FOR the longest time I’ve had a hit and miss relationship with the Monster Hunter series.
Ever since I first purchased the game on the WiiU and then subsequently on other platforms over the years there has been one thing it hasn’t been able to do, keep my attention with all the little details required to be a successful hunter. Now Wild Hearts has come along, will it share the same fate?
Welcome to the world of Azuma, several large areas in a feudal Japan-inspired setting where you are a new hunter in town. At the start of the game, you are introduced to a stranger as you are cooking your fresh kill at a campfire. It is here that you are given a small amount of information introducing you to the land by this faceless man behind a mask and its dire need for hunters, as the grounds have been invaded by monsters simply known as ‘Kemono’ as they have set upon a rampage over the land, terraforming it to their needs.
During this quick introduction to the world, you are prompted to your character creation screen which has quite a few great and fun options as you make your hunter. Players who love good character creation options should have a bit of fun with this – I know I did. After I settled on my creation, it was out into the world.
Not long into the gameplay of Wild Hearts, you find an unconscious character that you will need to nurse back to health by finding healing ingredients. It’s then you are introduced to the ability to create your own camp and use her skills to help enhance and create equipment to help you on your first task. Her companion has gone missing and you are asked to help her out and find him.
Now it’s hard to speak about this game without its obvious comparisons to the Monster Hunter series that has been around for years so fans of the series will feel right at home. Not much of a story to speak of as the thrill of the hunt and the spoils will keep you entertained but in Wild Hearts it just feels a lot more simplified for me. This is a good thing by the way.
It’s not long into the game that you are introduced to the game’s main mechanic, the ‘Karakuri’
The Karakuri is an ancient technology that grants you the ability to create objects to assist you with simple things such as building blocks, springs and later on gliders to traverse the world of Azuma. Its also worth noting that these require a resource called ‘Threads’ These are simple to find as well as a drop from the Kemono’s you will encounter.
At the start of the game you might use a building block to climb higher areas as when you climb, you have a stamina meter to consider. You can build three of these to add height to where you’re trying to get to and springs that can be used for a quick dodge from the many giant Kemono’s inhabiting the land.
As you progress throughout the game you will be able to enhance these abilities as well as learn new ones. The first two you will learn are when you stack six blocks in succession, it will create a wall strong enough to daze the creatures as they charge at you and allow you to strike them as they are knocked down. Likewise, if you create three springs, you will create an almost sling-like hammer and knock them in the head to open up an advantage. It’s all very simple to use and the game does a great job of introducing these almost Fortnite like mechanics.
The thing I love about the Karakuri system in Wild Hearts is its simplicity. Just hold down the L1 button and select the face button that corresponds to what you would like to build. I found this much easier than setting traps and other contraptions in Monster Hunter games.
Another couple of subtractions from its inspiration that I appreciated not being in Wild Hearts was no longer having to sharpen your selection of weapons, of which there are eight to create. These range from Katanas, bows and even an umbrella-type weapon that has spikes all around it – which makes for an interesting attack pattern you will use.
It doesn’t hurt to experiment with all of these to find your favourite and most effective. I spent most of my time with the Nodachi blade (you know, those big ass swords that do huge damage but are slow to use), but I was always trying out a different weapon as I spent my time hunting.
Health was also an easy resource to find as you were not limited to the amount you could set out with so what this meant was that after beating down on a Kemono and they were retreating, you always had the option to gather more health or even set up a new camp area to rest.
While I’m speaking of camps, you are free to build them wherever you like. This is a fantastic addition to Wild Hearts as it means you can set up multiple areas where and when you like, as long as you upgrade at ‘Dragon Pits’ This is done by finding crystals on your hunting trips. The more you upgrade these areas, the more you can access your Dragon Karakuri. These are useful to create said camping areas.
As well as the ability to create your own camps there are also flying vines you can build wherever you like to travel to higher areas and distances. Think of them as a flying fox. It’s also worth mentioning that these will always remain and will not require being rebuilt, that is unless a Kemono destroys them in battle.
You will also want to build a few hunting towers across the areas to help assist you in finding the particular Kimono you are hunting. Again, this is a brilliant game mechanic that sets itself apart from Monster Hunter games and just overall makes it a much more enjoyable and quick hunting tool.
The last thing I want to mention about Wild Hearts is your little buddies called ‘Tsukumo’ These are little robot friends, much like BB-8 from the latest in the Star Wars movies. These little guys will assist you in battle and on many occasions helped me out by distracting the huge beasts as I healed up in the heat of battle. The more of these little guys you find, the more you will be able to upgrade them over your campfire. Don’t neglect finding these.
I absolutely loved my time in Wild Hearts. This is the Monster Hunter game I always wanted to play and is so much easier to get into than its counterpart so it’s a great introduction to players who could be put off by its contemporary. While there are a few frame rate drops and texture popping (nothing that probably won’t be fixed with a patch) The team over at Omega Force and Electronic Arts have crafted a well-known hunting style of game and put enough of a spin on it to call it their own.
I had a blast with this game and would recommend it to newcomers or veterans of hunter-style games.