I believe Wild Hearts is a really unbalanced game. I believe a few of the monsters you fight are too bland, and I believe a few of them are far, far too spicy. I believe the gameplay loop is fattier and chewier than it’s in genre rival Monster Hunter, and I believe the overwhelming majority of fights have more gristle in them than is completely crucial. The sport does an atrocious job of teaching you about what exactly is hidden away within the recesses of the experience, and the armour/upgrade ecosystem feels carelessly crammed in – with no care or consideration for the final result – and demands an excessive amount of of you for what it offers in return.
And yet, I can’t stop playing it. It seems like eating a sausage; the sport is filled with more mechanical viscera than a butcher’s worst bin-end banger, but it surely’s in some way inexplicably moorish and delicious. You would compare Monster Hunter to some haute cuisine masterclass; an expensive but reliable plate that’s been refined and seasoned to perfection. A specialty from the chief chefs at House d’Capcom, the form of thing you return for yearly to see what latest batshit ideas the studio has cooked up so as to add to the formula.
Koei Tecmo and Omega Force (who you might recognise from ‘comfort food’ series, Dynasty Warriors) have gone the opposite direction with Wild Hearts. All filler, no killer – the empty carbs of the video game world. The interactive entertainment equivalent of ‘filling up on bread’. It’s mindless, but filling – the form of thing you may lose hours to completely by accident. Like binge-watching a series you don’t even particularly like, but carry on the TV ‘since it’s on’.
Arrhythmic gameplay loop and janky camera aside, there’s loads to contemplate as you stuff your face stuffed with Ritter Sport bars and gorge on the Wild Hearts experience. In the event you want decent, well-paced and fun fights, return to Monster Hunter. It does the whole lot Wild Hearts does, but higher – save for one area that the EA Original experiment does higher than Capcom. And that’s, fittingly, the food.
You see, in Monster Hunter, you’re tasked with eating a meal of some kind before every hunt – in World, it’s a large barbarian-style roast, and in Rise, it’s a pair sticks of dango (a Japanese dumpling made out of rice flour mixed with uruchi rice flour and glutinous rice flour). Monster Hunter makes you decide your flavours, get your buffs, and scoff your meal before heading out – letting you enjoy a communal meal with mates before you go and skin some poor lizard so you may make a latest hat.
Wild Hearts does it in another way, and cedes control of the entire farm-to-plate pipeline on to you. Whether you’re out picking unmilled rice in the sphere, or pickling eggplants in some specially-purchased sake vinegar for an enormous fight coming up, the food is entirely as much as you. And there’s a surprisingly complex set-up to all of it, too. Depending on where you construct certain contraptions, you may capture different species of fish – some work higher with salt, and a few work higher ground right into a paste and applied to vegetables… who knew!
When you clear the second proper boss of the sport, the flighty and too-big-for-its-arena holy bird Amaterasu, the sport really starts showing its teeth. The following two objective fights – a pissed-off fire peacock and almost-impossible wind tiger – will mess you up in seconds. Even the most effective gear from the primary section of the sport and a few juiced-up weapons will do nothing for you against this pair of bastards. So what do you would like? Food.
Seems that wind-drying about 20 portions of vegetables, then salting them, after which combining them with some fish you’ve pickled and smoked, is the important thing to victory. Different ingredients (and different preparation techniques) provide you with different buffs and resistances in the warmth of battle. Smashing fistfuls of salt makes you more tempting a goal to monsters, for some reason, and eating higher-quality veg permits you to absorb more punishment. Identical to in real life.
Determining what gives you probably the most resistance to the peacock’s white-hot fire – and ingesting it wantonly – is, so far as I can tell, one of the surefire ways to ensure you may pass though greater than certainly one of its spiciest rage-based attacks. Swapping out armour for something more flame-retardant probably helps, too, but the complete cycle of killing, harvesting, upgrading and equipping all that per fight probably takes a superb five/six hours. Cooking, unlike in real life, takes far less time.
There’s something bucolic and pleasing about cycling through the sport’s maps, checking in on all of your various pickling jars, fishing machines, drying racks, meat smokers, and fermentation tanks, too. Making a bit of run of sourcing, sorting, preparing, and mixing your ingredients is de facto engaging – loads more so than grinding out monsters which have a habit of fleeing to the opposite end of the map after you hit them twice.
The food reflects certainly one of my principal frustrations with Wild Hearts: some very nice ideas – ideas latest to the genre, that actually work within the hunting setup – which were diluted and drowned out by poor optimisation and implementation. It’s like going to eat your favourite meal, but having to substitute out your favourite ingredient for whatever bland, processed gunk was on special in the shop that day – you’ve ordered Raclette but got served some Dairylea Dunkers. Every part appears to be there, on the plate, able to be enjoyed… but something, somewhere, leaves a nasty taste in your mouth.
Wild Hearts released on PC, PS5 and Xbox Series X/S on February 17, 2023. You may take a look at our Wild Hearts review on the link.