author: Mikolaj Laszkiewicz
Hunting Monsters in Wild Hearts. EA May Have New Smash Hit
I played Wild Hearts and am positively surprised by the upcoming production from EA. It beats the atmosphere of Monster Hunter, the dynamics known from Sekiro, and even the mechanics available in Fortnite come to the fore. It looks like there is a lot to look forward to.
I adore Monster Hunter games for their detailed, rewarding and demanding gameplay, that remains fairer than, for example, the one in Dark Souls. That's why I was eager to spend time with a very early version of Wild Hearts – a new game by Omega Force studio (known for the Dynasty Warriors series). This title, published by Electronic Arts, very neatly operates within this rather narrow genre framework and surprises with some really fresh solutions.
Big monsters vs agility
Although the test version of the game allows you to explore only a few initial areas, it well reflects what we can expect in the final release. The creators want to offer an experience evocative of the Monster Hunter series. We have the "hunter" thrown into a dense forest, and have to fight larger and smaller monsters inhabiting it.
From the very first moments, fans of Capcom's series should feel cozy and at home. We will have a total of eight different types of weapons at our disposal, including a great katana, a bow, and even... an umbrella. Each of them will require the right approach and learning the most effective fighting style. However, I strongly advise against switching between several different types of weapons – it will be much easier to "master" your favorite type and then move on to the next one.
When it comes to the heart of the game, i.e. combat, I'm pleased to inform that it's good, and perhaps even excellent. The key to success skillful combination of attacks and dodges. The damage we can recieve can be huge, so learning to jump back at the right moment will definitely come in handy later in the game. Our character is much faster and agile during battles than you would expect – it's less Monster Hunter and more Sekiro.
Quick dodges and brisk movements give a lot of satisfaction and allow delivering accurate blows. One of the things you must be extra mindful of is to not get knocked down, because losing the few seconds and can even be fatal if we are unlucky. The controls, which seemed a little bit too stiff for the general pace of the game, might take a little getting used to. However, I suspect that the combat system will still evolve by the time the full version is released.
During the fights, there are various numbers appearing on the screen, informing how much damage you've dealt, which further motivates creating powerful combos and landing strong blows. I enjoyed the fact that each hit has weight and tangible power. This is something that, in my opinion, is crucial in a game focused on frequent and spectacular fights.
What distinguishes Wild Hearts from Monster Hunter, but also from most other action games, is a very interesting building system, known as "karakuri." It allows building smaller and larger structures in the game, which can dramatically influence the rules of battle. In addition to combat, karakuri are also useful for reaching seemingly inaccessible placesl; during clashes, the can provide overwhelming tactical advantage. The only limitation here is player's creativity. My favorite thing to do was building small turrets in skirmishes and deal jumping damage to monsters. As the game progresses, you can upgrade karakuri and unlock new constructions. Karakuri feel like a very fresh mechanics withing the genre, with the closest relative being probably the sweet and easy building system in Fortnite.
The monsters themselves also deserve a mention, especially the biggest ones (aka kemono). The creators are evidently aware of where their competitors are at, and the design of individual monsters generally has the seeming of that from Monster Hunter: World. Kemono are designed with a lot of creativity, they have very different forms (a giant boar, a very strange version of a lemur) and distinctive features and abilities. During the fight, you can sever their body parts, such as horns or fangs. As in Monster Hunter, monsters have unique behaviors – some will stomp right before an attack, others leap towards the player instead of charging, etc. Thanks to this, the fight against each of them has its own rules and requires an appropriate approach.
Big publisher – big chance
Many people may not be aware of this, but Omega Force studio has quite a lot of experience in creating productions inspired by Monster Hunter. Namely, the Toukiden series, which isn't very popular in the West. You can see these similarities it at the very core of the game, which quite closely resembles the solutions known from Toukiden – dynamic combat, a system of combos and the ability to obtain materials from killed monsters.
When it comes to visuals, I had rather mixed feelings – the graphics looked great on trailers and promotional materials, but in fact seem much poorer for the time being. The universe often seems to lack depth and feels rather like empty fields surrounded by a forest. The environment doesn't seem stunning either, because although the grass and water look quite good, the quite repetitive and abundant trees and some ground textures fall quite flat. However, we need to remember it's a really early version, and the final product will be much more "tuned" – hopefully. For now, I can praise Wild Hearts for a very nice color palette – it's crispy and clear – emphasizing a fairy-tale nature of the world.
Although Wild Hearts is a completely new IP in the creators' portfolio, it's hard not to resist the impression that it's a new generation of Toukiden, more accommodating to Western tastes. It also seems that the developers took the best of their experience and framed it in a new, overall more attractive pack. However, I must also admit that the demo made a big impression on me and I am definitely eager for more. The release of Wild Hearts is slated for February 17, 2023 and it seems that we might all be very positively surprised by a game that no one has heard about until recently.