Wild Hearts: Hands-on Preview
It is hard to break into a genre that has had a clear top dog for what seems like forever, but that is exactly what Koei Tecmo and EA are trying to do with Wild Hearts. Clearly following in the mould of Monster Hunter (especially Monster Hunter World,) Wild Hearts sees players chasing down some wildly massive beasts, either as a solo player or with a team, and ending their lives with a variety of equipment built from the very creatures that are being hunted. There is no denying that there are a lot of similarities to Monster Hunter in Wild Hearts, comparisons are inescapable, but in some ways, Wild Hearts is taking its well-loved inspiration in exciting new directions, directions that could win a legion of fans.
Firstly, in my time with the game (roughly 10 hours or so) it is clear that story is very important. This is a game that goes about establishing the lore and the history of this world with ease and interest. I found myself wanting to know more, to explore every nook and cranny to discover just what makes Minato (the home base) and its surrounding areas tick. The actual plight of the people in Minato and the goal of the hunter is also an intriguing tale. I found myself much more invested in the story than I ever did in a Monster Hunter title, which I am really happy to see.
The second major change that Wild Hearts introduces is a new combat and traversal feature called Karakuri. These Karakuri are mystical contraptions that can be summoned instantly to aid in a variety of ways. There are two different types, the first is available at any time in any situation as long as you have enough mystical threads to build it. These devices include gliders, springs, boxes and torches. Individually they offer movement and combat bonuses but the real fun comes about by combining them in certain configurations to make new and more useful Karikuri. For example, putting three torches on top of each other will create a fireworks gun that can shoot down flying monsters, and creating a 3 X 3 configuration of boxes will create a wall that can stop a charging monster dead. Using these combinations is a great way to get the edge in some tense battles.
The second type of Karikuri is dependent on unlocking mystic points dotted around the maps. These allow permanent structures to be built, things like campsites to respawn at or zip-lines to make traversing quicker and easier. Once these structures are built, they are permanently on the map so I found myself building a network of ziplines and springboards that connected my camp locations, speeding up my trips around the map. Looking at the menus and skill trees, it would seem I still have quite a few more Karikuri’s to unlock so I can’t wait to see what else is on offer later down the track.
The last thing I wanted to mention in this preview is that Wild Hearts is a much less daunting title than Monster Hunter. Everything is clearly laid out, upgrade paths for weapons and armour are structured in a way that makes sense and the systems are put together in a way that is welcoming, yet provides everything an aspiring hunter could need. I was constantly impressed with how the game taught me some rather complex features in a way that enabled them to become second nature during the hunt.
Wild Hearts is shaping up to be an absolutely cracking entry in a genre that has been dominated by one title for such a long time. It is exciting to see and despite some little niggles I had with PC optimization and camera controls (both of which may well be sorted out when the game releases) I found myself enjoying every second of my time with the game. I guess my biggest question of the final release is will it maintain the interest of players over the length of the entire game, will the creature design and combat situations be just as entertaining at 50 hours as they are at 10? Time will tell, but for now I am extremely excited for more Wild Hearts and I think any Monster Hunter fan should be too.