I think Wild hearts it’s a terribly unbalanced game. I find that some of the monsters you fight are too soft and some of them are too sharp. I found the gameplay to be fatter and heavier than genre rival Monster Hunter, and I think the vast majority of combat has more gristle than absolutely necessary. The game does a terrible job of educating you about exactly what’s hidden in the nooks and crannies of the experience, and the armor/upgrade ecosystem feels carelessly crammed in – with no care or attention to the bottom line – and asks too much of you for what it offers in return.
And yet I can’t stop playing. It feels like eating a sausage; the game is filled with more mechanical guts than the worst butcher, but it’s somehow inexplicably Moorish and delicious. You can compare Monster Hunter to a master class in fine dining; an expensive but reliable cymbal refined and aged to perfection. A special dish from the chefs at House d’Capcom, the kind of thing you come back to once a year to see what new wacky ideas the studio has cooked up to add to the formula.
Koei Tecmo and Omega Force (who you may recognize from the comfort food Dynasty Warriors series) went in a different direction with Wild Hearts. Completely, no killer – the empty carbs of the video game world. Interactive entertainment, the equivalent of “getting your fill of bread”. It’s silly, but rich, something you can waste hours on at random. For example, watching a series that you don’t even really like, but continuing to watch TV “because it’s on.”
Beyond the arrhythmic looping of the gameplay and the dozing camera, there’s a lot to think about as you stuff your face with Ritter Sport bars and enjoy the Wild Hearts experience. If you want decent, dynamic and fun fights, go back to Monster Hunter. It does what Wild Hearts does, but better – except for one area where EA Original’s experiment does better than Capcom. And this, accordingly, is food.
You see, in Monster Hunter you’re tasked with eating some kind of food before each hunt – in World it’s a huge barbarian-style roast, and in Rise it’s a couple of sticks of dango (a Japanese rice dumpling). flour mixed with uruchi rice flour and glutinous rice flour). Monster Hunter forces you to pick flavors, get buffs, and scoff at food before heading out, allowing you to enjoy a communal meal with your mates before going off to rip off the poor lizard to make a new hat.
Wild Hearts does it differently and puts you in control of the entire farm-to-tablet pipeline. Whether you’re picking unmilled rice in the field or marinating eggplants in specially purchased sake vinegar as the big fight approaches, the food is entirely up to you. And all of this is a surprisingly complex setup. Depending on where you build certain contraptions, you can catch different types of fish – some work better with salt and others are better ground into a paste and spread on vegetables… who knew!
Once you clear the game’s second real boss, the flying and too-big-for-its-arena sacred bird Amaterasu, the game really starts to show its teeth. The next two target battles – the angry Fire Peacock and the near-impossible Wind Tiger – will screw you up in seconds. Even the best gear from the first chapter of the game and some fancy weapons will do nothing against this pair of bastards. So what do you need? food.
Turns out the key to victory is wind-drying about 20 servings of vegetables, then salting them, then combining them with the fish you’ve marinated and smoked. Different ingredients (and different cooking techniques) give you different buffs and resistances in the heat of battle. Smashing a handful of salt makes you a more tempting target for monsters for some reason, and consuming higher quality vegetables allows for more punishment. Just like in real life.
Figuring out what gives you the most resistance to the peacock’s red-hot fire – and recklessly swallowing it – is, as far as I can tell, one of the surest ways to make sure you can survive more than one of its fiercest fury. based attacks. Maybe changing the armor to something more fire resistant would also help, but the full cycle of killing, harvesting, upgrading and equipping it all in a fight probably takes a good five/six hours. Cooking, unlike in real life, takes much less time.
There’s something bucolic and enjoyable about walking around the game maps, checking out all your various pickling jars, fishing machines, drying racks, meat smokers and fermentation tanks. The little bit of searching, sorting, preparing and combining your ingredients is really engaging – much more so than chopping up monsters that have a habit of fleeing to the other end of the map after you hit them twice.
The food reflects one of my main frustrations with Wild Hearts: some really good ideas – ideas new to the genre that really work in a hunting setting – that were diluted and drowned out by poor optimization and implementation. It’s like when you’re going to eat your favorite food, but you have to replace your favorite ingredient with whatever bland, processed crap was in the store that day at the specialty market – you ordered Raclette, but were served Dairylea Dunkers. It seems that everything here on the plate is ready to be enjoyed… but something somewhere leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
Wild Hearts releases on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S on February 17, 2023. You can view our Wild Hearts Review by link