Let's get the boring paperwork out of the way quickly. Yes, Wild Hearts is a lot like Monster Hunter: World. The similarities are plain to see, both structurally and conceptually. However, far from being a Monster Hunter clone, thanks to mostly fantastic creature design and splendid, fast-paced combat with an emphasis on ad hoc building, it manages to differentiate itself and stand on its own two feet as a viable alternative.
The gameplay loop in Wild Hearts is broadly the same as Monster Hunter, but for the uninitiated, we'll sum it up as succinctly as we can. You create your avatar using the excellent character creator and then you're introduced to the town of Minato. It's a peaceful settlement in the Azuma region of Japan during feudal times. Minato is your base of operations, and it's there that you prepare for hunts by forging weapons and armour with the blacksmith, peruse wares at the shop, talk to the locals and pick up side-quests, or take a restorative dip at the local bathhouse.
Once you're fed, watered, armed, and dangerous, you head out into the wilderness to track and hunt monsters known as Kemono that pose a threat to Minato. Maybe some fisherman got chomped by a giant rat, or perhaps merchants are struggling to secure a trade route because a fire monkey is battering anyone that treads upon its territory. There's always a reason you have to go out there, be it in the main story moments or one of the not-quite-as-fleshed-out side-quests, and it always ends with you having to fight a big monster.
The Kemono themselves are, for the most part, wonderfully designed. They're based on real, recognisable animals, only grown to an absurd size and fused with nature in a most unsavoury way. There are wolves that can command the powers of ice and snow, bears made of rock that can tremble the earth, and magma-skinned gorillas that can conjure molten lava at will. They're an elegant mix of formidable and beautiful, and the Kemono that are reserved for boss fights are usually the most jaw-dropping of all.
Combat is fast and chaotic. Preparation will help, but once you're in the heat of battle it's timing, an intimate understanding of your weapon, and an awareness of your surroundings that will be key to victory. The weapons available to you run the gamut from a huge cannon that lets you fire off powerful artillery once you've charged it up, to genre standards like the slow and powerful greatsword, to a samurai sword that transforms into a whip once you've filled the requisite gauge.
The most interesting feature in battle is the Karakuri system. You can collect a resource named celestial thread from rocks and trees in your environment, and you then use this to build structures known as Karakuri. The simplest of these range from torches that imbue your weapon with flame when you run by them, to springboards you can leap off to avoid a deadly attack. Later, you can build more elaborate constructions, like a giant, spring-loaded hammer that can pancake an enemy, or a harpoon gun that can ensnare your target so you can wail on the creature while it's tethered.
The Karakuri's uses extend outside of battle, too, as you can build structures within the world to make traversal a little easier. You can construct zip-lines, stakes to stab into cliff faces so you can climb sheer walls, and crates to bounce off to clear obstacles in your path. These items stay in the world, and so the next time you visit they'll be there waiting for you.
You can also construct camps that function as fast travel points across the wilderness, and these camps can be fitted out with various amenities. The most useful of these are perhaps the food preparation devices, which allow you to eat a hearty meal before a big hunt, gaining buffs in the process, which you'll need for the toughest fights in the later stages of the game.
It took us around 45 hours to reach the end of Wild Hearts, and for around half of that time we thought the game was a little too easy. We didn't fail a hunt for the first twenty hours. But there's a specific point where the difficulty ramps up significantly and from that point on each hunt is a genuine challenge, and these fights are the ones that are most rewarding when you finally come out on top.
The best hunts in the game conjure the same sort of feeling in us that we get when we're battling a ferocious boss in Elden Ring, or when we're scaling the back of a towering creature in Shadow of the Colossus. It's tense, and you're never more than one or two hits away from death, but once you've learned the attack patterns of your prey, and you effectively mix up your attacks, dodges, and Karakuri, it's incredibly gratifying and constantly entertaining.
It's a shame, then, that many of the battles in the second half of the game are just bigger, nastier versions of Kemono you've already fought, or the same enemy as before only now with a different elemental persuasion. More sour still, the final hunt might be visually spectacular, but it's mechanically unrewarding, tedious, and a little cheap feeling. Fortunately, it's not too upsetting, because the couple of battles leading up to it are absolute barnstormers.
