Wild Hearts – Review-In-Progress

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Wild Heart is an action role-playing game developed by Omega Force and published under EA Originals. The game takes a good bit of inspiration from Monster Hunter and wraps it all up in an authentic Feudal Japanese setting.

Before we get to this review-in-progress, let’s address the very large elephant in the room: the game’s comparisons to Monster Hunter. Yes, the game does feel a lot like your typical Monster Hunter game, it even has elements reminiscent of games in that series. But as close as those parallels are, Koei Tecmo’s Toukiden games influenced Wild Hearts more.

The most apparent difference between the two is Wild Heart’s Karakuri – sophisticated mechanisms used by Hunters of old to hunt down giant Kemono and traverse the map in fun and creative ways. In Wild Hearts, you are able to set up camp in almost any place you like. Preferably in secluded places where you can refill your flask away from the monster trails where destruction is possible. Through these camps, your hunter can plan out hunts and have a place to safe keep your harvested resources.

The more I play this game, the more I am reminded of transportation games such as Death Stranding. Creating your own network of ziplines and wind tunnels that cover large distances was more enjoyable than I initially thought. Furthermore, you are able to set up Karakuri radar towers in select locations to ping every Kemono within its radius. This beats following tracks all day long.

Like every hunting game, the giant monsters are the real stars of the show. The Kemono of Azuma are more a force of nature than simple beasts vying for territory. I’ll talk about them more in detail in my full review of the game.

The Kemono are primal beings that influence the very environment around them. The effects are so drastic that their very presence pushes humans away and attracts other powerful Kemono around them. The Hunters are meant to bring balance to these chaotic forces.

The hunter’s arsenal includes variants of katanas, nodachi, bows, and giant hammers. My current favorite weapon is the bladed wagasa. It is essentially a combat umbrella whose playstyle revolves around high-flying strikes and perfectly timed parries. There are more weapons to unlock once the player reaches the second chapter. We’ll save those for later. For now, let’s just say that the expanded arsenal is explosive.

The human’s home city of Minato is a literal safe harbor against the monsters that roam freely across the land. The city has seen better days, and it is up to us to help the denizens build up on top of the ruins of their old homes. There is a lot of potential for more locations. I don’t quite know to what extent just yet. But I suspect by the time my full review is released, I should have a clearer view of what a fully realized Minato looks like.

When I first played the beta last year, I noted how stiff the character faces were and how lacking in polish it was. I am happy to report that the facial animations perfectly sync up with the audio. This is especially impressive considering KOEI TECMO’s light touch when it comes to presenting character expressions. I am so impressed by this feat, I had to frequent between Japanese and English voice acting. My jaw dropped when I saw the character’s mouth perfectly matching the audio.

The Japanese voice acting was superb, by the way. Though I was impressed with the amount of effort put into the English dub. Ultimately, I was happier to continue with the Japanese dub. Given enough time, I might give the English voices a chance.

So far, my biggest complaint about the game is the occasional texture pop-in. I run the game on PC with an RTX 3060 with mostly high settings and somehow the assets keep loading into view. It’s sort of a bummer. So I’m expecting the console version to be far more stable. Hopefully, a fix on PC is released before launch. I’ll add that bit of good news to my review as well should a fix comes through.

I suspect that Wild Hearts is still holding on to more than a few surprises. I’m willing to spring the trap, should it prove to be true. It has gotten me excited at the thought of hunting monsters that are not from a Monster Hunter game. I haven’t felt this way since Toukiden surged onto the PSP scene way back when. Now, all that’s left is to find out if my excitement was warranted. In the meantime, look forward to my full review of the game when it comes out later this week.