Wild Hearts is Electronic Art’s latest monster-hunting game, developed by Omega Force, a subdivision of Koei Tecmo, responsible for the many Warriors games.
Let’s compare to monster hunter are inevitable, as the games essentially share this unique genre spawned by the series. However, the gameplay feels closer to the Toukiden titles, Koei Tecmo’s previous attempt at a game like this. Toukiden did a few things right and does have its niche fanbase, but the games essentially fell flat in some aspects.
Tea Toukiden games were fast-paced, but their scope was tiny because they had to run on a PlayStation Vita. This meant that the monsters couldn’t be too big and the game just had this overall cheapness to it. One thing carried over from Toukiden is how agile the hunter is, as mobility is plentiful in Wild Hearts, especially when it comes to the faster weapons. How does Wild Hearts stand up to the huge monster hunter series? Find out in our Wild Hearts review!
This is a review coupled with a supplemental video review. You can watch the video review or read the full review of the below:
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Koei Tecmo, Omega Force
Platform: Windows PC (reviewed), PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S
Release Date: February 16th, 2023
Wild Hearts immediately throws any feeling of cheapness out by guiding players through a beautiful introduction sequence that starts in a bright forest and slowly transitions into a heavy snowstorm that is being caused by a massive Kemono beast. Naturally, the player has no chance of fighting the monster yet, you can watch it above.
The game’s monsters are Kemonos, mythical Japanese beasts that can alter the landscape at will. While rampaging they can make entire regions of the planet pretty much uninhabitable for humanity, which is why they need to be hunted. They also need to be hunted because I need the cool armors, it’s simply a necessity.
After creating our character, getting massacred by a giant frost wolf, and getting something weird attached to our wrist, we meet our first NPC, Natsume. Natsume is a blacksmith who is grateful to be saved from the rampaging Ragetail, but still needs some help, as her samurai friend has been kidnapped by a Kemono.
Wild Hearts made sure that none of the NPCs in the game felt like Monster Hunter: World’s handler, there has been a lot of effort put into making them all likeable and different from each other, and important to the plot. All of the game’s NPCs are interesting in their own way and serve their own function on the game’s main town hub.
Natsume would be grateful to help us with a new weapon, but she needs a forge to make anything. She’s in luck, because the Karakuri Device that has been attached to our wrist does exactly that. The player can build Basic Karakuris and Dragon Karakuris through the device, Karakuris are objects made of spiritual thread, and apparently only the hunter has the potential to churn them out at will.
The Basic Karakuris are objects that help out in combat, like springs that help quickly evade an enemy, or boxes that when stacked turn into a wall to stagger a rampaging monster. The player can also build a giant hammer to hit an enemy out of reach (which is extremely comical to look at, legitimately some looney tunes stuff, I love it).
Dragon Karakuris are bigger structures that serve functions like refilling your healing potions and processing food. They can also be built at will, but they need the nearby Dragon Pit to be strong enough, which makes the player have to choose carefully on what structures are needed at camp and during exploration. Basic Karakuris don’t follow these rules and their materials can be found by chopping special trees or by mining mineral veins.
I didn’t really believe in the games building system at first, especially when the first thing that came to my mind when building the boxes was Fortnite. However, the system is implemented consistently both with the story and the gameplay, so despite any humorous Fortnite comparisons the system does work pretty well.
Combining the objects to make special structures is always fun and launching off of the box and spring give you different moves, so I can’t really complain at a system that helps the player squeeze a little more out of their moveset.
The Karakuri’s functions could easily be replaced by some mobility upgrades and a grappling hook, but it’s fun to see that a whole building system was added onto the game instead. It’s something that could have been done lazily, but was given a lot of thought and depth, which goes a long way.
The introduction sequence gives us access to only a sword, but after fighting our first monster, rescuing Natsume, and building her a forge, we get access to more weapons. At first the player has access to the Karakuri Katana, Nodachi, Bow, Maul, and a Bladed Wagasa.
The starting Katana doubles as a whip when powered up, the Nodachi is our giant charge weapon, the Bow has two types of ammo, one that gets lodged in the monster and the other that blows up the lodged shots, the Maul is a standard hammer weapon that extends in range for giant wide swings, and the Bladed Wagasa is a high-mobility weapon that gives the player a parry.
You can watch some of my gameplay with the maul on the video below:
All of the weapons have their own special moveset and their own gimmicks, like the Nodachi’s focus on repositioning and the Maul’s timed strikes. They range differently in difficulty, with the Bladed Wagasa probably being the hardest of the basic weapons due to its need for timed parries and constant offense.
Wild Hearts nails the feeling of the weapons, they all have a really satisfying weight and impact to them, especially the heavy ones like the maul and nodachi. Bonking a monster in the head with a giant piece of metal is always a joyful experience, which could be ruined by weapons that don’t feel good to use.
The Kemonos start on their base form but get a massive power-up near death, where their moves gain new properties and they hit much harder. A lot of care went into their designs and movesets, which makes the unknown part of the hunt really exciting. Seeing them hulk out and changing the landscape in the middle of the fight is also a treat, and really makes the game’s environments shine.
The cathartic feeling of being on the middle of a beautiful open field after a grueling fight to the death with a giant mythical animal is exhilarating. Wild Hearts plays into it very well, as one of the first story beats when reaching the town of Minato happens right after a crazy fight against the Kingstusk, a giant boar that create large beds of thorns across the landscape.
The music also manages to ramp up during the most exciting moments of the battle, usually when the Kemono has transformed into its powered-up version. Whoever worked on the soundtrack did a fantastic job, it manages to make the hunts feel really euphoric and grandiose.
My only gripe with the Kemonos is how they don’t feel like real animals, as they just mostly pace around before being engaged by the player. They don’t really exhibit any animal behavior like eating, interacting with the other beasts, or sleeping as far as I spotted them. They just move around, lacking the subtle nuances that would really make them feel like a live animal.
I am extremely glad to see mouse and keyboard controls that are already set up on a pretty good layout but do have the option of rebinding. We may be entering a new era of Koei Tecmo PC ports, which I’m definitely here for, as they are quickly becoming one of my favorite developers with their latest titles. So far, I didn’t experience any bugs or performance issues when it comes to Wild Heartsit also has ultrawide support in gameplay, which I’m thankful for.
Wild Hearts is part of the EA Originals lineup, which has slowly expanded since 2016, and it features excellent games like Unravel, A Way Out, and It Takes Two. I do my best to be as critical as I can of a product’s quality, but it’s really hard to find flaws in Wild Hearts. Electronic Arts is slowly recovering their reputation as a solid publisher with titles Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, dead space‘s remake and now this game.
Wild Hearts is an extremely fun monster-hunting game that anyone can sink their teeth into. The building system is a treat, the hunts are challenging, and the game has been really polished. Finding any complaints about the game feels like nitpicking, as the game doesn’t have any glaring defects or flaws. It’s rare when a gem like Wild Hearts comes around but it really is just a fantastic game, and I hope we get some expansions.
Wild Hearts was reviewed on Microsoft Windows using a game code provided by Electronic Arts. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Wild Hearts is available on PlayStation 5, Xbox Sseries X|S and Microsoft Windows (through Steam or EA).