Monster Hunter Stories 2's PC Port is a joy to play

It's hard to believe it's been almost 4 years since we last saw Monster Hunter Stories, but now Monster Hunter Stories 2 is nearly here. When the original came out on 3DS and mobile back in 2017 in the west, I had a surprisingly good time with it. Although the game itself wasn't exactly "deep", its combat system and how you strengthened your party were novel, and it all helped the game blossom into an enjoyable, if not groundbreaking, RPG romp. Monster Genes, and channeling them from one Monstie to another, offered the bread and butter for party composition, offered a truly unique form of progression as you searched for more Monster eggs to hatch and add to your party. While the rock-paper-scissors aspect of the game's combat could've worn itself out quickly, monsters would switch up their tactics often enough - and the necessity of targeting different body parts - helped keep the game entertaining until the end.

We're limited with what we can talk about Stories 2 during the preview window, so I'll keep things brief, and I'll take the opportunity to talk a bit about my experiences with the PC port. There's some more depth to the gameplay this time around - now you'll almost always be fighting alongside a party of another Rider and Monster, and in addition to sword and blunt weapons from the first game, players now gain access to "piercing" weapons with gunlance and bow. Players are expected to swap between their 3 equipped weapons - generally 1 of each class - in order to match up with a monster's weakness, depending on the part of their body you're attacking. Early on you're taught about how you'll want to use blunt attacks to break a Kulu-Ya-Ku's rock before they can get off an especially strong attack, but of course, there are plenty of other examples for players to find throughout the world.

We opted to play the game on PC, which I'd wager may not have been the popular choice. Thankfully, we were able to take advantage of the situation to capture some 4k/60 footage of the game running on max settings, so players can have an idea of how good the game might be able to look on their PC. The game itself is very light, even at max settings - my GTX 1660ti/i7 9750H laptop managed 1080p/60 at ease, with only about a 30% GPU utilization, while my desktop RX 6900XT/Ryzen 9 5900x managed 4k/120FPS at only around 60% GPU utilization. It seems likely that many players will have little issue running the game at high resolutions and framerates on their rigs, even if they may be running older or weaker hardware.

We can't show the game's options menus directly due to the preview embargo, but one point of contention I might be able to find about the PC release is an overall lack of graphical options. Again, I'd imagine this won't matter all that much with how lightweight the game appears to be, to begin with, but players can only change shadow quality, texture quality, resolution, max framerate, LoD scaling for 3D models, and vsync off/on. Players also can choose to run the game in a window, borderless window, or fullscreen. As for control options - the game seems to have some Steam Input support, as the game will offer either PlayStation or Xbox button prompts, depending on the controller that you're using. Keyboard and mouse, naturally, are also supported - and players have access to full remapping support, regardless of the input used.

Overall, our first impressions of the game are positive - it's simply a step up from Monster Hunter Stories' first outing in essentially every way. Stay tuned for our full review in the weeks to come!

Preview code was provided by the publisher.