WILD HEARTS review | If you’ve read some of my previous reviews or Eyes on the Week entries you might remember I’ve more than dabbled in the Monster Hunter series. Always on the lookout for more of something I love, Wild Hearts had more than just grabbed my attention when I saw its reveal trailer in September of 2022. Hunting large beasts in an ancient Japanese-inspired setting, using some pseudo-magical technology to get the upper hand in a fight. Where do I sign up? Because long has Monster Hunter sat upon its throne in the genre, largely uncontested. But here come Omega Force and EA, banging at the gates, ready to throw their hat in the ring and throw down. But taking a well-established franchise head-on would be suicide outside the FPS genre. And before you even go down to the review itself to check, let me tell you here that it more than sets itself apart from the competition.
|Developer||Koei Tecmo / Omega Force|
ℹ️ Reviewed on Xbox Series S | Review code provided by PR/publisher, this review is the personal opinion of the writer. Got unanswered questions about this game? Get in touch on Twitter!
What we Liked!
- Visuals | Visually Wild Hearts is very pleasing. Its various vibrant locales form pleasing setpieces for your hunts. All of them are rich in detail and consist mostly of abandoned ruins overtaken by nature and other forest or cave clearings. Initially, the graphics were a bit on the low end, with low poly walls and other scenery. That issue was luckily addressed quickly, making Wild Hearts look a lot better on my Xbox Series S. I have noticed that some textures here and there are still a bit low quality, but I fear that’s just down to the lower power of my Series S. It’s good then that I tend to be too busy to notice them most of the time, fending for my life against the many kemono that are out for it.
- Karakuri | The Karakuri are one of my favourite elements of Wild Hearts. Now, what is a Karakuri I hear you ask? They’re these structures you can build almost everywhere to make camp and assist in your hunt. They come in three sorts: basic, fusion and dragon karakuri. The basic ones are simple structures aimed at helping you in the heat of combat. From boxes and the spring to jump from, the torch adds fire damage to your attacks or the glider and celestial anchor to help you navigate the battlefield more effectively. And while they’re useful on their own, they truly shine when fused to create stronger, more elaborate structures. Whether unlocked on the skill tree or revealed to you via a flash of inspiration during a hunt, these puppies can really turn the tide of battle Just as two columns of three boxes will make a sturdy bulwark wall, or that same configuration with torches will make a fireworks launcher. There are quite a lot of them that all do something unique and they’re the key to fighting the kemono effectively. It does take a lot of getting used to, as fights can get really hectic.
- Dragon Karakuri | I mentioned these in the previous point, but they do deserve their own mention. The Dragon Karakuri are the more permanent, intricate to build structures. Instead of harvesting threads from nearby nodes, these require you to activate and upgrade dragon wells dotted around the various locales. To do this you will need special materials gathered from hunts. You start out simple with a tent and campfire, but fairly quickly you’ll be able to place karakuri radar dishes to know where the kemono are. Or what about a forge so you can make and upgrade gear out in the field. Flying vines quickly become invaluable as they deploy ziplines all across the map. But the roller and launcher are a lot of fun to get around as well. Now, while you can place these anywhere, it’s advised you place them out of the Kemono’s way so they don’t get destroyed. But don’t worry if they do get prematurely disassembled, as you can just slap them down again.
- Kemono | Two very important aspects to the giant beast-hunting genre of games are without a doubt that it has memorable monsters and cool gear to craft from said monsters, Wild Hearts sadly delivers on neither. While the designs certainly are intricately done and beautifully detailed they’re often a bit too grounded in reality for my taste. A rat with a flower or mushrooms growing out of it, an ice wolf with some frozen branches or a giant flamboyant chicken are hardly worth remembering. That’s not to say there aren’t any noteworthy designs. The Lavaback (a fiery gorilla) and the Earthbreaker, a mountain-sized rocky bear, do stand out from the crowd. An artificially inflated crowd sadly, as I only counted 14 or so unique species. New Kemono have been announced for future updates, but with a roster sporting only 21 entries, that’s a significant number. And lastly, I’ve got a bit of a gripe with a lot of their attacks. I get that the kemono aim them at us, but they home in a tad too aggressively once launched.
- Armour | Let’s get onto the second aspect of what makes a good beast-hunting game, the gear you do it with. The superb basic and fusion karakuri are already out of the way, which leaves us with armour and weapons. Starting with the armour I’m disappointed yet happy with them. Following my complaint on kemono design, these sets are all a bit samey and dull initially since they take their designs from the kemono they’re based on. Yet, on the other hand, each piece has three variations to choose from: a neutral one you will always forge first, a design leaning more towards an orderly human style, and a wilder kemono styled version. Eventually, pieces will come with skills that are locked behind certain overall style requirements reminiscent of systems present in last-generation Monster Hunter games.
- Weapons | The weapons suffer from much the same issues style-wise, yet their upgrades happen differently. Each type starts from the same base form but lets you move along the upgrade tree, picking up skills along the way. This means that to get the best weapon possible you don’t necessarily need to go straight for it. On the contrary, it’s best that you go and collect and stack as many buffs as your weapon will let you carry since buffs of the same kind will just add up. I’ve yet to mention what the types are, haven’t I? There are currently 8 weapon types available, those being the Karakuri Katana, Nodachi, Bow, Maul, Bladed Wagasa, Canon, Clawblade and Karakuri Staff. The last three of these are sadly not available from the start. And it’s a real shame that they aren’t since I started using the bow out of necessity, but would have vastly preferred to use the Clawblade from the start. The silver lining here is that they became available as early as chapter 2.
- Audio | It’s not often that I get such conflicting feelings when listening to a game. On the one hand, Wild Hearts has a gorgeous soundtrack with vibrant orchestral pieces comprised of western and eastern instruments alike. They truly make your battles against the ferocious kemono feel all the more exciting. The same goes for the peaceful ambience in places like Minato or outside of hunts. Yet on the other side, there is some quite disjointed voice acting. Characters speak almost as if delivering their lines in a stage play. Only seldom does it feel like they’re speaking with each other or to you, while more often than not they’re speaking at everything around them. I also want to share a small quirk I got some laughs out of: all the characters will swap out certain words for their Japanese counterparts. Reminds me of early lifespan anime fans.
What we Disliked
- Camera | In beast-hunting games proper camera usage is very important to be aware of the battlefield, see telegraphed attacks and where to dodge among other things. It’s one of those things that really frustrates me in games because you can be one of the best players out there, but when the camera snags on a wall or a tree or a giant monster obscures your character things quickly go south. It’s simply too close up most of the time for me to make good use of it. Yet on the other side, as soon as you lock it on a nearby kemono you get a wider view. Just sad that it then often lets go of that lock or tracks the monster too slowly during certain charges. This could’ve seen some more time with QA, I feel.
How long to beat the story | 40 Hours
How long to achieve 1000G | 100+ Hours
You’ll love this game if you like these | Monster Hunter Rise & God Eater 3
WILD HEARTS seeks to carve out a habitat of its own in the hunting genre of games and does an admirable job of it. Where its unique mechanics like karakuri and stunning locales set it apart the less memorable cast of kemono to hunt and fashion into gear keep it from reaching an even higher potential. Definitely worthy of your consideration if you like other games in the genre.
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Hey there. Thomas is the name, Sci-fi, action and (J)RPG’s are the game. I strongly prefer co-op over PVP games. Whenever possible, you may find me run wild at a convention in western Europe. Certified anime enjoyer.