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Review: Wild Hearts Streamlines the Monster-Hunting Genre

Creative new mechanics and smart changes make this a hunt to remember.

Derek Swinhart

Feb 28, 2023

Wild Hearts is a new title from the EA Originals line, making it strange bedfellows with the likes of It Takes Two and Unraveled. Coming from Omega Force and Koei Tecmo, the developers of the long-running Warriors franchise, Wild Hearts is the latest game to try and challenge the long-running Monster Hunter franchise. Monster Hunter has seen a surge in popularity in the West with the release of Monster Hunter: World and the subsequent Monster Hunter: Rise, so now is the perfect time for new challengers to offer fresh takes on the genre. Wild Hearts does exactly that, refining many of Monster Hunter’s rough edges while offering a unique take of its own.

Image: EA

The Good

Wild Hearts is full of smart and creative changes to the standard Monster Hunter formula. The online features are easy to navigate, and it is easy to invite a friend from the multiplayer menu and get right to hunting within an hour of starting the game. Previous installments both have unnecessarily obtuse matchmaking and requirements for co-op, especially when it comes to story content. Rise did some streamlining of these features compared to World, but Wild Hearts makes it so much easier to just play the game online with friends. Wild Hearts simplifies many of Monster Hunter’s mechanics while retaining depth and longevity; it isn’t as complex, but for a series that is famously difficult to get into, this is the perfect place for newcomers to cut their teeth.

The Bad

Gameplay is affected a range of technical issues, mostly relating to co-op and visual performance. The framerate can dip frequently, especially on PC, and optimization is poor. On console, the co-op has many visual glitches, with flickering shadows and reflections that are incredibly distracting. This is all made even more unfortunate because Wild Hearts can be truly gorgeous when it isn’t having graphical issues.

Image: EA

What Surprised Me

Structure building with the Karakuri system is a game-changer. To compare it to Fortnite’s building mechanics would be reductive, but its application bears some resemblance. Building Karakuri is essential to survival and combining them in interesting ways to see what new creations arise is one of the best parts of Wild Hearts. Karakuri change the flow of fights and can save you in a pinch, but they are integral to success in hunts, especially against later enemies. Walls can be erected to block charging enemies, hammers can be spawned to stun them, and fireworks can be launched to knock flying beasts out of the sky. These are just some of the examples of the ways Karakuri can assist in fights, but experimenting and exploiting them is incredibly satisfying, and something I am not sure I can live without in hunting games after playing Wild Hearts.

What Was Predictable

Wild Hearts’ weaponry and basic combat have a lot of clear inspiration from Monster Hunter. It would have been great to see some more inspired weaponry, but what is available is incredibly polished. Weapons are snappy and satisfying to use, and combat is much faster and more immediately satisfying than Monster Hunter, but the weapons lack some of the depth in comparison. The story also is nothing to write home about, while I believe the presentation and general quality of the storytelling are much better than Monster Hunter with its earnest characters and a more grounded story about man versus nature, it still drags on too long. Ultimately, there are only so many ways you can say “go kill this big monster” before things get tired.

Image: EA

Bottom Line

Wild Hearts is a blast from beginning to end, and the combination of Karakuri with streamlined, snappy combat, makes it a joy to pick up and play. Newcomers to the genre or those who have always been intimidated by Monster Hunter should start here. But there is a very real possibility you may just stick with Wild Hearts for its unique aesthetic and streamlined mechanics, on top of the incredible Karakuri system.

Visuals: B-

Wild Hearts can look truly awesome, the wide-open environments and massive monster scale help it ascend beyond anything we have seen in hunting games before, but the technical issues are unforgivable. While the art and scale are impressive, it was hard to ever truly appreciate them without a caveat. With some updates, Wild Hearts can turn into a truly beautiful game.

Sound: A

The soundtrack is a particular highlight, but the game is chock-full of satisfying sound design and quality performances. Characters are generally well-acted, monsters are suitably beastly, and the atmosphere and reverence for Japanese culture feel much more akin to something like Ghost of Tsushima as opposed to the other Monster Hunter games.

Playability: A

Wild Hearts sings when you are on the hunt. Karakuri makes combat and exploration an absolute joy, and the monsters are well-designed with well-telegraphed moves and challenging mechanics. The world is fairly open and incredibly fun to explore and familiarize yourself with, and each area feels unique.

Story: C

Wild Hearts does its best to string together monster hunts with a simple and satisfying narrative about your little city fighting against the encroaching malicious monsters, but it can be a little sickly sweet at times. Characters are nice to the point of absurdity, praising you for every little thing you do and generally there is very little conflict in-between townsfolk or yourself.

Replay Value: A

Wild Hearts will keep you grinding hunts for months. Like Monster Hunter, it only really gets started once you finish the main story, which alone will take around fifty hours easily. Weapons have high enough skill ceilings that learning each is a blast, and gathering every set of armor will be a huge time-sink. The news indicates that all upcoming DLC will be free, so as long as the updates keep rolling in, Wild Hearts will have a long future ahead.

Overall Grade: B+

Derek Swinhart

Derek has worked in games journalism and PC gaming hardware and has a depth and breadth of experience across many genres. He plays almost everything but has a particular fondness for challenging games like the -Souls series and real-time strategy titles.

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