Wild Hearts - There's A New Hunter In Town
I had been playing Wild Hearts for a few hours, and after taking down a Ragetail and Sapscourge in quick order, I felt comfortable with my hunter. Placing Karakuri springs and boxes allowed me to attack my prey from different angles. With my upgraded Katana and armour, I could take down both in one hunt without being knocked out. My confidence was high as I followed my quest marker towards Minato village, the hub area that would become the base of operations for the narrative of Wild Hearts. As I arrive in the marked area I am treated to a cutscene introducing me to the Kingtusk, a six-eyed boar that looms large above me, dwarfing my hunter with its sheer size. I keep my distance as I think there is no way I am ready to fight this thing, but I have upgraded my gear to the maximum that I can this early in the game, so I don’t really have a choice here. If I want to win this fight and make my way to Minato I have to kill this giant beast with my own skills. It took a couple of tries but eventually, I had a handle on the Kingtusk move-set, and while it was by the skin of my teeth with no more healing water on hand, I made that final blow, earning the resources that would allow me to upgrade my Katana to the next level. Placing a zipline, I made my way to the gates of Minato and prepared for the next step of my journey.
Thus I came to the end of Chapter One, not because I had upgraded my gear to be horrendously overpowered compared to the creature I was fighting, but because I had learned to make the most of my weapon and the Karakuri that I could spawn. The end of each chapter of Wild Hearts is very much a skill check for players to make sure they are skilled enough to continue on their journey. Often these chapter-ending Hunts will have you at a disadvantage. You may have forged an elemental weapon that will aid in your fight, but the resources for the armour that offers the best protection from these creatures only come from their defeat. I would be remiss to not make a specific mention of the Dreadwolf at the end of Chapter Two. While there were some hairy moments during other hunts I had not failed a hunt since my first encounter with the Kingtusk. Maybe I was a bit too cocky, but that wolf spanked me multiple times. I am not ashamed to admit there was a few rage-quit moments as I tried to break through the barrier. I eventually got there, and it was a very sweet kill to make.
Fortunately, you are never really taking the Kemono on completely alone. Very early in the game, you will find a little robot ball called a Tsukumo. Once you find the first one it will follow you around wherever you go and attempt to help you in your battles by throwing Karakuri objects at the Kemono, providing a healing mist and even throwing out supplies of the celestial thread that you use to conjure Karakuri. Having that little guy around has saved me many a time, providing a timely distraction so I could suck down some healing water or giving me more thread so I can build a structure. If the help of Tsukumo is not enough you can always put out a call for help to other hunters, allowing other players into your world to help kill the Kemono. Whether you have called in a hunter to help you or you are joining their hunt, everyone gets the same rewards from the Kemono, so if you are just grinding for gear it can make it faster and easier for yourself if you help out another hunter.
One of the things I loved about Wild Hearts is the striking visuals of each of the different areas you hunt the giant Kemono in. The beauty inherent in the vibrantly coloured Japanese fauna provides a contrast to the destruction of the Feudal Japanese-style structures that occupy the different hunting areas. You can see how the Kemono have spread, forcing their way into the areas where the people of Azuma once lived. This isn’t a matter of hunting for trophies or sport. You’re hunting these powerful creatures because they threaten the lives of everyone in Minato. The Kemono themselves are awesome as well. Every one of these creatures is based on a real-life animal and their move-sets are inspired by how these animals behave in the wild. The Kingtusk will charge at you while the gorilla-inspired Lavaback will try to pound you with its fists or throw huge flaming boulders at you.
The team at Koei Tecmo have also done a great job at streamlining the gameplay for you, removing the amount of time you have to spend returning to Minato. You can travel to any unlocked area at any time and if you have the materials to upgrade your weapons or armour you can do that yourself at a camp by placing down a forge. This cuts down the to-and-fro between Minato and the game world and allows you to get back to doing what you want to do, hunting big giant Kemono. The one big wrinkle in the design is when it comes to preparing food. It seems a bit too complex in having to go through multiple steps that can take up a chunk of time to get the most out of the ingredients. I usually just did the first step and relied on those bonuses rather than mucking around with everything else.
While there are a few small issues with the camera that can sometimes cause a bit of panic during a hunt, Wild Hearts is a solid entry in the “kill giant creatures and harvest their parts to craft new gear” genre, and with plans to add new Kemono to hunt and room for new areas to be added this is a game that you can sink your teeth into for a while to come.
Wild Hearts was reviewed on PC with a code kindly provided by EA Australia