterns, strengths, and weaknesses, battles remained interesting and engaging throughout the entirety of Monster Hunter Stories.
Like other Monster Hunter games, items are super important in and out of battle. Unlike other Monster Hunter games, however, there is no convoluted inventory management in Stories, for which I am so, so thankful. Instead of worrying about storing materials at your house, you just have to be mindful of the 10 items assigned to a battle pouch, as bringing the right items to battle can really turn the tides. A well-planned Pitfall Trap can prevent an enemy from moving for a few turns, and an Antidote can help significantly when up against a venomous monster.