Wild Hearts - Review in Progress
Monster Hunter: World took 2018 by storm. What was traditionally a franchise that was gated behind the walls of obscurity and portable systems was opened up to a whole new fanbase with its appearance on PC and the previous-gen consoles and sold over 18 million copies. It was my first experience with a Monster Hunter title and I put a lot of hours into the base game. So it was a surprise that the next title was once again locked behind the great wall of Nintendo and only after quite a period of time appeared on PC and then later on Xbox Gamepass. What can a hunter do when he cannot hunt on his preferred platform?
Enter Wild Hearts, a brand new entry in the “kill giant creatures and harvest their parts to craft new gear” genre from Koei Tecmo. Taking place in gorgeous areas modelled on feudal Japan, you will take the role of the Hunter, blessed with the power to manipulate Karakuri the mystical thread that allows you to build structures that will assist in your quest to hunt dangerous Kemono. These giant beasts plague the surroundings of the village of Minato and you are the only one that can stop them and unravel the mystery surrounding their spread and aggression.
Thus far in my time with Wild Hearts (I don’t know how many hours I have put into it exactly as there is no in-game tracker that I have found), I have killed giant rats with a bulbous berry attached to its tail, a gorilla that spews fire and an enormous bear made of rock to mention a few, and yet I still have not seen all of the Kemono and their variants within in the game. As you might expect with a game in this genre, there is the need to hunt the same creature multiple times to have all the necessary resources to craft new armour and weapon variants. There is only so much a player can do to follow the main questline without having to dip your toes into the grind. Thankfully, when you successfully slay a Kemono you will always get all of its rewards, regardless of what pieces of it you may have sliced off during the battle. If you do manage to slice a piece off then you get that as a bonus on top of the regular rewards. You will not be inhibited and forced to redo a whole hunt just because the Kemono died before you could slice off its tail.
Where Wild Hearts shines is the Karakuri building mechanics. Playing on a controller, simply pressing the left bumper brings up the basic Karakuri menu and allows you to place one of them with your face buttons. This makes it easy to bring up the menu and place a box to jump off or spring to launch you at your target. As you play you will unlock Karakuri combos that aid in your hunt greatly. Stacking three springs transforms them into a giant mallet that can pound a stunned Kemono for a large amount of damage, while six torches combine to form a fireworks launcher that knocks bird Kemono out of the sky. These add another layer to combat, especially as mistiming the placement of these can mean a waste of resources in the middle of a particularly hectic battle.
Now a hunter is only as good as his gear allows him to be, and to get the best gear means you will have to accept a bit of grind. Thankfully it is not as intense as the Monster Hunter franchise, at least at the point where I am now, but it is there nonetheless. You initially have the choice of five different weapons that each have their pros and cons. The big Nodachi blade that swings slowly but can do big damage, the bow for those who prefer to keep their distance or the Bladed Wagasa, an umbrella that compensates for its lack of damage with fast attacks. The Bladed Wagasa is my personal favourite but I have a couple of the standard Katana variants as well if I need something that can inflict a bit more damage. Each weapon has multiple upgrade paths that can add elemental damage, so pairing up the right variant to the Kemono you’re hunting is a must.
I still have a bit to go in my Wild Hearts journey so I cannot give you a definitive judgment right now. I still need to see this story to the end and I get the feeling the hunts are only going to get more challenging but I am up to the task and will kill as many Kemono as I need to see the story to its conclusion. Be sure to keep a lookout for my final review soon.