Mother nature can be a terrifying force of destruction. Thankfully for us in the real world, creation didn’t see fit to fuse nature into beasts and give them control of their surrounding environments. No, instead, the madmen at Koei Tecmo and Omega Force put that idea up into their latest monster-hunting video game, Wild Hearts.
Developer: Koei Tecmo, Omega Force Publisher: EA Games Release Date: February 16th, 2023 Platforms: PC, PS5, Xbox Series *Played on PC, PS5 & Xbox Series X
A Hunter in a Strange Land:
Set in feudal Japan, Wild Hearts takes the players to Azuma—a place where man once flourished, until creatures known as Kemono pushed them out. Thanks to the Kemono’s ability to harness nature, normal hunters find them incredibly difficult to deal with them. However, after a run-in with a masked stranger and an icy puppy, that’s where the players and the Karakuri come in.
The Karakuri is an ancient technology that allowed people to thrive in Azuma using what is known as “Celestial Thread”. However, after a devastating event pushed out many of the civilians, the Karakuri fell into disrepair, making life harder for those left behind. It’s not until after the event that occurs in the introduction, players gain a certain amount of control over the Karakuri. It’s all very technical and requires a near-death experience, but players gain the ability to conjure simple contraptions to large outlandish ones out of thin air. Suffice it to say, it’s an essential tool that allows them to go toe to toe with ferocious Kemono.
One thing I appreciated about Wild Hearts was its focus on delivering a tighter narrative. While the game is a monster hunting game and the story isn’t deep, it does attempt to engage the players. Unlike Monster Hunter, Wild Hearts offers things like dialogue trees and the ability to create a small backstory for the hunters. Again, those options aren’t deep or impactful, but it makes you focus on what’s happening while offering more lore about Azuma.
Just to repeat myself, however, the story isn’t very deep. Just like the other hunting game, it just boils down to “go here, slay X.” I just personally think that the story tries harder and does a better job at engaging its audience. Plus, there’s a heightened sense of danger and urgency with the fact that the Kemono have the ability to control nature itself. They have an effect on the world around them, and it makes things harder for those who remain in Azuma.
Building the Perfect Hunter:
The first thing you’ll do after a short introductory sequence is create your character. If you’re someone who enjoys a character creator with a lot of depth, then Wild Hearts has you covered. There are a ton of options to choose from with nothing being restricted between genders. Now, I can’t say if you can make Shrek, but it does offer players a lot of freedom. I spent far too much time making a character that I was happy with, and I didn’t really go into the advanced editors.
Much like other hunting games, there’s a vast variety of weapons and armor to craft. In order to expand your arsenal, you need to hunt monsters and collect materials from their corpses. Each Kemono has its own set of armor, and there are nine different weapons for players to choose from. The tree for each weapon is massive, and you’ll more than likely end up crafting at least three variations of a weapon to explore each branch. Another great feature is that upgrading your weapons will allow you to carry over perks.
Each weapon feels fun to use and unique in its own right. As a bow user in both Monster Hunter, I can’t begin to describe how much more fun it is in Wild Hearts. The bow, for instance, has two types of arrows. An arrow that sticks to its target and the other that detonates those arrows. Filling a Kemono with a bunch of arrows and then detonating them all at once is incredibly satisfying. However, having experimented with the other weapons in the game, they’re all worth trying out. The Bladed Wasaga can parry attacks while the Clawblade digs a hooked chain into Kemono, allowing you to pull yourself toward a Kemono for fast, anime-esque attacks.
As for the armor, there’s one cool mechanic called “Paths.” As players craft armor, they’ll have the opportunity to upgrade pieces down a specific path. These paths are known as “Human” and “Beast.” Those who choose to go down the human path dedicate themselves toward technology. The beast path will align one with nature and a deeper understanding of the Kemono. As you get deeper into the game, you’ll eventually see certain perks locked behind specific paths. It’s an encouraging mechanic that will have players crafting multiple sets of armor to experiment with various builds.
Wild Hearts’ biggest issue is that the grind here is very, very real. In chapter 2, I had killed a large handful of Kemono and was still missing weapon 2-star weapon upgrades. Ragetail is the first Kemono you’ll deal with, and it took me forever to earn three Ragetail Plums to craft its second weapon. That’s not to mention the fact you need those materials for armor as well, so be prepared to do a lot of hunting.
The Wild Hearts of Hunters:
Wild Hearts feels a lot like Monster Hunter: World in comparison. Azuma is a vast world that players will be able to explore at their leisure, collecting materials, hunting Kemono, and conjuring Karakuri. One thing I liked about exploring Azuma was the ability to craft a campsite and eat food anywhere in the world. Building camps is a good way to travel quickly around an area, though it might take a heavy toll on your Dragon Karakuri’s resources. However, you can find campsites that significantly reduce the cost of camping tents. The land is split up into multiple sections, each with its own unique environments and Kemono that roam them.
