Wild Hearts review: Co-op is where the heart is

Jessica Filby
Wild Hearts cover

Wild Hearts is a Monster Hunter-inspired fighting game set in the midst of feudal Japan, and it’s an intense, innovative experience. However, all’s not perfect in this graphically demanding title, causing it to falter on more than one occasion.

The Monster Hunter style of gameplay has been around for over two decades, meaning EA had a sizeable task on their hands to fill the shoes of previous greats with Wild Hearts. This caused many Monster Hunter fans to be relatively cautious as to how it’ll stand against competitors. Luckily, Wild Hearts holds its own against the legendary series, bringing something unique to the table while still perfecting those beloved Monster Hunter mechanics.

However, along with the inherent positives outlining the title, it falls short in certain aspects. Among its graphical problems and accessibility issues, Wild Hearts prioritizes a more cooperative style of play suited to experienced Monster Hunter players that those less familiar with these types of mechanics may take some time to get used to.

Wild Hearts: Key details

  • Price: £59.99/$69.99
  • Developer: Electronic Arts
  • Release Date: February 17, 2023
  • Platforms: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC

Wild Hearts trailer

Heavily inspired gameplay

Despite being relatively similar to Monster Hunter in its fighting style, design, and creature behavior pattern, Wild Hearts still manages to deliver its own style through the Kemono (creatures to hunt) design and the versatility of the Karakuri (buildable resources to help in a fight or exploration). All the unique experiences, like the use of a giant hammer to stun an enemy, with a familiar gameplay foundation make for a combination we couldn’t get enough of.

The Monster Hunter-inspired gameplay combined with Assassins Creed-like Eagle Vision senses and Fortnite-style fighting introduces new levels to each combat, rather than it becoming a fated hack and slash. Such inspirations feel like they were the driving force of Wild Hearts.

These gameplay elements were certainly overwhelming at times, often having to navigate between dodging a charging Kingtusk, building a protective wall, and doing damage to it all within seconds. However, after the first few fights and the unlocking of more versatile Karakuri, we were able to truly master jumping combos, comically large hammers, gliders, and so much more.

Co-op enhanced combat

Wild Hearts co-op
Some creatures are much harder than others, so it always helps to have a friend to help.

Despite being either a solo adventure or a co-op experience, it truly feels like Wild Hearts is best played with friends — or at least other hunters who can aid in a particularly tough battle. Unfortunately, playing solo feels unbalanced and extremely challenging, with lengthy battles making it feel as if you’re incredibly underpowered.

Fighting multiple powerful enemies in one go, each with their own quick and devastating attack, can quickly become overwhelming and, while not impossible to complete, it often took us multiple attempts (and a lot of grinding) to upgrade some gear before we stood a chance.

That’s not to say that this is the experience for everyone, rather, an experienced Monster Hunter player may be able to master the mechanics much quicker, but for beginners, expect a bit of a learning curve first few boss battles.

Ultimately, even with the aid of the collectible and upgradable Tsukmo, we found single-player to be lengthy, frustrating, and often required extreme dedication to have a fighting chance — until more Karakuri was unlocked and we began to master the mechanics.

To get the best experience out of Wild Hearts, we found it best to play with friends or other hunters. It makes the game feel smoother, quicker, and much more efficient.

The timing fails the fights

Fights can be long but they’re undeniably epic.

On the topic of long battles, we found some of the Kemono to be extremely long-winded, often spending over half an hour to fell the creature, even with a full team of hunters — primarily due to their high health and their tendency to run away. Having to chase a Ragetail across the map three or more times was undeniably tiresome, taking us away from the intensity of battle.

Battles were made more frustrating due to a few framerate drops, glitches, and the length of time it takes the character to recover from being hit. On more than one occasion, despite pressing the right buttons to recover, we found ourselves stuck between a glitching tree or unable to recover quickly enough, often leading to an unnecessary killing blow.

Despite these combat flaws, it’s tough to ignore the inherent fun we had when competing in an intense Kingtusk battle, and the feeling of watching it fall after a considerable amount of dedication and time was second to none.

Imperfect visuals

Wild Hearts visuals
Rain combined with vision blur and framerate stutters was extremely frustrating.

Alongside a few glitches where the player character finds themselves stuck in trees, Wild Hearts’ introduction and boss battles presented occasions where the visuals were lacking: Stuttering, framerate drops, and vision blur during battles were a primary point of frustration for us, leaving left us rather worried about the quality of the rest of our experience.

Luckily, the few visual issues and stutters didn’t take away from the beauty of the world around us. They may not be jaw-dropping but, the visuals and world design undoubtedly hold their own, bringing the world to life in every unique region.

A hub of freedom, beauty, and life

Wild Hearts town
Minato is the beating heart of Wild Hearts.

When it comes to a game like Wild Heart there are undoubtedly two vital aspects: the fighting, and the central hub. After all, you can’t move from one monster to the other without having the chance to collect resources, interact with NPCs, upgrade your weapons or armor, and complete exciting sidequests.

Luckily, Minato does exactly this, providing players with the perfect place for rest, upgrading, shopping, and some fantastic side quests.

On top of just how beautiful it is, the town is filled with life and stories, truly making the region feel like a home as well as a resting spot. The members of the town are well-written and independent — with a personal favorite being Yatarō due to his moody comments and desire to refuse help from anyone.

The Verdict – 3/5

Ultimately, Wild Hearts feels like it was made for a group of hunters. Playing solo isn’t beginner friendly, and is relatively time-consuming. While the gameplay and battles are enjoyable as a whole, combining building with tactical fighting, we couldn’t help but feel like the stutters and slow pace held us back from the fast-paced experience we looked for.

Nevertheless, for any Monster Fan, new or experienced, this is a fantastic addition to the genre — although it doesn’t seem to have quite garnered a podium position just yet.

Reviewed on PC

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