Wild Hearts Review
Fortnite x Monster Hunter
Five years ago, Monster Hunter World was released to critical acclaim, selling millions. It broadened the series’ appeal, opening the genre to players who have yet to consider playing the prior iterations. Omega Force hopes to share in the critical success of Monster Hunter World with its newest game, Wild Hearts. While this title clearly has a lot of heart, its wild side gets in the way often enough to hamper the experience.
The story in Wild Hearts follows a player-created hunter, as they travel to the city of Minato. Unfortunately, large monsters, known as Kemono, have altered the landscape, making it impossible to get there by traditional means. Along the way, the hero meets an older man named Mujina and learns that they can use Karakuri, constructs that aid in both hunting and exploration. After hunting a few of the creatures, players eventually find their way to Minato and quickly discover that its populace is desperately in need of their services.
The narrative in Wild Hearts is average at best, and it becomes easily forgotten by the journey’s end. Thankfully, the voice acting is solid and the details of the characters, along with their facial movements, make the conversations a bit more engaging. The story takes itself pretty seriously, though there are some lighter moments sprinkled in. The hunter spends a lot of time in Minato, which feels full of life. Citizens go about their daily business as they walk around, and careful observation will catch some fun moments in their business.
After a while, hunters can head out to one of several areas to tackle their quarry. Each of the lands has much to be discovered, with plenty of hidden areas to discover and explore. They feature plenty of verticality, begging players to find ways to climb up and around landmarks to discover new perspectives. To assist in exploring, Dragon Karakuri may be used to reach new heights and travel great distances quickly. Dragon Karakuri are permanent constructs, enabling hunters to tailor each of the areas to their own tastes. Exploration comes with rewards scattered all over, and Tsukumo wait to be discovered. These little robotic assistants help in various ways. The first one becomes a permanent assistant in battle when fighting Kemono alone, and other Tsukumo enable the player to upgrade their assistant in various ways.
The monsters occupying these regions range from small, catchable critters, to behemoths the size of a small building. Hunts primarily focus on the larger Kemono. The Ragetail, a rat-shaped beast about the size of a bus, darts around the field of battle, slamming its large tail into hunters in the way. Kingtusk is an even larger creature, resembling a boar that charges forward to gore its victims. The Spineglider looks like a very large squirrel and creates large rock formations where it stands and shoots hunters with jets of water before skydiving in their direction.
While each of the monsters a hunter fights brings new challenges when they first appear, a distinct lack of variety later on hampers the experience. The game boasts over twenty large Kemono to hunt, but quite a few are palette swaps from earlier monsters. For example, the Venomglider is simply the Spineglider with different textures, colors, and attack patterns. The problem becomes evident rather quickly as chapter two introduces six new monsters to the hunter, but only one of them is completely different from anything seen in chapter one. Furthermore, the game requires hunters to grind monsters regularly to upgrade weapons and armor, so this limited selection gets old very quickly. Another issue is that some of the monsters are simply too large. Bigger is not always better, and it becomes near impossible to properly follow some of these creatures simply due to their size and blinding speed.
Wild Hearts offers RPGamers eight distinct weapon types. The Karakuri Katana is a well-balanced weapon that combos easily. Once a meter is full, the player can unleash its true potential, as it turns into a powerful arcane whip for a short time. The Claw Blades allow hunters to maneuver quickly around the Kemono with quick ground attacks and high-flying aerial strikes. The Hand Cannon is one of two ranged weapons in the game. Hunters must manage a temperature gauge as they fire on the monsters from a distance, building up to an ultimate attack that looks like it comes from an anime title. Hunters can also use Karakuri to assist in battle. For example, a spring block allows the hunter to jump up for an aerial attack. These Karakuri may even be combined to create Fusion Karakuri that can block, trap, and even directly attack monsters.
The weapons all feel solid, and there is something for nearly every style of hunter. The early game allows the choice of five of the weapons in the beginning, with the remaining three opening up later on. However, once a hunter proceeds further into the game, changing weapons proves difficult. In order to create a powerful enough weapon to contend with later Kemono, hunters must invest substantial monster parts and currency. That usually means hunting prior Kemono multiple times to gather what is needed.
Armor works in much the same way. Nearly every large Kemono can be turned into a distinct outfit with strengths, weaknesses, and skills. Like much of the game, the appearance of the outfits has a heavy Asian theme to it, ranging from attractive to unsightly. Regardless, careful consideration of the elemental resistances and skills of each outfit is key to surviving these fights. But even with an ideal loadout, the difficulty involved is high.
Fighting large Kemono, especially solo, starts out somewhat difficult and becomes extremely challenging near the end of the game. The balance of the game leans towards forcing multiplayer cooperation. While monster health does seem to adjust based on the number of players involved, these creatures viciously attack with little downtime. With a full three-player party, the monster’s attention becomes divided, allowing some short respites between attacks. In single-player hunts, these breaks are nearly nonexistent. Solo hunters do have a companion to assist a bit in battle, but it’s of small help in later fights. Even a well-armored hunter can go down quickly to a two-hit combo. However, late end-game monsters can pose a significant challenge even for a full team. It is not unusual to fail multiple times against those creatures, wasting up to 30 minutes on each attempt.
The challenge is further exacerbated by bugs and technical issues. Incredible slowdown can happen, particularly in multiplayer maps with snow. This, of course, makes certain hunts nearly unplayable, and can directly result in the hunter being defeated. Patches have been released which seem to have addressed this to some degree and towards the end of the review period, the slowdowns popped up less often. However, the haphazard nature of these challenges makes it difficult to say for certain if the issue has been resolved in all areas of the game.
Graphically, the game impresses in some areas and lets players down in others. As mentioned before, many areas are meticulously designed and are a delight to look at while exploring. However, in other areas, special effects are poorly implemented. In one field, the blowing grass contributes to frequent slowdown. In the fortress area, the snow effects look terrible, like confetti filling the screen, and they detract from the experience. Conversely, the character models look terrific and it’s clear that great effort was put in to ensure their facial expressions are conveyed accurately during a conversation.
The sound in Wild Hearts does work well, for the most part. The music is thick with cultural influence and shifts at appropriate moments, such as during a fight. And when a monster turns its sights on the hunter, the music amps up the tension, pulling gamers into the experience. The sounds do a great job keeping the hunter informed, which is critical given how difficult it can be to keep track of some of the faster monsters. Careful attention to audio cues can help give an edge in these tougher fights.
It is a shame that more time and effort weren’t put into the monster variety and ensuring better performance at launch. With the ability to create traps and other constructs on the field of battle, Wild Hearts has created a new hunting experience that could certainly stand toe to toe with a more well-established series. Future patches and DLC could certainly iron some of these problems out, but as it stands upon release, Wild Hearts is difficult to recommend in its launch state to all but the most hard-core of hunters. With that said, the foundation laid out by this title is quite solid, and could certainly lead to greater things in the future.
Disclosure: This review is based on a free copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Good weapon variety
Building Karakuri to aid in fights is fun
Very detailed characters in town
Lackluster monster variety
Not solo friendly
The difficulty starts at hard and goes up from there