Who knew that we’d get a new Monster Hunter game less than a year after we got the Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak (2022) DLC. Except, of course, that this one isn’t called Monster Hunter, but Wild Hearts. And it’s not from Capcom, but from Koei Tecmo’s Omega Force, with EA taking care of the publishing side of things. Nevertheless, Wild Hearts is a spiritual successor to Monster Hunter World (2018) in all but name.

I say Monster Hunter World (2018) specifically, because that entry did a lot of things that other Monster Hunter games didn’t do. Something that was undoubtedly related to Monster Hunter World (2018), unlike most other Monster Hunter titles in recent memory, wasn’t held back by Nintendo’s hardware. And as such, the game puts a much bigger emphasis on creating fully realized worlds, rather than building what are essentially just pretty arenas to fight the monsters in.

Classic starting area, nothing fancy but a classic for a reason

This is the same approach that Wild Hearts takes. The different regions are elaborate areas, each with a unique, and in itself consistent, biosphere. A multitude of monsters, or as they’re called in Wild Hearts kemono, roaming the world, occasionally fighting each other just as they fight you. They also interact with their surroundings. In many cases, the kemono even have an ability in their moveset, which allows them to change the environment around them, a key element in the story of Wild Hearts.

The story in Wild Hearts isn’t anything special, it’s a means to an end, an excuse to let you fight one big monster after the other. What it essentially boils down to is that you’re a hunter of sorts who has to hunt down the kemono as they transform the world in ways which create problems for its inhabitants. The story allows Wild Hearts to shape the world in interesting ways though. Because the different regions are so well designed, when there’s ice where there shouldn’t be, you notice. Similarly, when a kemono appears in a region where it has no business being, it stands out. And so Wild Hearts uses its story to create unique scenarios, without betraying the consistency of its design.

  It’s about to go down

I have already mentioned the great design of the different regions, but the design of the kemono is where the art direction really shines. You could be really reductive about it and argue that they’re all just big versions of existing animals infused with one of the elements, and I guess you wouldn’t be entirely wrong, but then the same could be said about a lot of beloved Pokémon, couldn’t it? The point is that the execution of that rather simple idea, creating elemental versions of real animals, is on a very high level. The game also uses scale to great effect, with kemono like the Kingtusk or the Earthbreaker towering over you like giant colossi. I just wish there were a few more of them, because as of right now, the amount of different kemono feels a little lacking.

I wish Wild Hearts would’ve leaned a little more into the idea of machine vs. nature, and had explored that concept a little more. Maybe that’s expecting too much given the kind of game this is, but with the kemono being a clear extension of the nature surrounding them, and your primary way of fighting them being the machine-like Karakuri structures, it’s a theme that takes a lot of presence.

A literal mountain towering over you

The Karakuri are the main feature separating Wild Hearts from Monster Hunter. There are a multitude of different structures you can create with them, helping you both in and out of combat. Out of combat, the karakuri allow you to build structures that make your life a little easier. A camp that you can fast travel to, a tower that locates nearby kemono, a farm that regularly gives you materials. In combat, they mostly take the form of traps, walls to protect yourself from a charge, harpoons to fish flying kemono out of the air, stuff like that. In some cases, they also open up more movement options, something that Wild Hearts provides much more of compared to Monster Hunter, with the only exception being potentially Monster Hunter Rise (2021) and its Wirebug. There’s even a jump button now!

Apart from that, the combat is basically the same as Monster Hunter. By now you probably know if that means you’d enjoy it or not. If you’re not used to it, the combat can feel a little slow or unresponsive, but I think any Monster Hunter veteran knows how good this combat can feel once you get the hang of it. For a game about slaying giant monsters, the combat is surprisingly tactile.

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Don’t Worry, this magical bracelet won’t talk

One thing I would point out though, is that I was struggling a lot more with Wild Heart’s difficulty than I ever have with Monster Hunter. I’ve been playing games in the Monster Hunter franchise for years, often deep into the endgame, and yet there was one kemono in Wild Hearts I was simply unable to get past, as of now. I think this might be in part due to the fact that the kemono in Wild Hearts can be very aggressive and won’t let up, sometimes feeling like they combo you to death without much chance to react. Especially once you start fighting mighty kemono (this game’s version of the high rank), this becomes a real problem.

Since I played on a PC, I also need to mention the performance issues. There have been two patches since I started playing Wild Hearts and it’s still not entirely solved. You will become closely familiar with stuttering, in particular, as you fight the beasts and attempt to dodge their attacks. So going with either of the other available platforms might be the better option for now. Unoptimized PC ports are starting to become a worrying new trend, and Wild Hearts is no exception.

This little guy won’t be much of a problem though

All in all, Wild Hearts is a game that does a lot of things right, with a solid foundation that builds upon the Monster Hunter formula in small ways, while also managing to recapture what makes those games so great. Right now, it’s lacking ever so slightly in polish, game balance, and content to keep up with the success of Monster Hunter. But I wholeheartedly believe that if Koei Tecmo and EA decide to stick with the IP, they could build something that can rival the Monster Hunter franchise in the long run.

Nairon played Wild Hearts on PC with a review key. Wild Hearts is also available on PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series S/X.

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