Wild Hearts review in progress for Xbox Series X, PS5, PC

Platform: Xbox Series X|S
Also On: PlayStation 5, PC
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Omega Force
Medium: Blu-ray
Players: 1-3
Online: Yes

As a taller person I?ve never really known the plight of someone trying to grab something from the top shelf and not quite being able to make it, but I bet it?d be immensely useful if you could conjure a giant box from thin air in order to do so. Now imagine stacking three of those boxes on top of each other, scrambling up them, and leaping off in order to smash a giant rat creature in the face with a humongous hammer. If you can imagine that, then you?re on your way to understanding what Wild Hearts is all about. 

Developed by Omega Force, largely known for the Dynasty Warriors games, Wild Hearts is heavily inspired by Capcom?s Monster Hunter series. You?ll take on the role of a hunter who is chasing down various giant creatures called Kemono across different locales featuring a whole host of items to collect, craft, sell, and so on. While Monster Hunter clones aren?t necessarily unheard of nowadays, Wild Hearts does a pretty solid job of differentiating itself, largely due to its Karakuri mechanic. 

Karakuri is what allows your hunter to conjure various objects from thin-air, useful both in and out of battle. While roaming around the countryside of Azuma, you can create tents for fast-travel points, rope-vines that?ll propel you to out-of-reach locations, drying racks to cure food for consumption, and a large number of other useful items. All of this is done via a quick-menu function that?s pretty painless to use, based largely around resources made available by uncovering locations called Dragon Pits and pouring necessary resources into those pits in order to upgrade them, allowing you to create more Karakuri throughout the world. 

However, what?s really fun about the Karakuri function is how it works in combat. At the onset of the game you?ll have a couple of basic functions, like creating large crates to climb on and leap off of, or small springy platforms that?ll propel your hunter forward quickly. Leaping off of a crate to perform a jump attack adds a little oomph to your attack power, but as you progress you?ll be able to create more complex Karakuri, like stacking six crates together to create a wall that charging Kemono can get knocked back and stunned by. During combat your hunter may get a flash of inspiration, unlocking new Karakuri combinations to test out, and there?s a whole diverse skill tree devoted to the Karakuri function. I wasn?t sure how I?d feel about needing to build items in the middle of combat, but was surprised at how easy it is to pull off, and how it doesn?t interrupt the flow of the fight in the least bit. Karakuri became second nature quickly enough, and committing useful combinations to memory is certainly worth doing in Wild Hearts.

Actual combat, without Karakuri, is also pretty satisfying here. At the onset of the game you?re working with just a Katana, which is a solid enough introductory weapon, and then you?ll quickly gain access to 4 additional weapons. Those can all be crafted with a small fee/resource cost, and then as you advance the story you?ll unlock three additional weapons. I mostly settled on the Maul, a large hammer that can trigger an extension on its handle with successfully timed button presses giving it more impressive range and harder strikes with each successive swing. But each weapon certainly felt viable, and gives a pretty good feel for both up close combat and long range action. Also, much like Monster Hunter, you?ll have various upgrade paths for each weapon, with different elemental attributes for different upgrades. One other neat feature for weapon upgrades is the ability to unlock and carry over skills or attribute increases, and you can sort of move freely around the tree in order to absorb skills or abilities that you find beneficial, giving you some unique customization options regardless of what weapon you choose to wield. 

As it stands, my early hours in Wild Hearts have definitely been enjoyable. Performance had some hiccups prior to the day one patch, which seem to have smoothed out a bit on Xbox Series X, so that?s off to a good start at least. Also, while my online play was limited prior to launch, the handful of team-ups I did have went smoothly, and the online multiplayer functionality here is pretty easy to understand, so barring any network issues I think it?ll work pretty well at launch. For the time being I?m calling this a review in progress primarily because I?ve not approached the end game content yet, which if you?ve any experience with Monster Hunter styled games like Wild Hearts, you?ll realize that can be a pretty major component. So for now I?ll hold off on giving this a proper score, but will say that everything I?ve played so far has been immensely promising. 

Note: Electronic Arts provided us with a Wild Hearts Xbox Series X|S codes for review purposes.