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Back When I first tried Shadow of the Colossus, I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of the Colossi. That and the enchanting soundtracks took me on a journey from seas to skies. While its puzzle-based approach is unique in itself, it was Capcom’s Monster Hunter series that further reinvented this genre and implemented a crafting-based tactical approach in its combat system, which in many ways was a step up from a mere hack-and-slash action-oriented approach.

Over the years, it has solidified itself as the lone wolf of its genre. But that has changed now. EA and Koei Tecmo’s Wild Hearts is not a Monster Hunter, it is a Monster Hunter game through and through. Omega Force, the creators of Dynasty/Samurai Warriors and Toukiden series, has taken an inventive approach that integrates the ‘Fortnite’ style building approach with the well-acquainted crafting system to open up endless possibilities.

Wilds Hearts was released on 16th February 2022 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.

Land of The Rising Sun

WILD HEARTS takes place in Azuma, a fantasy landscape inspired by feudal Japan. Nature-infused beasts-Kemonos, usually living peacefully, are now rampaging across the countryside, altering their surroundings at the cost of citizens’ lives. After a dreadful fight with the winter wolf Deathstalker, the player becomes the bearer of a life-sustaining technology – the Karakuri System, which allows players to build things out of thin air. As the Player’s power grows, they are tasked with dueling these colossi, Kemonos and restoring balance across the Region.

As for the world, it is pretty huge. There are over six regions divided into smaller maps, covering a varied variety of terrains across Japan. There are dragon pits that you can unlock to build things from Karakuri Tech, including camps, bonfires, and a forge for Natsumi the blacksmith. There are story NPCs who will accompany you in your journey to bring in the friendly nuance. But the chaos of the rampaging Kemono is never too far.

Amidst all this chaos in the world, there exists a peaceful hunter village -Minato. Keeping Minato as the home base, players set out on wild adventures to take on the Kemonos. You can be a lone hunter or one who hunts in packs. Every hunt is geared toward a specific gear and demands a decisive strategy, as these Kemonos are ferociously strong and can one-shot you in a matter of seconds. While you can overcome such difficulties by going co-op which also gives you the ability to revive your teammates, it often comes with the downside of waiting forever for someone to join your session.

The Karakuri System

Instead of overwhelming inventory management and gimmicky stuff like weapon sharpening, the game largely focuses on the awesome Karakuri tech that creates things literally out of thin air. You create crates that make you jump, conjure a wall in mid-fight, springs that make you go faster, and you can even play overhead with a copter and do a plunge attack. That’s just a few of the things and you keep on unlocking more of ’em as you upgrade your Karakuri Tech Tree.

It is so essentially integrated into the game’s combat that without it you can’t stand your ground. Each Kemono features a specific weakness and depending on that weakness you gotta master a particular tech and weapons. Some kemonos like the brutal Lavaback Monkey can one-shot you and during most of the fight, the floor is lava. If it wasn’t for the co-op play and the Karakuri copter, I would have never bested this foul beast, he was inches away from being the next Guardian Ape from Sekiro.

To tip the odds in your favor, it is also required that you master the weapons. Like the Karakuri Tree, each weapon also has its own dedicated Tree and requires a specific loot item that can be acquired with exploration and loot from boss fights. It is required that you fight each Kemono a specific number of times to get the required upgrade materials. It is a bit tedious to repeat the same boss fight over and over, but thankfully you can also join other player sessions to get the required loot. You will also be awarded those precious Kemono orbs that level you up.

The Kemonos

In the end, the prime highlight of the game are the boss fights. In a typical Monster Hunter style, these fights are often lengthy and may get tedious. The first part of it is locating the target. Kemonos can be tracked by conjuring Karakuri Towers. Once the target is marked, you reach it by using your Hunter instinct. To scale larger distances, you can use flying vines. If you lack the required gear, it’s the best time to put down an assist request. The wait times are often long, and it may take anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes depending on your matchmaking conditions.

Once the fight starts, it takes a specific amount of damage to make the Kemono flee to its next location. Overall, the fight takes place in three to five different locations. After you have done heavy damage to the Kemono, it goes berserk and once it do, you would want to haul ass. During the last few minutes, these foul beasts can one-shot you pretty easily. Once the beast falls, and you land the final below, it is quite a sight to behold. If done as a lone hunter, it feels very well-earned, as it is a lot harder than it sounds. While it takes over 30 minutes to put down a single boss, the bosses can put you down in less than a minute and sometimes, in a matter of seconds.

Overall the fights are inseparably similar to the ones featured in Monster Hunter World but faster. It is kind of the Nioh equivalent of Dark Souls that also has the upper hand, thanks to its creative Karakuri-crafting tech. Overall, it is undoubtedly quite difficult to master and has a steep learning curve based on which Kemono you are taking on. But in the end, when you get that well-earned victory it feels so satisfying, there’s nothing quite like it.

It equally shines in terms of visuals and performance on the PlayStation 5. The performance mode holds up a solid 60 frames per second most of the time while maintaining a pretty sharp image. There are some minor frame drops at times in mid-fight. It is more likely to occur if you are doing co-op. Texture and shadow-popping issues are relatively minimal and hard to notice. Considering its solid future map, most of these issues will be fixed in the upcoming updates. 

Real Talk

Wild Hearts is an amazing game that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the Monster Hunter titles as a formidable contender. Its fast-paced combat mechanics feel satisfying, and the integral Karakuri tech allows you to conjure things out of thin air – an opening window to countless possibilities. Through and through, it is a challenging experience that feels oddly satisfying once you manage to overcome the hardships of Kemonos. And the Kemonos themselves are undoubtedly the biggest star of the overall show. The only things that can be a bit of an issue are the long matchmaking times and the complex skill trees that may feel overwhelming from a newcomer’s perspective. Definitely worth a buy!

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