As a huge fan of the Monster Hunter series, I was excited to boot up Wild Hearts and see what kind of larger-than-life monsters developer Omega Force had cooked up for me to battle. My favorite way to play Monster Hunter is in a party, as I just find the hunts to be infinitely more enjoyable when you have a group of hunters with different weapons and play styles working together to clobber the living daylights out of whatever moves. So I worked my way through the Wild Hearts tutorial and unlocked multiplayer, picked up my finest bow, and joined a hunt.
To my surprise, I was quickly matched with two other very competent-looking Japanese players, all much more geared out than I was. We tracked down the Kemono (monster) called a Ragetail, and I pulled out my bow ready to start unleashing a rain of arrows down on the beast.
I had to pause in disbelief as I watched my two fellow hunters rapidly start building Karakuri (structures and contraptions) around the Ragetail. Before I knew it, one was bouncing between several bounce pads slashing the Ragetail as he went, while the other built up several crates high and repeatedly jumped off to hammer the poor Ragetail in the face. I half expected to see them hit a dab and then throw out a crown emote to flex their superiority after that display.
This Wild Hearts moment flashed me back to my experience in Fortnite, trying to run and gun my way to victory only to run into building experts that could build a castle in 3.5 seconds flat and open a little window in front of me to shotgun me in the face. As helpless as I was in that scenario, the Ragetail was even more so in this situation as it tucked its tail between its legs and ran off to the next area before I had even got off many arrows, thanks to the hit-and-run mini city my teammates had built around it.
We shouldered our weapons and chased after the Ragetail while I processed what had just happened. In Monster Hunter, sure, there are some items that you can put down like traps to stun the monster for a few seconds, but the ridiculous Fortnite level of building took things to a whole other level. As we got to the next area and final resting place of the Ragetail we were hunting, I was fascinated to see what my two fellow hunters would pull out next.
One ran around the left side of the Ragetail and built a stack of crates next to it, which suddenly turned into a hammer-like structure and proceeded to bonk the Ragetail on its noggin and stun it for us to attack freely. While I powered up my bow and got some critical headshots in, the third hunter was already setting up more structures: four carefully positioned jump pads in a square around the Ragetail. The Ragetail got up and we all got started jumping, avoiding all its wild swings while doing aerial drivebys for bonus damage. The Ragetail went down, and I got to do my cool bow finisher move to execute it and complete the hunt.
It was quite the experience. I knew there were things you could build because the tutorial briefly walks you through it, but I was not prepared for Wild Hearts to be so building-focused and in a way that rewarded that style of play so heavily. After that multiplayer hunt, I hopped into a solo hunt to see what it would be like to play it in the much simpler Monster Hunter style, with full reliance on my bow, healing water drops, and ability to read the Kemono and dodge its attacks. It was fun and made a lot more sense to me without all the building around, but man, it was a heck of a lot harder.
The hitboxes against you feel really unforgiving, and I was finding it difficult to roll out of the Kemono’s attacks without taking damage on the third or fourth strike it chained together. I was suddenly missing the jump pads from the previous hunt as they were extremely effective at bouncing you out of the path of an attack to safety. Similarly, there were attacks where I was getting frustrated because no matter how perfectly I felt like I timed my dodge against certain attacks, I kept getting battered and yearned for my teammates to return with their great walls of Fortnite to keep me safe.
After I barely scraped through my no-build hunt, I realized that Wild Hearts was, unlike Fortnite, better with building. While building isn’t typically my style of gameplay, it was just miles better to cave in and use it to my advantage, and it’s definitely grown on me. I enjoy the silliness of trampoline-hunting two-story-sized rat monsters and quickly throwing up a wall for them to run into and knock themselves out. Wild Hearts is certainly at its best when you take it full Fortnite, and you’ll now find me busting out a “take the L” dance over a freshly bonked Kemono.