With the success of Monster Hunter, we’ve always wondered why there hasn’t been more games that try to copy the formula.
Enter Wild Hearts, a game that couldn’t be more like Monster Hunter if it tried. This is a game that casts you as your own custom-created slayer of beasts, let loose in a world where they’re becoming a tad too problematic for a town that just wants a little bit of peace. And so, you’re the one who has to deal with them, using the materials you gather in a range of environments to craft new weapons and armour to make your job a little easier. So far, so Monster Hunter.
Wild Hearts does have some original ideas though. Take the monsters you’re hunting, for example. Instead of the fantastical, almost prehistoric beasts you encounter in Monster Hunter, here they’re more grounded in reality. You’re up against oversized birds, apes and rodents, corrupted by nature to make them more visually striking. They still have outlandish elemental attacks, though, and get enraged at times, making them even more fearsome. Oh, and they also run away, forcing you to pursue them to continue whittling them down.
The other unique thing about Wild Hearts that makes it stand out is Karakuri. Taking a leaf out of Fortnite‘s book, Wild Hearts lets you craft useful objects on the fly, adding an additional layer to its battles. Got an enemy gearing up to charge at you? Quickly create a wall of ‘Box Karakuri’ and they’ll transform into a sturdy barrier protecting you from attack and possibly stunning your prey for a short while. You can even use your barrier as a springboard to trigger a powerful aerial attack, too.
A huge number of Karakuri are available, though most you’ll have to unlock as you progress throughout the game. They’re not only useful in battle, either. The Springboard Karakuri that quickly boosts you in one direction, for example, is useful for avoiding enemy attacks, but one can also be placed near a ruined bridge to catapult yourself across it. And then there are Dragon Karakuri. While normal Karakuri require thread to be constructed, these require energy provided by Dragon Pits found in the environment.
Think of Dragon Karakuri as infrastructure to make your hunts more manageable. Make a tent and you have somewhere you can fast travel to, while a forge allows you to craft and change your equipment without having to return to town. You can even build ziplines pretty much anywhere, allowing you quick routes to your stomping grounds. You’re only limited by your own creativity and the power of the Dragon Pits you’ve unblocked.
Developed by Koei Tecmo’s Omega Force team, this is perhaps the most creative take on the Monster Hunter formula yet. It could have just churned out another Toukiden title, perhaps with another name, but instead it truly has tried to imagine a Monster Hunter for the next generation. It largely succeeds, too, but unfortunately there are some aspects that are less than stellar.
There’s the pace, for one. Had Wild Hearts released a year or so ago, before we sunk hundreds of hours into Monster Hunter Rise, it would have been considered brisk. But positive changes that maintain forward momentum such as not having to stop to harvest ingredients or mine ore have been overshadowed by the latest Monster Hunter’s Palamute riding and Wirebug-enhanced traversal. Getting back into a fight after after losing all of your health can be more tiresome here as well. With larger maps in general, fail to place your camps strategically and you could have a large walk of shame waiting for you.
More than anything, what lets Wild Hearts down compared to Monster Hunter is polish. Its mechanics are good, but they just don’t feel quite as tight as those in Capcom’s hunting series. Its camera can also be a pain at times, and performance, though massively improved since launch thanks to patches, still isn’t perfect. And you can’t exactly call the game a looker; while its monsters are pleasing on the eyes, grotesque as they sometimes are, environments are often on the bland side.
Despite all of Wild Hearts‘ faults, it’s hard not to be be taken in by its charms. Omega Force has really tried to create a solid Monster Hunter contender with this one, and it mostly succeeds. There are some genuinely neat ideas here, and its monster designs are a welcome breath of fresh air. Overall, it’s a great game in its own right, but it’s more exciting when you consider it a base to be improved upon with further iterations.