It is hard to speak about Wild Hearts without referencing its obvious inspiration, the Monster Hunter series. But while the latest release of Monster Hunter Rise and Wild Hearts have a lot in common, the latter, in a way, feels like the generational jump we have desperately needed in the genre for years now. Everything about Wild Hearts feels more impressive. From a technical point of view, the game skyrockets past the Monster Hunter series and sadly, kind of makes it feel a little dated. So much so that I was actually playing Rise right before I got a review code for Wild Hearts and I just can’t see myself going back to it.
Watch our Wild Hearts review below.
Wild Hearts is a monster-hunting game from the studio that brought you Nioh and the Toukiden series. While the idea of hunting monsters does take centre stage in the game, it’s a much more layered experience than anything I had experienced before. For starters, Wild Hearts features a pretty fantastic story that was woven into everything I did. I started the game as a nameless hero who by chance, stumbles across a strange masked man that embued me with the power of Celestial Thread. This thread is a magical substance that feeds into almost everything around the world.
With this power to control this thread, my hunter, who you’ll be able to make from scratch, obtains the power to craft objects called Karakuri. These Karakuri can be spun into the world from thin air thanks to this Celestial Thread. This thread also plays a big role in the game’s story and explains why these large monsters have started to spin out of control. Of course, I won’t spoil that for those looking to play the game.
As a hero/hunter person with magical powers to make cool things, the idea of Wild Hearts sets itself into motion. In order to save the land and bring life back to the main city, I had to set off across various gorgeous locations to hunt down beasts known as Kemono and kill them.
Wild Hearts features a handful of weapons which many of your might be familiar with. There’s a sword, an umbrella that can parry attacks, a maul that transforms into all sorts of weird and wonderful weapons, a giant hammer and more.
But while a giant hammer might sound like the cliche here, it is far from it. In fact, Wild Hearts’ experience isn’t really just about pummelling things to the ground with weapons. It is about using the tools I made called Karakuri to turn the battlefield into my very own playground. Now I can’t stress enough how exciting this actually is. Karakuri adds so many dimensions to the combat in Wild Hearts that it is impossible to play the game without them.
There are dozens and they all come in different shapes and forms. To make things even more exciting, combining different built Karakuri together even result in a whole different one appearing.
If I was fighting a crazed giant chicken named Dreadclaw I would wait for him to fly up into the air and quickly build six fire torches which would transform into a firework. The firework would then shoot into the air and explode resulting in a giant flash bringing Dreadclaw to the ground. Keep in mind that these fire torches were also handy for setting my weapon on fire in case I was fighting a Kemono which was weak to fire.
Of course, this is one example. Others include using a spring, which is great to leap off of in order to smash the monster or even get out of harm’s way, and a lantern to create a Star Bomb which is a giant landmine that triggers after a few seconds. There are also massive mallets to build, automatic crossbows and healing items. The list goes on. The more I played, the more exciting combinations I encountered which in turn, created new ways to fight monsters.
And that only covers the so-called “Basic Karakuri”. There’s also Dragon Karakuri which are more permanent structures I could build across each biome. These came in the form of camps, fishing wells, shrines which gathered materials, food racks to dry out my food for buffs, large wind turbines to travel around on, full modes of transport and more.
As Wild Hearts expands, some do the Karakuri. Earlier in the game I was limited in the number of items I could build around each location. However, later in the game, these limitations lifted and I could really go all out crafting the perfect battlefield. Of course, these Karakuri also helped me get around. Grappling points let me shoot myself up to the top of a mountain only to leap off of it smashing into my target.
Not to mention you still have your weapons which are also transformed during combat. They too benefit from these Karakuri. Leaping off of a spring will trigger a completely different attack pattern with each weapon. A glider, which is great for flying up into the air, helped me get above the action and at times, avoid heavy attacks. Best of all, this all felt so incredibly fun to do. I got around much quicker and found new Karakuri which all opened new exciting doors to venture through when it came to building, crafting and attacking.
