Wild Hearts is a monster-hunting game released for PS5, Xbox, and PC. On the surface the game shares a lot of similarities to Monster Hunter, enough that too many of the first thing that comes to mind is it’s a Monster Hunter clone. While it’s hard to talk about Wild Hearts without mentioning the MH series, Wild Hearts has so many unique ideas that it explores, that I find myself not really calling it a clone, but rather a fun game borrowing on those core ideas, and expanding upon them in new ways.
Omega Force’s take on the “fight a monster with a big stick” genre is loads of fun. While you’ll still be smacking away at a monster, breaking parts, and rolling to avoid attacks, the way the game handles weapons, its world, upgrades, progression, and so much more brings a unique flavor to the genre, and makes me happy to see another game explore these kinds of mechanics, as I doubt we’d ever see Monster Hunter explore them in such a way due to its established conventions.
Wild Heart’s DNA does have more in common with Monster Hunter than God Eater Toukiden, or other games in that genre the different elements that make it stand out are more than enough to warrant giving the game a try.
Gameplay was captured from the PC version of Wild Hearts, before and after the patches announced by Omega Force were released.
▍The World is Your Oyster
In Wild Hearts, you take on the role of an amnesiac hunter. On your journeys, you meet a strange man called Mujina, and after a swift defeat by a terrifying ice monster, Mujina grants you a mysterious item called a Karakuri, saving your life. Honestly, the story isn’t anything to write home about. You wake up, join a friendly town, hunt some enemies, and prevent a disaster, its kind of all been there, done that. That’s because what you’re really here for is the world, and smacking monsters around.
Wild Hearts has a few key concepts you’ll need to wrap your head around. In this world, monsters are called Kemono, which is just the Japanese word for beast, and the world is inhabited by an energy called Karakuri. In a nutshell, Karakuri is this kind of thread and energy that binds life together and can be manipulated to operate machinery and other fantastical devices.
With that out of the way, Wild Hearts’ world is gorgeous. You’ll be taken through several beautiful and more importantly, huge maps brimming with life from small creatures, to objects imbued with Karakuri threads. The maps in Wild Heart are huge though and while it can be a chore running around chasing a monster or getting from point to point, walking is really just a suggestion thanks to your Karakuri.
▼ Don’t want to walk? No problem, just build a Zipline anywhere!
Because you were imbued with the power to freely manipulate Karakuri, you can make zip lines, jump pads, cannons, and tons of other structures to help you get around. You can even make campsites that serve as fast travel points and for rest, similar to how it’s handled in Monster Hunter. Karakuri structures even serve a purpose in combat, letting you create giant shields, walls, hammers, and other combo structures mid-combat to help level the playing field.
The real kicker is in Wild Hearts, you can make these structures anywhere. This means no matter where you are you can place down a zipline to cut through huge chunks of the map, or a tent near a common monster spawn to get to them in no time. You can also make beacons that scan for the monster, and because you can place these anywhere, it’s up to you to place these in the best spots for maximum coverage. If you really wanted to you can even place a camp in the middle of a road, though this means it’ll more than likely be destroyed by monsters that pass through.
Large structures are called Dragon Karakuri, and thankfully these don’t really cost any resources to make, instead drain from the map’s total resource pool. Every time you make a building you’ll use some of this resource, and when you take it away it gets refilled, and you can increase this cap by running around depositing resources at certain points.
Outside of that, you’ll also unlock a town called Minato, Wild Hearts’ hub area. Here you can craft weapons, and armor, and take on side quests and jobs to earn more money. What’s great though is you can either do that or just set up a campfire in wild areas to simply accept hunts that way and craft weapons, meaning you’ll pretty much never need to head back to Minato unless you want to progress the story.
Wild Heart’s world is simply gorgeous, maps are varied in appearance based on the seasons and manage to look as realistic and fantastical as you’d think, with abandoned homes, tall imposing mountains, giant coral reefs, and so much more waiting for you to explore. At some point later in the game thanks to an anomaly, the environment starts to mutate too, with luscious greenery inside icey fortresses, lava spewing out of the beach, and more.
