Title – Wild Hearts
Platforms – PS5, Xbox Series X|S and PC
Release Date – February 18th, 2023
Developer – Omega Force
Publisher – EA
MSRP – $69.99
ESRB – M for Mature
Disclaimer – This product is being reviewed on the PlayStation 5. A review copy was provided by EA for the purpose of this review. This review may also contain spoilers for certain gameplay and story elements. Watch at your own risk, you have been warned. Gaming Instincts is an Amazon Affiliate and does gain financial benefits if you choose to purchase this product on this page.
Wild Hearts came out of nowhere. It’s a brand new title from Omega Force and published by EA Originals and is a direct competitor to the ever-popular Monster Hunter franchise. Omega Force has decided to put a spin on the formula with their own spicy and innovative mechanics that make the whole monster-hunting experience fresh and varied compared to other titles in the genre. So how does Wild Hearts manage to push the boundaries of the genre? Is it different and distinct enough to stand toe-to-toe with Monster Hunter? The short answer is yes, but we’re about to give you the full answer. Welcome to our review of Wild Hearts.
The New Style of Monster Hunting
Wild Hearts is an unusual title. When it was revealed I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. The fact that it was a game made by Omega Force in collaboration with EA Publishing was not something I ever thought I’d ever see or hear about. It’s an odd combination, but it sure is a fascinating one at that. For those who do not know Omega Force previously created a title known as Toukiden: Age of Demons and then later Toukiden 2. These games were in the same genre as Monster Hunter, and they were made for the PSP and PSVITA. In Toukiden: Age of Demons, players hunt down and kill mythological Japanese demons as opposed to dragons and lizards.
Wild Hearts is their next substantial entry and it is a new-generation title that is only available on current-gen systems including PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and on Steam for PC. The game itself is a welcome surprise. It offers novel and unique systems such as the Karakuri, the game’s core building system. Players can put down crates, springs, and a variety of other objects to help them traverse faster or get around the monster to land hits with their weapons in a variety of ways. At first, I thought it was going to be annoying to be forced to build stuff all the time in order to kill your main target. However, it doesn’t feel forced and the system complements the gameplay well. Crafting depends on the current situation and the monster you are hunting. Just to give a small example, building 3 crates in a row can give you a vertical advantage and an opportunity to downward thrust the monster for a decent amount of damage if you are using the Nodachi sword, which is the game’s equivalent of the greatsword from the Monster Hunter franchise.
A player can put down a spring that gives him or her a speed boost and enables them to do a spinning attack as they dash forward. It can also help you escape a dangerous attack and get out of the danger rather quickly. Then there is a hovering glider that many Zelda: Breath of the Wild fans will be familiar with. It’s a fantastic traversal tool that covers a lot of ground. You can also use it to inflict massive damage upon your target as you are hovering right over it.
As for weapons, there are quite a few. There is the Nodachi which is a two-handed greatsword, a Maul that’s essentially the hammer from the Monster Hunter series, a cannon that’s quite unique and weird to use, a Karakuri staff that can turn into a variety of weapons, a Karakuri katana blade that’s fast and furious, a Bladed Wasagna that looks like an umbrella and the Dread claw that can attach to creatures for easy hits. Some of these weapons may seem similar to other games, but thankfully they all offer a distinct style of play in conjunction with the Karakuri building.
The creatures in Wild Hearts are called Kenomo. The developers officially describe them as animals who are fused with nature. One of the first Kenomo that you hunt down is named Ragetail which is a giant rat that utilizes the wood attribute as its damage. Meanwhile, the Lavaback is a rock-like gorilla infused with fire powers and lava attacks. Then there is the Deathstalker which is an enormous ice wolf that wants to make you his chew toy and freeze you to death. There are many other animals that you will be fighting in Wild Hearts, but those are just a few examples. You will not be fighting any sort of giant dragons or massive lizards that you are accustomed to in Monster Hunter, and you know what? That’s completely fine because it gives the game its own unique identity and personality.
Yes, there is also crafting in-game that lets you forge new weapons and advance them down a talent tree. Weapon upgrading and character progression are quite different from something like Monster Hunter. The armor might be somewhat similar, but not by much. As for weapons, you can go down different trees such as fire, water, and nature, and they can also inherit different skills that act as passive buffs. Each of the monsters also has its strengths and weaknesses. However, the game doesn’t tell you what they are until you have defeated them, so you’ll have to do your best to keep progressing in the game.
The World Building and Visuals of Wild Hearts
The game is one giant map that’s divided into regions. As you progress through the story of the game, more regions and Kemono unlock. Then there is also the main town of Minato, where you can pick up side-quests, sell stuff and progress through the story as needed. Speaking of the story in this game, it is absolutely atrocious. It’s incredibly boring, there is nothing exciting and there are far too many useless cut-scenes that you will not care for. It also doesn’t help that the dialogue just feels completely stale and is a waste of your time. Thankfully, you can skip through it by mashing buttons.
However, if you are in a multiplayer session and you are the host, then the game does NOT allow you to skip the story cut-scenes. Not only that but if other people are in a menu doing something or crafting a new weapon and the host picks up a quest, then they will get kicked out of it and be forced to watch the cut-scene. I am not sure who thought this was okay or why it was a good idea, but it just hampers the experience and wastes everyone’s time. This is very sad because the game itself is enjoyable and most of the time I just want to hunt with my friends unbothered by obnoxious cut-scenes that I cannot skip when playing with my buddies.
As far as the world itself is concerned, it is quite good and there are plenty of reasons to explore it. Just like Monster Hunter, it’s a good idea to look for materials and farm a bunch of stuff for crafting. There are also things to collect such as lore pieces and Karakuri bot friends that enhance your Karakuri and aid you on your hunts. There are 50 of them in each region and a total of 200 in the game. They’re fun to chase down and do help you out in the long run, so they are definitely worth your while. There is enough variety, so it never feels the same. However, the visuals are quite lackluster.
Despite the game being on new-generation systems only, it doesn’t look good. Honestly, I’d argue that Monster Hunter games look better than this game and have a far more consistent art direction. It looks okay at times, but at other times, it looks like a 5-year-old kid just grabbed different colors of paint and mixed them together. Thankfully, graphics are not the most important thing in a game, the gameplay is and that’s where Wild Heart shines the most. Not only does the game look bad, it also has quite a few technical issues. The game would have weird frame-rate stutters and a ton of visual pop-ins. Over time, they did release a few patches to fix performance as much as they could. But honestly, this game is still poorly optimized and I was expecting something far better. Thankfully, the game is in a better and more playable state now, but that still doesn’t excuse its launch day technical problem. There is still quite a bit they can do to fix the game.
At the end of the day despite the game’s issues with an uninteresting story, unskippable cut-scenes during online play, inconsistent art direction, and some annoying technical issues that still need fixing the game is a blast to play and is a very pleasant early surprise of 2023. The gameplay is solid and it works very well with the rest of its mechanics. It’s quite nice to finally have a good competitor that can rival the Monster Hunter franchise and have its own audience. But truth be told, I love both of these franchises assuming that Wild Hearts will sell well and get a sequel down the line.
There is no denying that Monster Hunter will always be the granddaddy of this type of genre. There is no question about that. But that doesn’t mean that another great game cannot coexist with it, because Wild Hearts definitely can. Thanks to its Karakuri building system, cool-looking animals, and an awesome arsenal of weapons, the game is able to stand on its own legs and attract a wider audience to the world of monster slaying. Wild Hearts will get a final score of 8.0 out of 10.