Wild Hearts Review: The hunt is on

It’s admittedly been a while since I had touched base with the Monster Hunter series. And then I saw it; the reveal of Wild Hearts, developer Omega Force and Koei Tecmo’s answer to an existing breed of hunting game, that draws on many of the techniques and mechanics of the aforementioned franchise, while adding satisfying combat, intriguing crafting and a grand sense of scale to the mix. While similarities to the Monster Hunter franchise feel inevitable at this point, make no mistake; Wild Hearts is indeed set on taking you on a fresh journey.

The Call of the Wild

Wild Hearts excels at many things, but its story is unfortunately not one of them. Set in the mythical world of Azuma, you play as a custom-created hunter who is soon tasked with ridding the city and its surrounding environments of the gargantuan creatures known as the Kemono, that threaten its inhabitants. You’ll be joined by a small supporting cast of hunters along the way, but they generally serve as a means to an end, either to supply you with forged good and weapons, or assign missions and tasks to your hunter. It’s not necessarily riveting stuff, but does enough of a job at pointing you in the right direction, while never slowing the pace down to a point where you feel too far removed from the action.

Beyond this, you’ll spend most of your time navigating environments and preparing for hunts by upgrading weapons and gear, while discovering new and unique creatures and unlocking new abilities. Aside from an original story, Wild Hearts feels most like Monster Hunter in in terms of its structure and progression. Take it for what it is, as fans of the Monster Hunter franchise will find this rather convenient; it’s focused on its intention and rarely loses sight of its goal. But keep in mind, most of the variety through the Wild Heart’s 30 hour runtime will build roads that lead to the thrill of the hunt.

It’s also worth noting here that Wild Hearts excels visually, delivering a wonderfully vibrant and surprisingly expansive world that encourages exploration. It can feel linear at first as the narrative takes a couple hours to find its groove, but does slowly unfold to reveal unique environments that house some incredibly gorgeous, giant monsters to hunt, complete with their own, environmentally inspired flare. You’ll also be able to play Wild Hearts in either a resolution mode which runs in 4K at 30fps, while the performance mode drops the resolution to 1080p with 60fps in mind. We reviewed Wild Hearts on the PlayStation 5, and are aware that PC gamers seem to be experiencing the brunt of performance issues, which seem to be on the mend via upcoming patches. But even on next-gen consoles, both modes will see a drop in frame rate. Like most games that offer it however, performance mode fared way better, only dropping slightly into around 50-55fps during the more chaotic moments.

Putting Up a Fight

Thankfully, the thrill of the hunt is where it’s at. Wild Hearts does a fantastic job at blending fast-paced combat with clever crafting mechanics, which you’ll need to grasp relatively quickly in order to gain the upper hand. Early on in the game, you’ll be introduced to the karakuri building system, which allows you to create various objects within the environments like spring loaded crates that will boost you up into the air. While it becomes mostly effective for both aerial attacks, it can simply be used to access out of reach areas during exploration.

With light, heavy and special attacks available, you’ll spend most of your time combining these attacks to take down foes, while incorporating the karakuri building system to exploit enemy weaknesses and add mobility to general combat. While you’ll also be able to utilise a dodge and dedicated jump button, combat feels generally satisfying, but much more so when the karakuri building system is in play. But it’s only when you unlock fusion karakuri, which allow for a multitude of crating options to be completed in a certain automated order, that things heat up. This might sound complicated, but the karakuri system is incredibly easy to use and instantly accessible, as you learn to chain up to four karakuri options at a given time. You’ll also be able to wield a number of unique weapons in combat, from samurai swords and mallets, to outright ballistic weaponry, each with their own upgradeable special attacks.

Outside of combat, you’ll also use the karakuri crafting system to build a range of both crucial and cosmetic options that aid general progress and preparations for each hunt. Along you journey, you’ll be able to set up camp in small dedicated sites that require certain aspects like tents for fast travel between camps and workbenches for armour and weapon upgrades. It’s worth keeping in mind that both resources and maximum number of crafting options are limited, meaning you’ll usually need to pick and choose where these spots are set, making for an added layer of strategy that makes these choices feel more consequential than you would expect. To make things that much deeper, the karakuri system also carries with it a huge unlock tree, allowing you to access numerous new and exciting items, while being able to upgrade your existing favourites. I may have gotten carried away with multiple upgrades to my existing gear, that I rarely scratched the surface of experiencing the sheer variety of this unlockable items.

Hunting Buddies

Wild Hearts also features cooperative play, where friends can join and assist each other in their campaign through drop-in/drop-out functionality. Up to three players can join at any time, and it’s clear that many of the game’s systems favour this style of play. As your own weapon choices, upgrades and karakuri crafting systems merge, combat soon becomes a structured dance of both timing and effectiveness as you each work to take down these massive beasts, piece by piece.

While combat is far from monotonous, the need to coordinate with friends incorporates those individual systems and melds the into new and exciting strategies that you rarely use within your own solo run. It’s not necessarily putting that initial experience to shame by any means, but does work to highlight the efficiency and effectiveness of the expansive karakuri building system.

Final Thoughts

For as much as Wild Hearts will be compared to the Monster Hunter franchise, it stands on its own two feet as a competent counterpart, complete with satisfying combat, clever crafting mechanics that embed themselves into every layer of gameplay, and steady progression that sees you upgrading a range of unique weapons to take on a variety of enemies that carry with them a consistently impressive sense of scale and warranted strategy. While the narrative is nothing to write home about, my time with Wild Hearts is sure to continue long after this review has been written.


Highlights: Satisfying combat; Grand sense of scale; Unique and deep karakuri crafting system; Fun cooperative play
Lowlights: Bland story and supporting characters
Developer: Koei Tecmo, Omega Force, Koei Tecmo Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, Windows PC
Available: Now

Review conducted on PlayStation 5 with a pre-release code provided by the publisher.

Matthew Arcari

Matthew Arcari is the games and technology editor at The AU Review. You can find him on Twitter at @sirchunkee, or at the Dagobah System, chilling with Luke and Yoda.