Of course, you'll never make it to the somewhat disappointing finale if you don't keep your sword sharp and your armour shiny. Between hunts you can visit the Minato blacksmith to upgrade weapons and armour using the bits you've taken from fallen monsters, as well as minerals you've found in the wilderness. If you don't have enough of a particular resource, the helpful bestiary will tell you which monsters drop which items and even where to attack them to get the best chance of finding what you need.
Upgrading a weapon has a helpful feature, too, in that once you've upgraded, if you decide you don't like the weapon anymore you can revert it to a previous state and get all of your resources back minus a little gold. This is helpful, especially if you want to switch your weapon to a different elemental attack in preparation for a fight, or if you just want to start using a different weapon entirely but don't fancy farming all the monster parts a second time.
Wild Hearts can be played co-operatively online, which is refreshingly easy to take part in. You can call for assistance at any time when you're hunting and a helpful player might turn up to lend a hand, or you can set up sessions with friends and play the entire game together. The only concern we had with the online multiplayer was that we suffered occasional frame rate drops as the game seemed to struggle to deal with three people running around building giant hammers and harpoon guns at once.
Playing Wild Hearts in co-op is a blast, and it makes the game much more manageable. Not only does it mean that if the monster you're battling is distracted with somebody else you can get some free attacks in, but also if you're killed in battle one of your partners can revive you. This does make the game a mite too easy in our opinion, but it's not game breaking, and we're sure that with a few tweaks post-launch they can get it right.
Wild Hearts is, at times, an utterly thrilling game. It's a game that will leave you kicking yourself for a poorly timed dodge or a missed opportunity, and jumping out of your chair when you finally topple a troublesome foe with a last-ditch, go-for-broke attack. There's a handful of technical issues, a mite too much repetition, and some quibbles about the difficulty, but the core monster hunting experience is spectacular enough that the joys far outweigh the frustrations.
waiting for a patch or two, then will be getting.
@stvevan same here. Too busy playing Hogwarts Legacy atm anyway!
Sounds a lot like MH Rise where the entirety of village quests and the vast majority of hub quests are too easy and really only left some quests at the end for the ones that craved MH's difficulty
And I feel like repetition comes with this style of game but it's not necessarily a bad thing. For now I'm gonna hold off tho I'm still playing through Rise in prep for Sunbreak. But it seems a great game to have alongside MH, maybe while we wait for MH6 lol
I’ve sunk a lot of time into Monster Hunter. While I’m not quite ready to move on from Rise/Sunbreak this sure is tempting. I may buy it just to support the development of a sequel… sometimes devs get too complacent and a bit of competition could shake things up a bit.
N.i.c.e. wild hearts also reminds me of toukiden which was made by them also.cool game.word up son
Looks like a lot of fun and hopefully a little bit more accessible than MH? I'll be waiting for sale either way there is too much to play right now but this is definitely on my radar
This sounds like a more refined Toukiden, and the open world traversal tools and camps sounds nice! I'll throw this on the wishlist for an eventual purchase (already too many games to play and it's only February).
Legit forgot this was releasing. I may pick it up at some point in the future.
Great review John, I think you've convinced me to give this a proper go. Really enjoyed Toukiden, and to some extent this is just big budget Toukiden — which sounds perfect!
@ShogunRok hey don't listen to me I don't know anything.
Definitely wait to see if this is fixed. Mainstream outlets aren't even mentioning or heavily minimizing how poorly this runs and looks.
The fact that this game can't even run well on high end graphics cards and often times looks worse than the switch monster hunter suggests there is some large technical shortcomings to this release. Ones that will likely take some time if ever to overcome.
Looks awsome but I don't have the time I'll buy it a little later.
@johncalmc any hints of coming or already present token EA microtransactions?
The game had been under my radar until now, but this review has pipped my interest in it. I am liking the monster designs from the images above.
The one thing making me hesitant to get it is that it's probably a massive time sink if it's anything like Monster Hunter, plus I've still been playing Monster Hunter Rise Sunbreak on and off recently. It could be a game for me to get further down the road when I'm less busy with other games.