The general combat in Wild Hearts is familiar. Even with the Karakuri, you can’t get away from the fact that like the other hunting games on the market, you’re still fighting a powerful beast. My favourite weapon to use is no doubt the hammer. Like most of the other weapons in Wild Hearts, the hammer also relied on timing my attacks and transforming them at the right time. I would hit the beast with the square button and press the R2 button at the right time to extend its hilt. I could do this a few times and every successful trigger would result in more damage and ultimately, a final blow.
The greatsword let me hold down R2 to charge up my attacks instead of extending the combo. The maul transformed the weapon after every successful attack and R2 trigger. I would then build up a bar and unleash that power in an over-the-top slam. You’ll probably only gel with a few weapons in Wild Hearts and that’s okay. Some just didn’t feel like my play style.
Kemono in Wild Hearts come in all shapes and sizes. They all put up a fight and while some are fun to fight, some definitely borderline frustrating. They all have parts you can break off and weaknesses to exploit. My weapons, the Karakuri and the environment around me all contributed to the fights in the game. Kemono also transform during combat when they enter their enraged mode. Attack patterns change as a result and I had to force myself to be extra careful when moving about and attacking.
It goes without saying that Wild Hearts also has a robust gear system linked to the materials I found from these Kemono. The outfits look great and the gear system let me further tweak things by deciding on a “Human” path or “Kemono” path for each piece of gear. Different paths would unlock skill effects across a wide variety of other items so it opens a lot of room for exploring different build types.
But as fun as Wild Hearts is, I have to mention the issues. The game is fantastic from a technical point of view. Each map location is bigger than any monster-hunting game in the past. These biomes are also incredibly detailed with dozens of animals running around, ecosystems that change throughout the game and secrets to discover everywhere. It is the most ambitious game in the genre without a doubt but it is often an eyesore to look at. Even on the PC version maxed out, the game just looks rough.
The draw distance is very low, the textures look unpolished and even monsters are hard to stomach. One particular monster, the Lavaback, is barely recognizable during fights as its body blurs while it moves and causes a weird jittering issue on the screen. Even disabling motion blur didn’t fix it.
Wild Hearts also has possibly the worst camera I have ever experienced in a game. It is way too close to the player which results in clipping in almost every single battle. Every time I was pushed back to a wall, the camera would clip into it or worse, into my character and I would not be able to see what I was doing.
The camera is so close that even using the hammer, it would get in the way of the monster and I would not be able to see it coming towards me. This game desperately needs a camera overhaul. There are also some horrible issues with hitboxes. Sure, this came in handy when I was able to hit my monster by not technically hitting it but I would also suffer from unwanted damage because of a wonky hitbox.
Wild Hearts is ambitious but its technical aspects need a little bit of work. It was great seeing giant trees falling to the ground during fights with the Kingtusk but when he hit me out of nowhere, it was just annoying. I am just saying that you’ll need a little bit of patience in Wild Hearts to overlook its rough visuals and technical problems.
Another big one is the load times. I don’t think I have sat and waited for a game to load in years now. It takes 15 – 20 seconds to load a hunt up. It might sound like I am being a brat about this but we are now in 2023 with SSDs that load so fast they can make your head spin. No game should have 20-second load times. For the first time in years, I found myself picking up my phone on going on to Twitter while Wild Hearts took its jolly time loading.
But after countless hours with Wild Hearts, I can’t find fault in its core gameplay. Hunting is enjoyable and taking down Kemono with my weapons and Karakuri was strangely familiar but at the same time, so refreshing. With a robust lineup of free content headed to the game, I am invested in this experience now and can’t wait to see where it goes next. Wild Hearts might have a few rough edges but there’s a lot of potential for this to become that next-gen Monster Hunter we so desperately need.
Wild Hearts Review
Story - 8/10
Gameplay - 7/10
Presentation - 7/10
Value - 8/10
Wild Hearts struggles with technical issues and needs a new camera system but underneath the rough surface is an excellent monster-hunting game that feels refreshing.
Combat is great fun
Karakuri makes the game
Monsters are awesome
Horrible camera system
Some rough visuals
Hit box problems