Wild Hearts is crates of fun for Monster Hunter veterans

Wild Hearts Hog Art Header

Pivoting, one last time, you prepare your final blow. It lands true, and another Kemono lies dead at your feet, giving up its precious fragments to aid you in your future hunts. It’s a satisfying, and equally melancholy moment, and it’s one that Wild Hearts nails time and time again. Capcom may have created the monster-hunting genre all those years ago, but Koei Tecmo hasn’t let them have all the fun. While Toukiden never truly broke free of its handheld roots, Wild Hearts is a fully-fledged, next-generation hunting game, and with its release later this week, Capcom might have to start looking over its shoulder.

Hunt, carve, craft, repeat. This gameplay loop has been worming its way into gamers’ minds over the past twenty years, and with the success of Monster Hunter World and Monster Hunter Rise it’s only become more renowned. Wild Hearts doesn’t mess with the fundamentals of what remains a powerful formula, to the point that there are times when the two could easily overlap, but it brings an exciting new mechanic that adds a different feel to its hunting encounters.

Karakuri are ancient technology, built to utilise Celestial Thread, a commodity found in the natural world. Humans can utilise this technology by bonding with a Karakuri seed, and in doing so are granted the ability to craft and construct a myriad assortment of tools and devices. What’s that mean for our hunter? Well, mid-hunt you can instantly create these tools on-the-fly to help you take down the creature that’s trying to flatten you. It’s like Fortnite and Monster Hunter bumped into each other for a drink and left a scrawled napkin lying around for Koei Tecmo to find. Fortunately, we didn’t end up with any of the dancing.

The first Karakuri you start off with are crates. These are crates that you can stack up to help you climb cliffs, or to create elevated points to leap from and attack Kemono from above, and let’s face it, on the surface this doesn’t sound remotely exciting. However, in practice, even these simple constructs become a vital part of your moveset, and once you’ve become accustomed to them you can quickly conjure up an impenetrable wall, and far more inventive tools of war.

Wild Hearts Karakuri construct

It helps that you can access them instantly, and that you’re only held back by the amount of Celestial Thread you can carry at one time. You can equip four Karakuri at once, and as you progress you unlock new options which start to make your decision tougher. One of my favourite features during the opening hours is how your hunter can be inspired to use the Karakuri in a new way, expanding your arsenal mid-battle and giving you something new to play with. Like the wirebugs in Monster Hunter Rise, the Karakuri add something meaningful to the hunting action, giving Wild Hearts a distinctive flavour of its own.

The monsters are, of course, the real focus of the game, and the team at Omega Force have looked to combine elements of the natural world with real-life creatures, fusing them into giant hybrids that carry the kind of supernatural qualities found so often in Japanese animation. From the rat-like Ragetail, its tail a plant bulb that it attempts to smash you with, to the huge rocky ape of the Lavaback, the monsters here are distinct and utterly merciless, punishing you for a moment’s hesitation.

Wild Hearts Ape Coop Fight

Where Rise felt relatively welcoming and ultimately pretty easy through to its endgame content, Wild Hearts ramps up the difficulty early on – a point that may frustrate newcomers but should feel immediately satisfying for fans of the genre. I found that I was often onto my last ‘life’ far more than I’ve been accustomed to in recent years, and while some of that may have been about learning new systems and weaponry, these monsters are out to hunt you rather than the other way around. Wild Hearts is fast, with a pace that reduces the opportunities for attack down to a fraction of what you might be used to, and running, leaping and floating are essential if you’re going to survive.

Taking a Kemono down results in a batch of new components to use in crafting fresh armour or weaponry, and the options here are expansive and intriguing. The weapon tree for each armament is huge, and in a refreshing new approach you can choose your path through this tree, with weapons able to retain some of the skills from previous entries on the path. This means that while you might have the same final blade in name as another player, it’s likely to be utterly unique to you and your playstyle. The feudal-era Japanese setting feeds into the armour and weapon designs and the world feels alive and believable, even when a giant enraged cockerel is bearing down on you.

Wild Hearts has firmly put its claws in me. After only a few hours, it’s clear that this is a hunting game worthy of the moniker, and it offers up a unique and enticing new challenge for fans of the genre.

Stay tuned to TheSixthAxis for our full review later this week. Wild Hearts it out on 17th February for PS5, Xbox Series X|S and PC.

Written by
TSA's Reviews Editor - a hoarder of headsets who regularly argues that the Sega Saturn was the best console ever released.