Wild Hearts Takes Aim at Monster Hunter

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Wild Hearts Takes Aim at Monster Hunter

EA Originals is finally going big. From its outset the program has aimed to bring greater visibility and the resources of a global megacorporation to smaller teams and games. This initiative found success nearly immediately with Unravel, a cute, tender platformer that p
was a far cry from the excess and controversy EA had courted for years. SInce then, EA has gone everywhere with the program. Sea of Solitude was an introspective and personal drama, Knockout City aimed to be a dodgeball multiplayer haven, and It Takes Two took everyone by surprise last year with the most inventive co-op campaign we’ve seen in an astonishingly long time. But all these games have been relatively small compared to EA’s regular output, and with the exception of It Takes Two, they’ve been modest successes, if not exceptional ones. With Wild Hearts, EA Originals is doing something altogether new and familiar though: aiming for a global hit.

Wild Hearts is, by my estimation, a damn good attempt at that. A monster-hunting game in the vein of, well, the other monster-hunting games, it mostly successfully adapts the tried-and-true formulas and subsumes it into itself. Honestly? The game looks astonishingly like Monster Hunter: World. Remember that game and how it lit the world on fire in 2018? Remember how it’s Capcom’s best-selling game of literally all time? Yeah, it looks and plays a lot like that, and likely for good reason. During my preview, EA’s reps made it very clear that the biggest way they were contributing to the game was with their “global” expertise and resources, which has thus far afforded it an unprecedented scale for a game under this banner. The rest of the game seems tellingly like a Koei Tecmo joint through and through, but one that they’re hoping hits with a greater force than those before it.


Wild Hearts takes place in Azuma, a fantastical rendition of feudal Japan where the land is plagued by monsters known as Kemono. You are a hunter whose background you determine early on, which provides you with a motive to hunt and kill the Kemono, elemental monsters that After a fight goes awry, you are saved and imbued with the strength of the Karakuri, a magical force that grants hunters the power of crafting. This crafting happens in an instant and conjures complicated mechanisms seemingly out of thin air, like springboards and giant hammers. If it sounds a little silly, it’s because it is, but it gives Wild Hearts a texture it could otherwise be missing. Rather than settle for a drab rehash of what’s come before, karakuri livens what could functionally be a plain Monster Hunter clone just enough to stand apart. Karakuri seems more or less like the primary way players will be interacting with the environment around them. Players will need to tap resources in order to recoup the cost of casting karakuri, and many of the players functions are extensions of their abilities granted by it. Players will be able to bounce off of springboards and glide for example. The recently released gameplay trailer showed off how ziplines could open up previously inaccessible areas. In a more advanced state, karakuri will be able to play off one another and combine to have greater effects. The slice of Wild Hearts I managed to get hands-on time with also showed how karakuri could be used to build camps and the reps who presented the game stressed that building up Minato, the central hub of Azuma, would be an integral part of the game.

Karakuri really sets the flow of playing the game’s central hunts apart, but the rest of the game falls into the same rhythms if you’re at all familiar with the staples of the genre. There are familiar weapon archetypes and you will be able to craft armor and weapons based on the creatures you hunt, though those weapons can be transformed by the karakuri that expand on their movesets further. The katana I primarily wielded basically extended itself into a whip once I filled a meter and did massive damage while turning my moveset into something of a spectacle. “Spectacle” is really a key word when talking about Wild Hearts because it’s a large part of how it makes a difference. Hell, it’s even part of the reason why Wild Hearts supports three-player co-op as opposed to four. The karakuri turn fights into spectacles punctured by big moments. Between the lot of players conjuring karakuri tools out of nowhere, there’s especially a lot going on in any given fight. For example, one of the earliest moves the game teaches you is how to build a springboard so that you can fling yourself into the air and unleash a cool aerial dive that lands with an incredibly satisfying impact. Pair that with another player who might plant and detonate a bomb, while another tries to theoretically harpoon a monster with a hookshot, and the possibilities for how a fight might evolve have quickly become the primary draw of the game.

The behemoths you’ll be fighting are also pretty spectacular. The best way I can put it is that the monsters of Wild Hearts feel like animals that have been mythologized about. They’ve become larger than life and literally part of the land. Giant apes with flames spewing from their backs and boars who cause vines to grow out of the Earth are the kinds of targets you’ll be taking down. The way that they utilize their environment against players may yet prove to be another distinction that could help Wild Hearts carve out its own space. But even besides that, your hunter moves fluidly and satisfyingly against targets who are massive and whose designs strike awe. If the physicality of the hunt in games like these is something you look forward to, these monsters seem proof enough that there’s plenty of tough and dazzling fights to take on.

Come to think of it, astonishment seems like the biggest thing Wild Hearts has going for itself at this moment. It plays satisfyingly, looks great and I’m genuinely excited for it, but I also can’t really tell you all there’s much more to it than what you already expect if you’ve played or seen games like it before. So whether or not it’ll stand out isn’t up to me as much as it’s up to how starved the audience for it will be by the time it releases in 2023. From what I’ve seen though, the game is definitely one to keep an eye out for. Maybe EA Originals has found its big star?

Moises Taveras is the assistant games editor for Paste Magazine. He was that one kid who was really excited about Google+ and is still sad about how that turned out.

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