Hopefully it stays fun
When we last checked in with Wild Hearts, I was pleased at how unique the game world was, and how it differentiated itself from the rest of the hunting genre. Four months later with the final build in my hands and the launch swiftly approaching, I feel roughly the same.
For me, the main draw of Wild Hearts is the setting. Taking place in the constantly changing and mysterious land of Azuma, it feels like pretty much anything can happen. An ice wolf can drop by and change the arena into an arctic setting. A creature can breathe fire and wreck havoc in an idyllic forest. Of course most of these sequences are scripted and deal with the introduction of big bosses (the subjects of the hunt), but it’s still exciting in the context of a first-time playthrough.
It also has a good Koei Tecmo action core to boot. The key to all this is the Karakuri system, which are basically magically conjured tools, adding a bit of construction into the hunting formula. The very first Karakuri you acquire is a platform, which can also be used as a spring board to launch you into enemies. Slowly but surely, you start to realize the additional use scenarios for Karakuri, like placing platforms to block attacks and create a makeshift barrier, and so on.
On performance mode, everything plays out smoothly, amid the vibrant visuals. While the story hasn’t grabbed me yet (despite being a chunk into the game), the world is driving me forward, and I don’t have any major complaints about the action sequences yet. The additional of a “sliding dodge” (triggered when pressing the dodge button while sprinting) feels comically over the top at first, but really helps the player character avoid some of the crazier attacks from bosses.
So far, I have been able to experiment a bit with online multiplayer; and in the pre-launch period, things have been going swimmingly. The game will ask me if I want to call for help whenever fighting a big hunt target, and I’ll always just hit “yes” just to see what happens. Every other fight someone joins in and answers the call, usually with a completely different main weapon and Karakuri setup.
Seeing all of the different weapons work in tandem is how Wild Hearts really comes together. As I generally brave close combat situations and serve as the bait, other players use combos of ranged and hit and run weapons, bringing in Karakuri synergy of their own. I’ve had a blast trying out new strategies and loadouts too on lower priority targets, as it feels like there’s just enough weapons to do that without things getting too overbearing.
We’ve heard from Koei Tecmo for months that the game is supposed to be 30 hours long, and hopefully it keeps up the pacing I’ve experienced throughout that runtime. But most importantly, hunter genre fans are going to want to know if this game is going to be a flash in the pan, or something they want to invest in for months on end.
Even if it doesn’t meet those expectations (and some post-launch patches and DLC never arrive), I’m glad I took the plunge and played through everything I’ve seen so far. This is a gorgeous game, and as a purely atmospheric action romp, it’s hitting a lot of good notes. Expect our full review of Wild Hearts closer to launch.