Wild Hearts Preview: Nature Doesn’t Heal

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Despite the fact that you will soon encounter monsters five times bigger than you, Koei Tecmo will introduce you to Wild Hearts. Although your first target is a forgetful deer, this hunting game is designed to compete with the dominant Capcom Monster Hunter series — so enjoy the peace while it lasts.

This deer hunting runs through landscapes, and its relaxed pace gives you the opportunity to appreciate the visual charm of Wild Hearts. The forest is flooded with sunlight, and although there were problems with lighting and resolution in this pre-assembly, it is clear that Koei Tecmo has put a lot of effort into making their hunting grounds shine.

During a chance encounter with a mysterious stranger, your serene nature walk ends with an unseasonal snowstorm slowly approaching the forest. It’s a by-product of your first real battle: a giant wolf fused with trees and flowers. In Wild Hearts, magic has combined creatures with their environment — and while this means bad news for hunters from all over the world, it’s good news for the player, as each of the Wild Hearts creatures looks phenomenal.

Not only is their magical facelift great — it’s hard not to admire a giant rat when it showers you with cherry blossom petals — magic also has some practical uses. Unfortunately, you are on the receiving end: this tall rodent looks great, but there is no time to stop and watch when it calls for huge tree roots to crush you into a paste. Although the fight presents some interesting ideas, it’s a bit like a show-off. Monsters seem clumsy and have a habit of hanging around aimlessly while you chop them down, and their attacks are very rare — which means it’s like beating a punching bag, not a desperate fight to the death, as it should be. Killing this rat in particular was a pretty mundane routine, a matter of whales into it until it finally gave up — the real difficulty was trying to play with the keyboard and mouse. The controls on KB&M were nightmarishly clunky, although Koei Tecmo says it’s still working on getting it done right before launch.

To spice up the Wild Hearts fights and research, you also have access to Karakuri, a mysterious technology that allows you to collect threads when cutting trees and mining stones, which Karakuri uses to invent all sorts of useful devices. Early on, this includes building crates that can be deployed almost immediately, which is useful for climbing rocks or stopping an attacking monster. You can also use it to set up camp while you are hunting, and later it will become even more interesting with ziplines, harpoons and more. Although the awkward controls made it difficult to use Karakuri effectively, it is an intriguing system that fits well with the wider crafting system and Wild Hearts upgrades.

Karakuri shows that Wild Hearts has great potential and is resourceful enough to go beyond the shadow of Monster Hunter. Right now it’s hard to get a good idea of Wild Hearts — this preview looked like it was played on a very early build due to performance issues and some very buggy lighting issues. However, there are only four months left before the launch of Wild Hearts, and despite the promise of the game, it is still unknown how many of its problems (especially weak combat) can be solved by then.

Wild Hearts is released on February 17, 2023 for PS5, Xbox Series X|S and PC.

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