I’m here in front of the PC with a toothy smile writing a review of Wild Hearts, the new action from Omega Force
I want to put the record straight: before Wild Hearts, I had never tried a hunting game, so don’t expect to find the name Monster Hunter from here until the end of the “review.” And in fact, perhaps that is what is most fun and fascinating about it: not having a yardstick and telling the story of Omega Force’s new title, published by Electronic Arts and available from February 17, without any kind of influence.
I love katanas, but, even more, I love katanas in video games. For the past three years, the Japanese sword has been my main traveling companion, especially in a couple of works that I consider indispensable in my life: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and Elden Ring, with the Lunavelata Katana guiding me through the winding paths of the Interregnum until late in the endgame.
It is inevitable, therefore, that the beginning of Wild Hearts completely enraptured me, either because of that so carefully crafted depiction of the Feudal Japan – Japan always looks the part, there’s little you can do about it-which from the outset shows some truly remarkable artwork on Omega Force’s part, whether by the katana in the protagonist’s equipment with which we set out on our journey to hunt giant creatures, the Kemono, between turkeys that have eaten too much and ravenous flying squirrels, frothing at the mouth, ready for anything to make you rage. Yet, after taking my first steps on Azuma, a godforsaken island, my only thought was, “what the fuck kind of butchery can I do with a katana.”
The Way of the Katana
Now, Wild Hearts provides eight weapons, all different from each other, each with a unique moveset that changes the approach to battles from time to time and takes a long time to master. There is the bow, which is particularly useful (and you would think so) against winged behemoths; there is a cannon that, like every cannon since the dawn of time, fires devastating surface-to-air missiles.
Well, of all this abundance, I, for one, gave practically no shit. I started with the katana and ended Wild Hearts with the katana. I probably struggled three times as much, especially against some bosses where a less aggressive strategy focused on ranged combat would have paid off more. Still, I watched the gracefulness with which my alter ego wielded the weapon, the damage count rising higher and higher, and thought to myself, “Why on earth would I change my play style?”
A wild boar the size of my sixty inches with a weight ranging between five and seven tons, comes at me mercilessly pointing at me with bloodshot eyes. I roll to avoid the impact that would probably have sent me off the screen; I run after him and press Y on my Xbox controller to release the first of a long series of slashes. I fill an appropriate bar with lunges, and the katana as if by magic extends, becoming a kind of hyper-sharpened whip that amplifies the range of attack. The Kemono gets pissed off-you don’t know how long before he collapses to the mat because you don’t have visibility of his health-and tries to charge me again but I still dodge before giving him the fatal killing blow.
Combat is fast, fluid, so fast that the camera itself often misses its target, condemning you to receive damage that is more often than not undeserved. However, just when you think you are on the verge of demise, here comes the unexpected: a solemn and epic soundtrack starts, enough to give you that vital shot in the arm to get the better of your prey.
The great little karakuri
Another notable element of Wild Hearts’ gameplay are. the karacuri, small wooden constructions that can be summoned in game to make your life easier: wooden cubes that, when stacked together, allow you to build a defensive barrier or spring-loaded platforms with which to quickly avoid behemoth attacks. All karakuri can then be combined with each other to make more complex contraptions such as a giant mine that explodes on impact.
When I was able to best absorb this mechanic, I unlocked the true potential of the title and realized that I was really getting into Wild Hearts. In this regard, I want to tell you about a specific moment during the confrontation against the Dorsorubino boss, a gigantic ape that is reminiscent, not even remotely, of Sekiro’s Guardian Ape. After several unsuccessful attempts, in order to pull it down once and for all, I tried to build a tower by piling three boxes on top of each other; I scaled the new tower with feline speed and, once I got to the top, jumped up and attacked in a dive with My katana that went through the Kemono, from head to legs, in all its mighty verticality. Exhausted, the monkey of rock and fire falls to the ground, a giant to the mat, causing all of Azuma to tremble.
At that very moment, I reached the point of no return. Wild Hearts-as well as Hi-Fi Rush whose review you can read here-so bewitched me that ten free minutes was more than enough time to start a hunt in the knowledge that I would then be stuck for at least another half hour. Game, set, katana and match.