@KundaliniRising333 For what it's worth I had barely any issues with it on PS5. When in co-op it did stutter a few times from lag - which I guess is to be expected at launch, or maybe they had a bad connection - and occasionally the frame rate noticeably dropped when things got chaotic. But aside from that, in normal play it seemed to run fine. One or two barely perceptible framerate drops. Couple of weird graphical glitches.
Certainly there were no massive issues, and it actually looks really nice in a lot of parts.
@KundaliniRising333 They've said there won't be any microtransactions and that upcoming DLC will be free, be history teaches us to be sceptical on this front.
Some of the differences from MH sound pretty good. I don't know if it'll be enough to convince that crowd to try an EA alternative, especially when Rise is still seeing free title updates. We shall see! I am intrigued. Not 90 Canadian dollars intrigued, but intrigued none the less.
@johncalmc still. That's awesome if true! Regarding the free dlc no monetization. With the grind it just feels like this primed to introduce them.
@johncalmc interesting! Even visually it looked current Gen?
My copy came yesterday and so far I've had a lot of fun with it. It's definitely easier than monster hunter and anyone getting into these kind of games should get this first. The open world mechanic works so well, I can now hunt a monster with matchmaking and not get taken back to the home base every time the monster is defeated. The visuals are great and the monster designs so far are much better than those in monster hunter, but in terms of the sheer amount of different weapon and armor variations its quite lacking.
Repetition? In a Monster Hunter-like? You don't say!
Not getting this but EA deserves some credit for publishing some quality games lately.
@KundaliniRising333 EA Originals seem to be the only type of EA games that don't bother adding MTX to games
Awesome, I'll be getting this eventually but I'm way too busy playing Hogwarts and trying to get the platinum for Dead Space. Atomic Heart and Like A Dragon are out next week too.
Its interesting that you can write up a great review but fail to mention the absolutely infuriating camera, you also played down the fps drops, they are awful and happens often , gfx dropping down to ps3 quality, the " motion blur" even if its turned off.
But still nice review👍
I think this has just got me wanting to give Horizons multiplayer more head space. I'm not a fan of the fortnite building although I'm sure a lot of younger players will like it. Mostly this just looks bad and I'm usually game play over visuals but after watching a few youtube reviews, this looks worse than MH Rise to my eyes, a game made for 7 year out mobile chip. But I do think I'm ready to scratch that monster hunting itch again and Horizon's looking like the best bet right now.
@Judal27 Yeah that was my biggest complaint with Rise honestly. The overall reduced damage from monsters combined with the increased mobility just made the game way too easy imo. Luckily they somewhat rectified this with the release of Sunbreak but it sucks I had to wait an entire year just to get there.
I suspect we'll never truly return to the series roots in terms of difficulty but hopefully MH6 is at least a little bit closer to something like MH World. I'd be fine with that
@TooBarFoo wow I was not getting that sense at all but maybe I have not watched enough footage, the visuals actually looked far better than Rise from the albeit limited things that I have seen. I don't think it appears to be tailored towards kids at all either seeing as it seems to be relatively difficult still
@Uromastryx It's funny you say this because I never had any major issues technically offline, and with the camera I only had a problem with one specific hunt that I can't talk about. Generally speaking the camera was fine for me but I spent most of the game locked onto enemies so maybe that's part of it.
It does happen sometimes though. I've had it the other way where I've talked a lot about how badly a game runs and then hardly any other reviewer mentions it. It's part of the weirdness of reviews. They all go live at the same time and then you find out everyone else had none of the problems you did or vice versa.
@johncalmc yeah it's odd like that I guess, I don't know what it was, I just had tomfight the camera alot, and then it simply just wouldn't target the enemy,.and when it did the tracking was wonky requiring me to.turn the camera which then changed what part of the enemy I was targeting, it was a nightmare. Gonna play again tonight maybe ill try offline mode this time
I'll be playing this tomorrow night with the boys, hoping the day 1 patch will deal with some of the technical issues. I'm really excited for something alittle different from MH.
@Judal27 For repetition in games like Monster Hunter doesn't really matter if the monsters are you know... different
@johncalmc How in-depth is the actual story? Does it feel tacked-on, or a genuine experience like most single player focused games.
