I’m going to come out and say immediately, this looked like a Monster Hunter rip-off. There are some games that are “spiritual successors” and “inspired” by a game. Yet, some do clearly just tear off the pages of another game and stick it onto theirs. This is not the case with Wild Hearts, developed by KOEI TECMO and Omega Force. It actually holds its own.
I have loved the Monster Hunter franchise yet had hoped for something different. Wild Hearts had scratched that itch with its own feudal Japanese art style, fast-paced action, and large, creatively designed monsters. Players will be familiar with some of the gameplay but stay for the new, refreshing combat.
Same ol’ story
“WILD HEARTS takes place in Azuma, a fantasy landscape inspired by feudal Japan. Nature-infused beasts, usually living peacefully, are now rampaging across the countryside, altering their surroundings at the cost of citizens’ lives. After a dreadful fight with the winter wolf Deathstalker, you become the bearer of a life-sustaining technology. As your powers grow, you are compelled to restore balance across the region.”KOEI TECMO
Story was never a strong suit in the MH franchise. Wild Hearts has that same familiar feeling of introducing characters that are of importance but fall flat with development. Players can chat with characters introduced throughout their adventure if they’d like or go straight to the objectives and have fun with combat and exploration.
I’ve always preferred the latter. All I understand is that Kemono (evil creatures) overtake the land and it’s your job to stop them. The mysterious character Mujin helps you gain your powers, and you meet others along the way to help you on your journey.
Into the thick of it
The game does a great job of slowly teaching you how combat works along with the karakuri powers. Those powers are how you create items like jump pads, springboards, and more to strategize your battles. This has been the standout mechanic in this game. It creates a fast-paced environment while still giving a decent learning/difficulty curve and excitement.
Players will also have to manage karakuri. It’s not an infinite use. You have to farm for threads using your insight power to fill your meters. Players will earn more karakuri’s to unlock as they progress through the story and defeat more powerful monsters. One thing that stands out once a battle is finished is that Wild Hearts doesn’t let you capture monsters, only defeat them. And rather than skin your prey, you can only “finish them” off. They then drop some random items to use for crafting.
Of course, management is important in other aspects too. Item management and equipment are a must for proper hunts. Healing water is what your character will use to heal, and it’s available in many generous spots to refill as you please. Stamina is another meter to watch out for. It runs low rather quickly when climbing monsters and mountains alike. Climbing plays a bit like Shadow of the Colossus. The stress when that meter runs dry is palpable and exciting.
Yes, there is a lot to compare Monster Hunter with Wild Hearts. You’ll see that throughout this review. Yet, Wild Hearts manages to hold its own identity with its gorgeous visuals and fast-paced action compared to MH’s more slow, methodical approach to hunting. If only healing and using other items were just as fast as the combat.
Once a hunter, always a hunter
The environment while hunting is amazing. Lively plant life, animals scurrying about. Even the water looks great! Alongside players, you have what’s somewhat like a Palico from Monster Hunter called a Tsukumo. A little companion that can help you heal, fight, and/or harvest as you so choose. When you’re ready to change those methods or want to rest, upgrade, craft, or eat, you’ll go to your camp.
Players can create campgrounds with items such as a fireplace for mission briefings, a tent for resting, a cooking pit for….well cooking, and even your very own blacksmithing shop to upgrade and craft from the monsters you hunted. These locations are strewn about the map so there’s not just one location to do it all but rather several. This helps keep close to hunting locations while still preparing properly.
I have loved my time with Wild Hearts. It’s a refreshing take while not being a blatant rip-off. Monsters are well-designed, and the fighting mechanics are fair but challenging. Even the weapon and armor builds are cool once you start fighting a stronger variation of monsters.
However, I will not leave a review without a few negative findings. The variations of monsters aren’t very creative. They’re usually just another color or an added element to raise the difficulty. I also find the story boring and gimmicky. I do have a hope that future installments of this new franchise are offered as DLC rather than a sequel. One problem I’ve always had with Monster Hunter was starting all over after years of grinding my character to level 900-ish. I dropped the ball after Monster Hunter: World since at my age, one simply does not have time to play that hardcore anymore.
Aside from those miniscule problems, WH has a lot going for itself. Fun gameplay, great visuals, and challenging mechanics. I found myself making and using karakuri much easier the more I played. Making feel like a badass flying through the air and sword slashing downward on my opponent. If you’re a MH fan, try this out. You won’t be disappointed.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of Wild Hearts for Xbox Series X provided by Electronic Arts.