The release of Wild Hearts, EA Originals and Koei Tecmo’s foray into monster hunting, is right around the corner. Each trailer and update leading up to this week has looked impressive, and just ahead of its release, we got to try out what would presumably be the final build, pending any other big updates.
While this isn’t the actual review just yet, we’ve played enough of the game to get a good idea of what it’s all about, and we’ll be keeping this final preview to the first few hours of our experience while focusing on a major key point of the game that really sets it apart.
Playing the near-final build of Wild Hearts opened me up to a much more accurate reading of the game. In our first preview a few months ago, the scope was very limited, but the potential to differentiate itself because of its Karakuri system was already there.
Calling upon the Karakuri, which is basically ancient technology that you can summon at will, the hunting ground becomes a playground of sorts. This Fortnite-esque formula of building objects that can aid you in battle is quite ingenious and really adds a new dimension to the genre. You’ll encounter Karakuri threads, a consumable resource, across the many locations in the game, which will allow you to build these contraptions.
The first one Wild Hearts will let you build is the basic Crate that can be used to reach previously inaccessible places, opening up new routes and paths. While it seems pretty basic, this Karakuri can also be used as a jump pad of sorts to boost you as you perform a damaging aerial maneuver against your foe.
At some point in the game, players will also gain access to a number of Karakuri, including a Spring that boosts you toward where you are facing, a giant hammer called the Pounder, and much more. Unlocking these is pretty straightforward, but some can only be drawn from “inspiration” during certain moments in the game.
During the battle with King Tusk, a gigantic boar with the ability to make the ground beneath its feet quake, players will be met with an enemy ability that deals major damage. A flash of inspiration appears, and players will be able to create a Bulwark by creating 6 basic boxes (2 columns of 3 boxes on top of each other). The Karakuri then transforms from a simple wall of boxes into a sturdy gate, capable of stopping (and knocking down) King Tusk for extra damage.
Another Karakuri that cannot be directly unlocked is the Pounder, which can be created by stacking 3 of the aforementioned step pads on top of each other. This hammer is especially useful during the fight against the Spineglider, a flying Kemono that can create rock perches used as footholds to swoop down and attack. Timing the creation of the hammer will break the perch and knock the Spineglider down.
Players with a high level of skill may not need to use the Karakuri, but encounters are made much more interesting with them. Kemono abilities are tuned with the use of Karakuri in mind, and using them correctly can really turn the tide of battle.
Karakuri are not just made for combat use but can be utilized for other purposes such as exploration as well. These tools are generally multipurpose, and integrating them into your playstyle is certainly key to getting the most out of the Wild Hearts experience.
Wild Hearts does not hide its influences. Monster Hunter veterans will surely notice many similarities, from the weapons to other aspects of Capcom’s popular series. With such a solid foundation to bank on, the game takes on what makes the loop addictive and layers it with a new system that allows it to be much more flexible and creative despite being practically the same game.
Wild Hearts is arguably closer to Monster Hunter Rise instead of World, as the addition of the Karakuri gives it a faster pace and more acrobatic battles similar to what the Wirebugs added to the game. When things go right, seeing hunters fly in the air as they prepare to dish out heavy damage is very satisfying, and with the various uses of the Karakuri, the potential for highlight reels is much more remarkable.
It would be easy to fall into the tendency of writing off Wild Hearts as another hunting clone, but that would be selling the Karakuri mechanic short of its potential. It feels like Koei Tecmo has stumbled upon something good here, and if the first few hours are any indication, Wild Hearts can really feel like a solid wild card in the genre.
Of course, with games of this type, the burden falls upon the developers to keep supporting them with content that will keep the ball rolling. There seems to be enough here to last a while, but we’ll have to see if the cadence of updates can keep up with the players.
Wild Hearts is scheduled to release on February 17, 2023 for the PS5, Xbox Series, and PC.