Karakuri system adds a unique and fun element to gameplay
Monster battles provide a satisfying experience for those who enjoy a challenge, even at the beginning
If you aren't a fan of Monster Hunter's campiness, this might be more to your liking
Visibility can get bad when monsters knock you around
Game's tutorials are bare bones, leaving you to figure out most aspects of the game yourself
As a huge Monster Hunter fan, I was pumped when I saw the trailer for Wild Hearts. I was excited to sink my teeth into a game so similar to one that I put nearly 900 hours into (i.e., Monster Hunter: World).
I will say this upfront – it’s been a blast so far.
I immediately found familiarity in the core gameplay loop of this genre: prepare for a hunt, kill a monster, use said monster’s parts for better armour and weapons, move on to a stronger monster, rinse and repeat.
You will find many – and I mean many – of Monster Hunter’s elements here. Wild Hearts’ version of palicoes, the Tsukumo, are your companions in battle and provide many of the supportive functions that palicoes offer like attacking, distracting, and healing.
I prefer the cute palico cats of Monster Hunter to the spherical robots here, but I’ll take any help I can get considering the difficulty of this game (we’ll get to that in a bit). Like the palicoes, you can upgrade your Tsukumo – though don’t expect the same level of customisation and benefits with the latter.
Food is also a vital part of the game and something you’ll have to invest a fair bit of time into if you hope to optimise your battles against monsters. While you provide ingredients to a chef in Monster Hunter who’ll then prepare you a meal that gives you buffs, Wild Hearts offers a bit more complexity.
As you progress through the game, you will gain access to cooking tools that improve the ingredients (i.e., meat, vegetables, fish, etc.) you collect. From drying to pickling to smoking, there’s quite a lot to explore here – but the bonuses you gain for your battles are too important to pass up.
Other similarities you’ll find include a “home base” from where you prepare for your hunts and move the story forward; “mini” quests (e.g., collect 10 types of vegetables) that are fulfilled in the background while you complete your main hunts, netting you some sweet rewards; and a setting that is akin to feudal Japan (though Monster Hunter’s is a lot campier). Like Monster Hunter, don’t expect a fantastic story here either – since that’s not the core aspect of the game anyway.
The list goes on, and at the heart (pun intended) of it, this feels very much like a Monster Hunter game. And perhaps I’m a little biased here, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Imitation is the highest form of flattery after all.
There are some differences to the core gameplay, however, with the most significant being the game’s Karakuri system. To quote EA’s website on Karakuri, “Both weapons and tools, the Karakuri can be shaped into many forms. With them, you can set traps, react to attackers, and deliver devastating damage to the mighty Kemono. But you can build as well as destroy. Gathering resources, training, and swift travel are just a few of the Karakuri’s many constructive uses.”
To put it as simply as possible – by using “thread”, you’ll be able to build various contraptions that aid you both in and out of battles. In battles specifically, these devices can damage monsters, hinder them, or provide some form of defence. Unlike Monster Hunter, where it’s entirely possible to defeat a monster with just your weapon, Karakuri will decide how some of your battles go.
Find yourself on the end of a ferocious monster’s charge? Build a “wall” Karakuri and send that monster flying in the other direction. Is the monster weak to fire? Build a “torch” Karakuri, light your weapon with it and deal more damage. If food is important in this game, then using Karakuri is downright mandatory. Because the monsters in this game are tough.
This brings me to the other major point of differentiation – Wild Hearts is a lot harder, at least at the beginning. Monster Hunter gradually builds up the difficulty of the game, giving you space to get comfortable with the battle mechanics, and ramping up the difficulty of the monsters as you progress through the game and become a better hunter.
In Wild Hearts, you don’t have that luxury. For instance, you won’t learn how to use some types Karakuri until you’re in a battle with a monster – and usually at the point when the beast is about to unleash a major attack.
Within seconds, you’ll need to figure out what you need to do to thwart your foe which could mean the end for you if you don’t. And this is emblematic of how battles in Wild Hearts generally go.
Things happen at a frenetic pace – monsters are quick to doll out their attacks (a lot faster than those in Monster Hunter) and you’ll need to be even faster to react. I found myself having difficulty even in some of the earlier battles – but that may be due to my using the Bladed Wagasa, which is among the harder weapons to master. Think Longsword from Monster Hunter, but a lot cooler (a fricking umbrella!) and with a much less forgiving parry window.
On that note, I do wish there were more options for weapons (perhaps in a DLC?). While the Karakuri system does offer something extra to the battles in Wild Hearts, the range of weapons (14 in Monster Hunter: World and Monster Hunter Rise) was one of the reasons these games had such longevity.
Another reason why I find some of the battles so challenging is the game’s visibility when the monsters send you flying. When you get hit and are sent hurtling into trees, bushes, or piles of rocks, the game chooses to obscure your screen quite significantly with said environmental features.
On more than one occasion, I couldn’t get my bearings in time and found myself helpless as a monster continued to go on the offensive. I’m not sure if this is intentional or just a developmental issue but I can’t remember this ever being a problem in Monster Hunter.
All in all, the 20 hours I’ve spent on Wild Hearts so far have been a ride. The game’s battles are fun and challenging, and any cons are outweighed by the pros. I don’t know if Wild Hearts will have the distinction of knocking Monster Hunter: World off its pedestal as most-played game for me, but time will tell.
Wild Hearts definitely has my heart – and I look forward to seeing what Koei Tecmo and Omega Force have in store for this series in the future.