EA’s Wild Hearts has arrived, exclusively for current gen PlayStation and Xbox systems as well as PCs. Does it live up to its promise? We played it on a PlayStation 5 to find out.
We definitely weren’t alone in thinking that Wild Hearts looked like it was trying to beat Monster Hunter at its own game when we saw the first screenshots and footage for the game. There was plenty to be excited about though, as it was being developed by Koei Tecmo (known for the Warriors games and Ninja Gaiden) and Omega Force (of Toukiden fame). With the backing of a big publisher like EA and a focus on current gen technology, Wild Hearts always looked very promising – and it delivers on that promise, albeit without doing too much we haven’t seen before.
And although Wild Hearts looks just as fantastical in its trailers as the Monster Hunter games do, its story is actually grounded in real world Feudal Japan – with tons of nods to Japanese history and culture. Against this backdrop, you play as a hunter who moves into the small village of Minato, traveling across five different biomes in order to complete quests and take on its monsters – big and small. And as with other games in the genre, defeating them will gradually give you access to better weapons and outfits – getting you ready for the game’s stronger boss throughout a campaign that’ll last 35 to 40 hours.
That campaign is filled with interesting characters, many of them from your adopted home town and all of them with engaging personalities and their own way of enriching the story and lore for this new IP. From stories that have shaped the history of the place to insights into the biomes you’re about to (re)visit, they all have interesting tales to tell – and you even buddy up with a cute little companion called a Tsukomo. Besides being adorable, he can also aid you in battle by distracting enemies or even dishing out a little damage on his own.
One interesting aspect about combat in Wild Hearts is that the natural elements play a role here – as some of the fiercest animals you hunt will draw energy and special abilities from the environment around them. They can channel fire, vegetation and even metal, making for some very cool looking special attacks and bosses – many of which bear a lot of resemblance to real life animals here. It also requires you to think about combat from a rock-paper-scissors perspective, fighting these enemies with the appropriate attacks and powers. In other words – if they come at you with water, you’ll want to make sure you have access to water-based options. As a result, managing your loadout and switching attacks and abilities around regularly will quickly become a crucial element to gameplay while also keeping things mixed up nicely.
You’re a bit of a master of the natural elements yourself as well, when (early on) you are granted the ability to draw power from the world around you and manifest unique constructs to aid you in your quest. These can be stepping stones or springs to get to out of reach areas, but also things that can help you in combat, like a giant shield or a powerful hammer. These magical abilities are called Karakuri, and they’re a lot of fun to uncover and experiment with. They often give you multiple ways to complete a quest or beat an enemy, so for those who have another forty hour to spare that will also give Wild Hearts extra replay value.
We started playing Wild Hearts just prior to its release, which meant we didn’t get to explore a whole lot of its online environment, but the game does offer a rather seamless way of connecting and disconnecting – letting you join with friends or pair up with stranger for a few monster hunts, which is another element where we see replay value for Wild Hearts.
Monster Hunter World launched over five years ago, and it’s nice to see that we finally have a game that can stand up to its level of graphical prowess. Wild Hearts is gorgeous to look at and has some fantastic creature designs. Its world is lush and vibrant, the historical angle makes it extra interesting and it’s no surprise that this didn’t appear for previous-gen systems. For better and for worse, because even though it looks great it also has the occasional issue here and there. Nothing game-breaking, but it shows that even the PS5 has to stretch itself to do all this.
Wild Hearts may feel too much like the most recent Monster Hunter games at times and might need some post-launch polish to smooth out some rougher edges, but it’s a great entry in the genre that fans will want to get their hands on as it has plenty going for it.