Shaky performance aside, Wild Hearts is a worthy alternative to Monster Hunter
10 hours in and I’m having a great time
Like a sticky ball of regurgitated sap spat from the jaws of a giant dog, review code for Wild Hearts came in hot and fast earlier this week. So while other outlets will be delivering their final verdicts on Omega Force’s beast batterin’ simulator today, I’m afraid I haven’t had the chance to play enough of it to give it a fair shakedown yet. It’s good, though! I really like it, and as a huge Monster Hunter fan I’m pleased that there’s finally a worthy alternative to Capcom’s long-running series. Competition is good!
As I suspected (and secretly hoped), Wild Hearts is a proper Monster Hunter clone through and through. You travel to one of multiple relatively large zones with the intention of killing a very large beast. You attack said beast (a big chicken, a weird rat, a badger with a fringe) using a comically large weapon. Fights are lengthy and arduous. Challenging. Beasts feature multiple forms, and are determined to knock you on your arse and crush you to death underneath their hooves/claws/paws. Eventually, they’ll wander off to lick their wounds, and you’ll show up like a mosquito with a handgun to put them out of their misery. You happily tear off their appendages before crafting them into a lovely pair of shoes or a sharper, more dangerous sword.
It’s a rhythm I’m intimately familiar with at this point, one that Wild Hearts replicates so effectively that it can be easy to forget that this is actually something entirely new. But new it is, and with this freshness comes a couple of interesting ideas that give Wild Hearts its own distinct identity. The biggest of which is Karakuri, a power that lets you summon structures out of thin air during a battle. Clambering up a tower of crates lets you perform a devastating overhead strike. A spring sproings you away from the impending tusks of a charging pig. A torch imbues your sword with flames, increasing your damage against enemies weak to fire.
Pair certain combinations together and you’ll create a powerful contraption capable of staggering an enemy. Three springs generate a huge wobbly hammer that flattens a beast in an instant. Six crates form a wall that repels a stampeding giant. They are an essential part of the game’s combat, special moves that are physically placed onto the battlefield and can be destroyed by a raging creature. They have a great sense of tactility to them. A sort of scrappiness. In Wild Hearts, you’re less of a mythical superhero and more of a desperate inventor. A crate here. A fire stick there. A-ha! A cannon that shoots fireworks! That’ll stop this pesky chicken in its path! They’re visually more interesting than Rise’s wirebugs and less restrictive, too. There’s a load to unlock and play around with.
But whereas the Karakuri system features a decent amount of complexity, the same can’t be said for combat in general. Weapons are fun to wield and each one feels distinct in the hands, but the game lacks the depth that makes Monster Hunter so compelling. Now I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing. I think in general this is a smart move by Omega Force to ensure that Wild Hearts is more palatable for newcomers than your average Monster Hunter release.
Let’s face it, MonHunt is dense, complicated and abrasive to those unfamiliar with the series. By comparison, Wild Hearts feels accessible and welcoming. A short tutorial introduces combat. Karakuri summoning. Weapon upgrading. Armour creation. You can embark on hunts by simply selecting a monster icon from the map, while the main storyline ferries you to new islands when you’re ready to move on. It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely less overwhelming, and I do think that makes a big difference. If Monster Hunter’s edges proved too sharp for you, the rounded corners of Wild Hearts may be exactly what you’re looking for.
It’s not all good news, though. By the developer's own admission, Wild Hearts has noticeable performance issues on PC. Hardware editor James has confirmed that the game is being severely bottlenecked by the CPU, resulting in frequent stutters and just a general janky-ness that makes everything feel half-baked. Omega Force has committed to fixing the issue as quickly as possible, but that doesn’t change the fact that the game is set to launch in a less than favourable state. Wild Hearts is perfectly playable, but holding off for this upcoming patch may not be a terrible idea, especially for those sporting mid-range hardware.
So, that’s where I’m at this point. Wild Hearts is good! Of course, time will tell if it has the depth and complexity to keep me engaged past its opening few hours, but right now I’m desperate to jump back in. There’s this chicken that’s giving me some bother, you see, and I think it’s about time I introduce its beak to my big comedy hammer.