While the genre of hunting video games is one that's been around in many forms it's one that is dominated by a single franchise. You might not be familiar with God Eater or even the Final Fantasy hunting game it's impossible to not know Monster Hunter. EAs latest foray into hunting games has led to Wild Hearts, and with a few hours under our belt how is it shaping up so far?
You play through Wild Hearts as a nameless hunter, roaming the land of Azuma, and taking care of giant beasts known as Kemono. Early on your Hunter will obtain the power to use Celestial Threads harvested from the land to create hunting tools known as Karakuri. This technology, once lost, becomes the central power for the town of Minato to use to keep its borders safe and attain a new golden age. For the player what this means is a lot of quests and reasons to travel to the different regions of Azuma and slay some Kemono.
These Kemono are powerful combinations of beasts, with the elements of the land. Some examples include a magma-producing Gorilla, a Boar that can produce wood and vines, and a part rat-part flower hybrid. While there are small fodder Kemono that do roam the land it's these larger creatures that will be the focus of the game. Each Kemono design is fairly unique, with only a few 'reskinned' creatures. The combination of beast and nature gives the Kemono the look as if they've been ripped straight out of a Studio Ghibli movie in all the best ways.
A few hours into the game the story is relatively light mostly serving as a vehicle to be asked to hunt down more of the different variety of monsters that are present in Wild Hearts. Time spent in the village is mostly defined by shopping, picking up side-quests, and learning which Kemono is next on your hit list. A number of features that you'd expect to have to return to town for, like cooking or creating new weapons and armor, can even be performed out in the field. This is just one of the ways that Wild Hearts streamlines its features for players.
Wild Hearts does an exceptional job reducing any barrier to getting into a hunt as soon as you can. For a player like myself who hasn't enjoyed other hunting games as much due to the time spent in hubs waiting to party up getting from the start screen to beating up a monster in 2 minutes is a wonderful change.
Players will have access to five different weapons at the start of the game, with a further three once you reach Chapter 2. These weapons alternate between the kinds of things you'd expect like a Katana or giant hammer, but there are some really unique weapon offerings as well.
The Bladed Wagasa is an umbrella that lets you deal damage as you spin it around, this weapon is also unique as it offers a powerful parry that can throw Kemono that collide with it away. Another extremely unique weapon that you'll obtain later on is the Karakuri Staff. This weapon can swap between five different forms, each time you swap form during a combo you'll build up a meter that lets you transform it into a massive buster sword-like weapon to deal ridiculous damage. This mix of old and new helps to promote the testing of newer weapons and the feeling of comfortability with the known quantities.
Early on I've been finding that simply by completing a single hunt there's at least one more weapon upgrade or piece of armor to upgrade. Looking at how expansive some of the trees are I'm sure that the feeling of steady progression will begin to slow.
Multiplayer in Wild Hearts is just as easy to get into as a hunt. Multiplayer can be joined easily on a per-mission basis, or by opening up a lobby with key phrases and passwords to make sure you match with who you want. Unfortunately, as the game uses peer-to-peer multiplayer depending on the connection of the players it can lead to dropped inputs. When combat is solely reliant on swinging a sword some dropped inputs aren't too bad, but when you need to create fusion Karakuri quickly a dropped input can be a waste of time and resources.
Wild Hearts so far has everything that we could hope to see from the beginnings of a new hunting IP, though some drawbacks too. Large-scale monsters to fell, a variety of fun weapons to master, and armor to craft and upgrade. The story does leave a bit to be desired, but that wasn't wholly unexpected. So far the largest disappointment is in the multiplayer, even with a strong wired home internet connection it's not fun to play with that many connection issues.
TechRaptor previewed Wild Hearts on PC using a preview code provided by the publisher. This game is also available on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S