The Kemono themselves range from smaller creatures like the rodent-esque Ragetail to the enormous King Tusk, a boar-like creature that fills most of the screen. It’s safe to say that quite a lot of thought went into designing the Kemono, and it’s one of the things that helps them stand out from other hunting games. Their ability to control nature is also quite fun, as it often affects the world around them during battle.
In order to effectively deal with the Kemono, you’ll need to rely on Karakuri. Even a simple box can be enough to stop a charging Kemono in their tracks. If not, stacking crates in a certain pattern will fuse them together into a Bulwark, a wall able to withstand even stronger attacks. It’s another mechanic in the game that really helps Wild Hearts stand out. There’s quite a lot you can do with them like crafting comically large hammers to healing mists and even vehicles for traversal. Karakuri’s biggest issue is that it’s easy to lose yourself in the moment and botch a build, resulting in taking serious damage.
However, if you play your cards right, you can put the hurt on your target, wounding them in the process and breaking off parts. Multiple parts can be severed for players to harvest, and causing wounds on Kemono will make them drop orbs which players use to upgrade or unlock new Karakuri. Climbing on the monsters and using your “Hunter’s Arm” on glowing weak spots will also let you gain more orbs and boost your thread count. Another thing I like about defeating Kemono is that when you beat them, you’re automatically given their materials. There’s no need to carve the materials off for yourself, but you do need to pick up their tails or other bits that fall off during battle. Don’t forget!
Where multiplayer is concerned, it does feel a tad clunky but easy to manage at the same time. Three hunters can band together and take on the Kemono, with a bit of scaling to even things out. When starting a hunt, players can hold down on the D-Pad to request assistance from other players. Two other players can join by accessing various gates around the environment or searching for sessions in progress at the start of selecting a quest. While reviewing the game, I had issues finding other players though a few did join up with me and help me out in the beginning of the game, and it was a lot of fun.
Azuma’s Karakuri Are in Disrepair:
I played on both the PC and Xbox Series X and ran into quite a few performance issues. PC ran the best in my experiences as the Series X version had a large amount of frame rate problems. My graphical options were set to Performance, and the frame rate frequently dropped below 30 FPS. That simply shouldn’t be happening, and switching over to Resolution mode was an even worse experience.
Another thing I had a problem with was some kind of input delay. I’d notice it a lot while using the bow, and I tried to swap arrows. It was never an issue when dodging or using healing potions, but when using the bow, my hunter would get locked into attacking and just wouldn’t change out arrows. I thought it might be me at first, but after speaking with Keith, he also had an issue with input delay. Needless to say, it became quite frustrating.
Lastly, the camera. I am convinced it’s on the same team as the Kemono. It’s constantly putting the environment between itself and you, making it difficult to see what’s happening. Objects don’t vanish either, and instead, a small circle might appear, allowing you to see your character, but it doesn’t help much. While using the bow, the camera shifts to a somewhat over-the-shoulder aiming mode. It isn’t horrible by any means, but it does take a minute to adjust to.
Azuma and its various environments are great looking, as well as the Kemono that inhabit them. Monster Hunter Rise proved that feudal Japan is a wonderful setting, Wild Hearts only reinforces the aesthetic. Audio-wise, the monsters sound terrifying, and the music fits the mood when you’re in the heat of battle. The voice acting is decent, and I applaud their decision to choose actors of Asian descent.
Should You Journey to Azuma?
The game is quite easy to pick up and play for both those who choose to go solo or join up with two friends for co-op hunts. Solo players get a handy little companion that can help fight Kemono, heal, and hand out thread. Playing online with others will give you the benefit of more Karakuri being utilized, and players can revive each other should one of them fall in battle.
There’s also a dash of camp customization as well. Dragon Karakuri will allow players access to essential tools as well as aesthetic ones. So if crafting and base building is something that interests you, that’s another thing you can look forward to. I enjoyed creating little areas where I could store ingredients and
When it comes to Monster Hunter, I put far too much time into that franchise, and I never played the Toukiden series. Despite the issues I mentioned above, however, I really am in love with Wild Hearts. Sadly, I was informed the performance issues wouldn’t be fixed on day one, though they have been acknowledged by Koei Tecmo. So far, the rocky frame rate is what truly holds the game back. Otherwise, I personally do not mind the grind.
The developers promised free monthly updates that add new quests, new Kemono, as well as deadlier variations of others. Getting past the performance issues, Wild Hearts is a solid monster-hunting experience with wacky tools and extravagant gear to earn. One that is just as fun to solo as it is to play with friends. With a bit of post-launch TLC, the game can truly give Monster Hunter a run for its money.
Review Disclosure Statement:Wild Hearts was provided to us by EA and Koei Temco for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
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Wild Hearts Review - Fun With Heart Problems
Wilds Hearts is an incredibly fun monster hunting experience that’s really only held back by its technical issues. Performance issues across the board on all platforms are what stop the otherwise faster paced and stylish action game from truly giving Monster Hunter a run for its money.
Weapons are all fun to learn and use.
Kemono feel unique.
Karakuri mechanics add depth in and out of battle.