Wild Hearts is more than just a Monster Hunter wannabe | Hands-on preview

by on February 13, 2023

If you’re a Monster Hunter fan who has played any other monster hunting game you’re probably already wary of Wild Hearts. Of the few offerings, Dauntless might be the closest thing to a real pretender to Capcom’s wild throne. While Dauntless has more of an MMO feel, it’s a game aimed squarely at the same fanbase. Wild Hearts is similar, but where Dauntless walks the “Games as a Service” road, Omega Force’s game does not. It has positioned itself right alongside World and Rise, and fans may well leap to defend Capcom’s legendary franchise – but they don’t need to. Wild Hearts isn’t saying “I’m better, play me instead.” It’s saying “I’m different, play me as well.”

The similarities between the franchises are strong. Wild Hearts borrows many elements from the older series. There’s eating before or during hunts, claiming body parts and reagents from slain beasts to fashion new armour and weapons. There’s even a story about the monsters being stirred up by some malevolent unknown force.

Wild Hearts preview 1

But this is a template only, one that Capcom has proven works perfectly as a framework for the outer cladding of bringing down the beasts. That’s the real selling point here, and in this respect Wild Hearts sets out its stall very early on.

The monsters, known as Kemono, are too powerful for any one human to defeat. Hunters must face the beats in groups and rarely survive. Your mysterious hunter has arrived in Azuma to seek out Kemono for reasons you get to choose during character creation. Maybe you came for money, glory, or research. It’s up to you, and these choices affect dialogue later on.

To fight Kemono alone, you’re given a Karakuri Seed, the last remnant of an ancient technology that once allowed Hunters to control the spread and migrations of these dangerous beasts. And it’s this item that completely transforms Wild Hearts. Without it, it’s already a serviceable boss-hunting game; with it, it becomes a unique, exhilarating experience.

WH preview

Mapped to the left shoulder button and assorted face buttons, the Karakuri are summoned instantly and immediately change the battlefield. Summon Crates to swan dive onto the enemy from above, springboards to catapult yourself out of danger or across gaps, and bulwarks to halt a charging Kemono in its tracks. Or maybe use Karakuri Thread to build a Forge in your camp, or a device that catches fish for you. Even outside of combat, it’s a game-changing mechanic.

It’s enough to set Wild Hearts apart. It’s far more than just a gimmick; it’s an integral part of the experience that works dynamically with any of the weapons you choose. There are 8 weapon archetypes, with scores of upgrade paths to choose from – if you have the materials. With the Karakuri, you’ll stand a chance of earning them.

Without playing it yourself it’s hard to explain just how intuitive and satisfying it is to use the right Karakuri at the right moment. There’s an incredible flow to each fight, a pace that rarely lets up, even if you are battling the camera as much as the Kemono now and then. If any game needs an FoV slider, it’s Wild Hearts.

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Anyone worried that Wild Hearts looks too much like Monster Hunter will be surprised when it launches. Yes, it shares DNA and it has a similar feudal Japanese setting to some of the Monster Hunter games, but the mechanics of each hunt feel different. It’s a faster game, and the Karakuri adds a tactical element you might not be expecting. It’s Nioh to Monster Hunter’s Dark Souls, and there’s more than enough room for both to exist.

Wild Hearts will be released on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series S and X on February 17, 2023. We will bring you a full-scored review closer to launch.