It’s no secret that Wild Hearts, the latest monster-slaying game from developer Omega Force, draws a lot of inspiration from Capcom’s Monster Hunter series. From the core gameplay loop to the grind for better gear, there’s no shortage of similarities. However, Wild Hearts still manages to inject enough of its own unique ideas into the blender, but one aspect that it arguably does a bit better than Monster Hunter in is co-op multiplayer.
Instead of having teams of four go up against beasts like in Monster Hunter, Wild Hearts limits its co-op multiplayer down to three. This may seem like a drawback, but the gameplay is perfectly balanced with this amount of players. Since several weapons are faster in Wild Hearts, they tend to deal more damage so the decision was made to eliminate four-player parties to avoid quick hunts. It was a wise choice but it also succeeds in other key areas that transform this experience from a great game into something awesome.
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I spent a majority of my review time playing Wild Hearts solo and a lot of my initial frustration came from the nature of playing monster-hunting games on your own. Without anything else except little ball companions called tsukumo to draw a kemono’s aggression (kemono are the beasts of Wild Hearts), the difficulty was quite punishing at times, especially towards the end game once more difficult kemono variations appeared.
In my personal experience, playing solo took away some of the important aspects of Wild Hearts that I should’ve savoured. I wasn’t so focused on a kemono’s design or the thrill of the hunt because I was locked into focusing on its attack patterns and making sure I didn’t screw up. Things like how the kemono integrated into the environment and used that to their advantage or how the fight gradually escalated in spectacle were lost to me until I played more co-op following the game’s wide release.
That’s not to say that Wild Hearts isn’t an exceptional game when playing solo. In fact, I usually champion single-player games. Wild Hearts has a lot to offer in its single-player content, including customising each region to make it your own personal Death Stranding-like world full of karakuri contraptions, signal towers and tents. It also helps one learn a kemono more personally and understand each beast’s behaviour back to front when you’re the only hunter facing off against them.
Like Monster Hunter, when you take all that knowledge into multiplayer, Wild Hearts begins to take on a new shape. Not only do you have other hunters to back you up in combat and offer support but you tend to appreciate just how well-designed these encounters are. Each “zone battle” that a kemono enters doesn’t last too long depending on how well you’re doing, so you end up chasing it down and exploring more of the map before ultimately defeating the beast.
It’s an empowering feeling but more importantly, it allowed me to soak in the finer details of the world that Omega Force created for Wild Hearts. The various ruined Japanese fortresses, dense forests and snow-covered landscapes all have stories to tell upon closer inspection. They may not be as intricate as Capcom’s grand world-building and bottomless pit of lore but the regions paint a picture of a land struggling against the insurmountable forces of nature and what the kemono have become.
When it comes to the hunts, Wild Hearts‘ co-op has a great sense of camaraderie when playing with others. One great feature that Wild Hearts includes (that I wish Monster Hunter had as well) is the ability to resurrect teammates if they fall. This means that it’s not an instant cart and you can, for the most part, rely on someone to rush in and bring you back into the fight immediately without losing precious faints.
Other players also have something to lose if teammates fall in battle because there’s a limit of three faints per hunt, which means if one faint is allowed to happen, it’s everyone’s loss. This encourages others to revive fallen hunters. I’ve been on both ends of that spectrum, falling and needing someone to heal me back into the hunt as well as helping others come back. It’s a small feature that makes a world of difference in Wild Hearts‘ multiplayer.
Playing in co-op also allowed me to breathe and really plan out my next attack on the fly. Since many kemono are a bit more aggressive and faster, it leaves little room in solo to rely on speedily crafting specific karakuri and vital positioning. Once a kemono’s aggression was drawn towards another hunter, I was afforded a few precious seconds to think about what I’m gonna do next – something that the game also shares with Monster Hunter‘s co-op experience.
I found myself having a lot more fun with the co-op aspect of Wild Hearts, though it’s not all perfect. I appreciate that it’s so easy to join an online session by simply hovering over a quest icon and landing a squad, but on more than one occasion, I was thrown into a hunt that was already full before being kicked back to the menu. Either that or a communication error would happen on the loading screen.
It’s definitely something that Omega Force could fix with patches but when compared to Monster Hunter World‘s awful multiplayer implementation at launch, Wild Hearts looks like a polished beacon of online play. Jumping in and out of hunts in Wild Hearts is remarkably easy and quick to do. Most of all, you can also bring some of that knowledge back into your own single-player world having learnt things from other players.
For example, I entered a player’s world that had conveniently positioned all of their tents (fast travel points) and signal towers so that it basically searched every inch of the region and allowed them to return to the nearest tents if something went wrong. That inspired me to make a similar setup so that I spent as little downtime as possible looking for kemono in my solo playthrough.
If you’re planning on picking up Wild Hearts, I strongly recommend at least dabbling in co-op. It certainly elevated the experience for me and made me appreciate some of the things that I glossed over during the busy review period. The game is now available on PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC. A 10-hour free trial is also available through EA Play. Read our full review here.