Wild Hearts - Featured

Wild Hearts Hands-On Preview: Man Versus Nature

Over the past few days, The Outerhaven has had the opportunity to spend some time with EA Original and Koei Tecmo’s upcoming monster-hunting game, Wild Hearts. While our review isn’t quite ready to land yet, we figured we’d talk a little bit about our little trip to Azuma. Monster Hunter just might have some competition to worry about.

The Good:

After taking time to craft my hunter with the game’s girthy character creator, it wasn’t long before I was plunged into Wild Hearts’ sandbox hunting grounds. My first hunt consisted of the Kemono known as the Ragetail, an enormous rat with a flower sprouting from one eye and a plum for a tail. Armed with a katana, I went toe to toe with the beast, eventually slaying the creature with a flashy, cinematic finisher.

The Kemono are definitely one of the coolest things about the game. They are large creatures, infused with nature and the ability to control their surroundings. The Ragetail, for instance, does an attack when it’s enraged where it summons a large, gnarled cherry blossom. When it begins this attack, those too close are walloped by its wrecking ball-esque tail. It’s up to players to learn these attacks and take down the Kemono with the use of flashy weapons and an ancient technology known as the Karakuri.

One thing that was immediately noticeable was how good the katana felt. Combat is fast and there is a uniqueness to each weapon I’ve used so far. The katana, for instance, has the ability to break apart and is used more like a whip. Each hit deals multiple points of damage. The Bladed Wasaga, which is in much of the game’s promotional material, can parry attacks and charges up with each successful parry. Maxing out the Wasaga’s meter unlocks new flashier, stronger attacks.

If you’ve looked into any promotional materials for Wilds Hearts, you’ve probably seen hunters crafting boxes and hand gliders. That’s where the Karakuri comes in, which is some kind of ancient, lost technology that allowed mankind to thrive in Azuma. Your hunter is one of the only humans left in the world with knowledge of how to use it, which is necessary to take on the Kemono. You can craft simple machinations like crates to wacky tools like giant hammers as well as various methods of traversal.

The hunter flies above a Ragetail just before coming down with a devastating attack in Wild Hearts.
Using your Karakuri to gain the high ground gives you a damage boost

The Bad:

For me, most of my issues lie in the game’s performance. EA and Koei Tecmo were kind enough to give me a PC and Xbox Series X code, and I ran into issues on both platforms. Our EIC, Keith Mitchell, also mentioned that he experienced PC performance issues, as well, despite running on a Ryzen 7900X + RTX 4090 combo. So, let’s get the Xbox Series X version out of the way first, shall we?

Knowing Wild Hearts was going to have me sprinting all over Azuma fighting large beasts, I set my graphical settings to Performance mode. In the beginning, I didn’t really have any issues, and the game ran fine. However, the farther I progressed, the more the frame rate began to drop. This was especially noticeable with the bow, as it zoomed in when the weapon was drawn, it almost always dropped below 30 frames.

Another thing I’ve noticed with the bow is that there is a bit of an input delay. It’s not much of an issue when using other weapons, but it was with the bow. The bow uses two different arrows to dish out damage, and when hitting X to swap between sticky and blast arrows, my character would simply not do it. It made the bow very frustrating to use in the heat of battle.

Lastly, the game is a grind. Not that that word is any kind of surprise but I do feel that the grind is larger in Wild Hearts. I’ve probably put twenty hours into the game so far, killing Kemono and doing side quests, and it was easy to see how much work goes into getting certain materials. With that being said, the grind is the least of my worries. Kemono are fun to fight, it’s just time-consuming.

The hunter finishes off the Ragetail in Wild Hearts.
Upon slaying a Kemono players will have to finish off the monster resulting in this flashy scene

How Does Wild Hearts Compare to Monster Hunter?

Moving on to a topic you probably want to hear about, how does it compare to Monster Hunter? After all, it’s easy to say Monster Hunter is the king of this kind of genre. I myself have never played Toukiden, so this was my first time with a Koei Tecmo hunting game, but I do feel like Wild Hearts has the potential to be a worthy competitor.

Similar to Monster Hunter: World, you’ll run around in vast, open spaces taking on terrifying beasts. During battles, you’ll wound monsters, sever parts and slay them to collect materials to craft weapons. On that level, the games are very, very similar. However, the Karakuri and fast-paced nature of the gameplay allows Wild Hearts to push the boundary forward.

In Monster Hunter, there is a certain amount of clunkiness to it. The way movement is handled and how slow most of the weapons feel which are the things that make the franchise challenging. Where Wild Hearts is concerned, the weapons don’t have that heavy, clunky feeling though the Kemono are just as terrifying. Being able to seamlessly conjure up wacky contraptions that knocked down Kemono is fun and essential, especially for solo players. You can also collect ingredients and eat food you make anywhere in the world which has its advantages over Monster Hunter’s limited options.

Ultimately, I feel like Wild Hearts has something special to offer monster-hunting fans. As a huge fan of Monster Hunter myself, I’m surprised by how much I fell in love with the game while reviewing Wild Hearts. Although our review isn’t quite ready yet, check back on February 16th. If all goes according to plan and I don’t get squashed by a Kemono before then, you can read our final thoughts on the game. In the meantime, check out Keith’s article “11 Things to Know Before Starting Wild Hearts“.