Wild Hearts Review – A BLOCK-TACULAR ADVENTURE?
Nothing stands out in the same way that Monster Hunter does in the giant, over-the-top-yet-somewhat-realistic hounding of animals genre. Sure, there are similar titles like Dauntless or Godeater, but they don’t quite reach the same heights as Capcom’s booming franchise. Wild Hearts, on the other hand, might turn out to be a fierce competitor, as this rather odd collaboration from EA and Koei Tecmo/Omega Force does just enough to set itself apart, while also streamlining several of Monster Hunter’s irksome design elements.
Into The Fray
One of these aspects is the simplified equipment stats. It’s much more stripped back in Wild Hearts with very blatant, higher-number-equals-better layouts and doesn’t require going through several menus to ascertain the best selections for your character. Something players will be doing on the regular. Eating food for stat boosts is done on the map too and is just as breezy as the equipment side of things. Players don’t need to sharpen their weapons or worry about juggling their inventory as well, which is a huge win. Also, instead of the usual 14 weapons of Monster Hunter, Wild Hearts scales it back to 8 distinct types and makes them heaps easier to pick up and play. While this may be a detriment to some, the barrier of entry is now a lot lower; actively encouraging players to mix up their fighting styles.
The online co-op is this game’s biggest draw, especially considering that there’s full cross-play support available between all next-gen consoles. That includes: PS5, Xbox Series X|S and PC (Origin, EA App, Steam and the Epic Games Store). Hosting or joining a group of 3 hunters is super easy, barely an inconvenience. Players can request support whenever they select a target on the map, create a custom group from a campfire or join an ongoing battle from Hunters Gates. It’s all very straightforward to understand and setup once you get into the groove.
On PC unfortunately, the PS3-looking graphics are far from optimised, making the game feel like it was rushed out the door. Once you see those awful, dollar-store snow effects towards the start, then it becomes hard to unnotice. That being said, the artistic style of the equipment, landscapes and nature-themed Kemono (the big monsters) are easy enough on the eyes, lending itself well to Wild Hearts’ expansive world design which players can freely fast-travel between.
Fresh Hunting Takes
A common issue I encountered however, was the camera. It will regularly freak out if your hunter and a Kemono get wedged between a wall, and trying to escape the next incoming wallop of an attack is frustratingly futile. Coupled with the fact that certain attacks leave players stunned for days—like that surprised Pikachu meme—and this all too often culminates in a rage-inducing death. Playing co-op is a tonne of fun, but when solo, the combat drags on a tad too long. Since a considerable amount of fights last for about 25-30 minutes, the constant assaults and chasing results in a serious battle of attrition—and sometimes your own sanity as well.
When alone, the epic tussles are arduous and challenging. Structures will fall and break in a Kemono’s wake, and one lapse in concentration could lead to a dire situation. Thankfully, the ability to ride Kemonos and summon Fortnite-inspired building blocks called Karakuri (yes, I’m serious) can help to turn the tide. These innovative field mechanics can counter a monster’s charge, fling hunters out of the way, set up fast-travel camps as revival points, unleash powerful jump attacks and much more. Since Karakuri can be placed almost anywhere, experimentation is key. My go-to setup is placing spring blocks in a circuit so I can keep moving ahead of a monster’s assault, then change direction off one of the springs after they tire themselves out to retaliate. Like the rest of the game’s presentation, it’s very simple to digest but contains so much potential for clever play.
Outside of battle, Karakuri helps with traversing the land by forming blocks, flying foxes, gliders and more which players can use to proceed upon all sorts of terrain. Unlike other open-world games, elements like fast-travel points and equipment workbenches need to be manually constructed in the wilderness; great for tailoring the experience to each person. However, they can’t just be tacked on anywhere and everywhere. Hunters will need to charge up area-limited Dragon Pits and pay attention to the elements that correspond with specific types of Karakuri. For example, players won’t be able to summon fast-travel camps at each Dragon Pit location. This is most likely so the fields don’t become overly cluttered and the map doesn’t turn into a modern action RPG eyesore. *Looks menacingly at Assassin’s Creed*
Hideo Kojima Nods
The cool part about these Fortnite blocks is that they stay intact in your save until something destroys them. When you’re a guest in another player’s game, their blocks will appear to you and vice-versa if they join your hunt—a clear nod to Death Stranding. Speaking of walking simulators, two aspects I vastly prefer in Monster Hunter Rise over Wild Hearts are the wall-running and pet Palicoes/Palamutes. Wild Hearts features Breath of The Wild’s stamina and climbing mechanics which are way too limiting for they’re own good here, and the little companion who follows you around called Tsukomo has nothing on the awesome cat and dog-looking creatures that help with fighting and fast movement in Rise.
While I’m forbidden to speak of endgame spoilers, the game will take around 40+ hours to complete it’s main campaign and side quests. Even though there’s more of a focus on narrative due to the relatively shorter runtime than it’s hunting-based contemporaries, the serious, Feudal Japan-inspired tone and story didn’t interest me in the slightest. A pet peeve of mine is when characters start spouting excessive expository dialogue, but don’t offer anything else for the audience to latch onto. Yes, there are one or two cast members that I enjoy. The former-samurai-turned-drinker, Ujishige provides a couple of laughs, while Mujina, the enigmatic travelling musician will keep players wondering. Though at the end of the day, my feelings towards these characters are completely irrelevant, as the story of Wild Hearts is ultimately missing the second word in it’s title—and that’s the biggest shame of all.
Like the series it was inspired by, players will take on a challenging series of nature-themed bosses with 8 intuitive weapon types, alongside a host of seamless gameplay and co-op features which help keep the combat front and centre. Wild Hearts falters in it’s main storyline and single-player mode, but as a group, the intense action and destruction is a joy to experience. Made even better by full cross-play support, stirring music and certain streamlined elements that Monster Hunter hasn’t even achieved yet, Wild Hearts has carved out just enough of a niche to be considered it’s own unique thing.
By Anthony Culinas – Reviewed on PC
Wild Hearts takes what makes the Monster Hunter series so great and adds it’s own distinct flair with flashy, Fortnite-themed building blocks and a more open-ended approach to design. The exposition dump story isn’t interesting and the PC version is not optimised well at all, but the heart of it’s gameplay—pun intended—is definitely worth tackling with 2 friends online.
This game was reviewed using a download code provided by EA. The Beta Network uses affiliate partnerships, however, this does not influence reviews or any other content published. The Beta Network may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links that are on the website.
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