@KidBoruto Well, it's not an afterthought. But it's not something that was keeping me playing. It's totally fine. And there's some fun characters. Some of the side-quests have basically no story - "Oh no, someone got attacked - go kill the monster!" - but some of them are quite interesting. Like, mini-stories about how the monsters have effected these people's lives.
But my main takeaway would be, if you're playing this because you want a story then play something else. The combat is the main attraction. But if you like a little story with your monster slaying, this is totally fine and inoffensive with some cool moments.
@johncalmc I totally missed seeing this review yesterday. I always enjoy your reviews but was also curious about this game, regardless.
I tried the MH World demo way back when it launched and was really put off by the complexity. As a MH noob it was just too much. Way too many crafting supplies, way too many weapons to choose from, way too much busyness and overload in the menus… the barrier to entry was high enough to keep me from ever playing the actual game. Sometimes demos can be misleading in their impenetrability but it seemed in the case of MH World it was a fair representation of the opening hours of the game. Also the furry cat creatures freak me out a little.
Based on your review it sounds like this is a better launch point for a MH rookie to start with. When you you speak of the first half of the game being quite easy, does this apply to the concepts of how these games work? Is there effective tutorials, reasonably logical menus, and a limited sophistication of the crafting? Or does the game assume you know how this genre works and throws you into the deep end? I’m not interested in pouring through a chart of 500 crafting components, 90% of which don’t apply to the weapon or armor I’m using.
@Th3solution In the first half of the game it seems like there's an overabundance of healing water, and the enemies never seem to attack you faster than you can heal. So you take a hit and it drops you to a third of your health, so one more would kill you, but the wait for the enemy to attack again is lengthy, so you always have time to heal. You can pretty much win through attrition.
You also don't need to pay too much attention to elemental damage or anything special like that. As long as you keep upgrading your weapons and armour (which is straightforward) you should be fine.
It's actually detrimental in a way because when it got harder in the second half I had to almost relearn how to play the game because I'd be slacking off since it was easy.
Crafting is super easy. You go to the blacksmith and say you want to get a sword, it will tell you what items you need. Then you can look at the encyclopedia and see where you get them then get them. It's very streamlined compared to Monster Hunter, as most of the game is.
@johncalmc Nice. That sounds more attractive for me. The MH enthusiasts will probably be disappointed, but this seems much more approachable.
Is this cross play? Sorry if this has already been. Answered
@Th3solution seems like me and you experience mh for the first time with the world demo. I thought it was highly approachable. The game can be complex if you choose for it to be. But it wasn't for me. Grab weapon, bash monster. Rinse and repeat. This game from the sound of things starts easy then has difficulty spike, like monster hunter, so that's fine too.
I'm still on the fence about this game. The bad I'm hearing, frame rate issues. And for this genre at this price point that's very bad news. Good news, fighting is more streamline, but like I said previous, it was streamline in my if you chose to go that route. But the no need for item wheel does sound a little appealing.
@Cutmastavictory yeah, I probably tried to make the game more complex than it needed to be, but I just remember looking at all the different weapons and items and having analysis paralysis. Some games lock you into a certain playstyle even in the opening hours of the game and it’s hard to recover if you don’t make the “right” choice early on. Like the Souls games for example where you really need to know from the very beginning what build you want to take (magic, dexterity-based, strength-based, etc) and make sure your weapons and equipment correlate. Otherwise, you’re in a bad way later on when you’ve painted yourself into a corner where you don’t want to be.
And I have enjoyed games like the Souls games and am not opposed to having to be tactical with my builds and do a little research, but I didn’t feel like doing it in MH World for some reason.
Really liking what im reading about this. Was skeptical about it cause EA.
But how important is the building aspect of the game? Is it required or would it be possible to get by without using it too much?
@johncalmc Thank you! I'll def wait on playing then, prefer story focused games above all else.
@rawzeku I'm not sure if it's technically possible to progress in the game without building, but you could certainly limit it if you want and only use it when required. I'm not sure why you would though, since it's incredibly useful and relatively easy to get your head around.
@johncalmc Ah fair enough. I just dislike building in any games in general and it looks clunky to me in this. But judging by the review itself and what you just said it may not be that way. So may give in and try the game after all.
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