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Wild Hearts

Wild Hearts

Can Koei Tecmo's new RPG crown itself the new king of monster hunting?

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Picture this: you're on a lovely woodland stroll when out of nowhere a boar the size of your local supermarket begins charging towards you. In a normal world, you'd simply pray to whichever god you believe in before being crushed, but in the world of Wild Hearts, you're more than equipped to deal with these beasties, as not only can your weapons carve easily into them, but you can also conjure giant walls to block their attacks and huge mallets to bonk them on the head with.

This is the gist of Wild Hearts, Koei Tecmo and EA's answer to the Monster Hunter franchise. You take up the role of a hunter in Wild Hearts, tasked with protecting the town of Minato and the overall land of Azuma from the kemono - great beasts that have infused themselves with the powers of nature.

The similarities between Wild Hearts and Monster Hunter are clear to see, mainly in the fact that Azuma is full of big monsters, and your job is largely to hunt them down either alone or with a couple of friends. Wild Hearts does its best to depart from being called a Monster Hunter clone, though, and it does offer multiple different mechanics to separate itself from those other games that have you kill huge creatures. Karakuri, for example, are the building tools you gain at the start of the game, and can be used in a huge variety of ways. In combat, they can offer moments of respite by giving you a spring to leap away from foes, or a small crate to stand on, and throughout the world they can give you access to camps which act as fast travel points, flying vines that can let you zip over to a kemono you're hunting, and forges that give you the chance to swap out and upgrade your gear. There are a myriad of options both in and out of hunting with karakuri, and there are even combinations you can make with the basic builds like the aforementioned barricades and Pounders, which can be used to great advantage against the right kemono.

Wild Hearts
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Wild Hearts

The karakuri mechanic really is a game-changer here, and it is a great example of one of the best things about Wild Hearts, and that is its depth. Koei Tecmo's Omega Force division has shown a clear dedication to Wild Hearts, making it a substantial first step in what could be a successful series. Wild Hearts' weapons are another way to easily grasp just how deep the rabbit hole goes, as once you're ready to upgrade your weapon you'll see a huge tree spanning out before you, full of different customisation and build options. These upgrades are more than just excuses for you to grind out kemono and farm their items as well, as depending on the path you go with, you will end up with an entirely different weapon even compared to someone who uses the same base weapon. From fiery mauls to poison katanas, there are a tonne of ways to customise the way you take down kemono, and when you tie that in with the additional options you get with karakuri, combat in Wild Hearts has a tremendous amount of variety to it that'll be incredibly exciting for those that love to experiment with builds. While it may seem slightly overwhelming at first, after the first few hours of gameplay it all begins to flow together brilliantly.

Perhaps the main attraction of a game like Wild Hearts is its monsters, and while there's not a huge amount of kemono in the game, this is because the creatures that do prowl the lands of Azuma have been given a lot of attention. Each are unique both in their designs and their movesets which you'll have to learn if you want to take them down. They range in size, speed, and strength, with some even having their own regional variants like the Icetusk but each feel like they're all incredibly deadly and require the right gear and a good amount of skill to take down. This especially becomes the case later on when you meet the "Mighty" versions of each kemono. While fighting kemono does give you a great sense of the threat these creatures pose to Azuma and Minato by how tough they are to take down, solo hunts especially can become somewhat exhausting, as you have to chase your target across the map four or five times before they're finally brought low. Each of these segments where you're basically just running towards the next combat arena does bring you out of the heart-pumping immersion a hunt can otherwise provide, especially when it's complimented by Wild Hearts' excellent soundtrack.

Wild Hearts
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Later in the game, as you perfect your build to do massive damage, this becomes less of an issue, and if you have two friends to play with constantly, this may not even be a problem at all. Sometimes, it does feel as though Wild Hearts is more skewed to multiplayer play than it is single-player. Taking on kemono solo isn't impossible, but to say that the tsukumo - the little wooden robot assistant you get early on - is as useful as another player would be lying. The massive damage that kemono can do means that a full team will have a much greater advantage when pitted against a solo player due to a trio being able to better split the aggression.

While many who pick up Wild Hearts aren't necessarily going in for its narrative, the game does have a main story, and it's not half bad either. There's a lot of interesting elements to the world of Azuma, found either as you explore the ruins of a once populated castle or hear more about the politicking of lands far from Minato. However, while the main story is passable and can provide some great cinematic moments, it is little more than fine for the most part, and its characters are largely two-dimensional. This doesn't make them unlikeable, but by the end of my time with Wild Hearts I didn't find myself particularly attached to most of them.

Wild Hearts is a solid first step for Koei Tecmo's latest foray into the world of monster hunting, and while this isn't going to necessarily convert those who aren't already into the genre, it does provide great gameplay for those who want to pick up an alternative to Monster Hunter. It's a shame right now that it is marred by performance issues, bugs, and graphical problems, especially on PC, but hopefully these will be fixed soon so Wild Hearts can be enjoyed as the game it was meant to be.

Wild Hearts
Wild Hearts
07 Gamereactor UK
7 / 10
Fun combat, great creature designs, interesting world.
Lacking performance, occasionally exhaustive hunts, and bland characters.
overall score
is our network score. What's yours? The network score is the average of every country's score

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REVIEW. Written by Alex Hopley

Can Koei Tecmo's new RPG crown itself the new king of monster hunting?

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