If there is one gripe I have with Wild Hearts’ world even though the maps look great, some of them can be a chore to fight in. Because the map is completely open-ended, monsters will often times roam in areas that aren’t their “designated fight zones”. This means you’ll run up to a monster, smack it around for 5 seconds, and then it immediately starts running until it finds a spot it’s comfortable in.
Many of these spots are often littered with tiny rocks and small objects that obstruct you, stopping you whenever you try to roll away from a monster. It also doesn’t help that many of these areas are covered in grass, and when you’re trying to fight a huge monster or aiming a bow, the camera zooms in on you quite a bit and the environment can cover you, making getting navigating a little rough, especially in a pinch.
Sadly Wild Hearts doesn’t have a FOV setting and the game’s camera moves dynamically, so outside of being very aware of your surroundings, there’s not a whole lot you can do.
▍Combat’s just the right amount of Wacky
■ 8 Completely unique and Fun Weapons
Wild Hearts has 8 unique weapons, a Katana, a Maul Hammer, Bladed Umbrella, Bow, Nodachi, Claw Blade, Cannon, and the Karakuri Staff. Each of these weapons has a light attack, a heavy attack, and a special button for the weapon’s gimmick. While some of these weapons might sound very similar in concept to its counterpart in say Monster Hunter, the game manages to make these weapons control almost nothing like them.
▼ The Cannon that’s a Gun, Mortar, and Laser all in one!
This is because Wild Hearts has a heavy emphasis on movement when you’re fighting, whether it’s through your character or by amplifying it with basic Karakuri. The best example I can think of this is through the Nodachi, Wild Hearts’ version of the Greatsword.
The Nodachi has a light attack, a heavy attack that can shift your position while swinging, and a charged attack. The charge attack is the Nodachi’s most powerful skill, dealing loads of damage and knockback, but leaves you incredibly vulnerable, as you’d expect. With the Nodachi though, you can actually move while charging, and whenever you land an attack, the charge for the Nodachi fills up even faster.
In most games when you use a greatsword, you think of standing there holding a button to rip a huge attack. Because you can move and attack though, you can get extremely aggressive with the weapon, letting you create your own opening rather than waiting for one. This works even better with the inclusion of the Karakuris, which lets you leap over to a monster with special attacks that charge up the Nodachi even faster.
Charging the Nodachi does lock you into that attack and constantly drains your stamina while charging, which will either cause you to stumble over, or make you unable to roll as you always need a set amount of stamina to do so. In this way the game manages to give you more options with this weapon, while still making it quite a risk to use during combat, which I can wholeheartedly appreciate.
■ No Items, no problem
Wild Hearts also simplifies item management, in that there are basically no items to manage. The only resources you have to manage during combat are your Healing Water and Karakuri threads. Healing Water works more closely with Estus Flasks in the Souls series than traditional items, in that you can’t buy this item, but can refill it by picking it up from the world.
Threads on the other hand are used to craft basic Karakuri which can be used to create jump pads, walls, and even traps. These structures are useful on their own, but when you combine multiple of them at once or combo them with other structures, you can create powerful traps, flash bombs, and even weapons to leave a monster vulnerable. So rather than having multiple items fulfill different things, you have 1 resource that has several applications, and you can easily refill it through battle.
▼ Use Karakuri Threads to trap a monster, or make a gigantic hammer!
This means that every time you go into combat you don’t have to go back to the camp to prepare specific items for bosses, you can just go in and fight them. Wild Hearts does still have some item preparation in the form of the basic Karakuri. As mentioned because you can combo buildings together, some of them need a specific combination, like a Spring and Torch make a mine bomb that’s good for certain Kemonos. However, you can only bring four basic Karakuri at a time, you will have to keep two options outside of your tool kit, which locks you out of many options.
It simplifies item management while making these choices interesting. Do you bring a torch with you to help dish out more damage, or sacrifice it for the glider, but in doing so you’ll lose access to the flash bomb and the mine? It’s fewer choices that have more impact on your actual combat ability, and you don’t have to worry about space for monster materials, as that space is practically unlimited.
▍Unique Ideas, But the Frustrating Quirks
Despite all of that there are still some flaws, and it has more to do with Wild Hearts’ basic mechanics rather than design, and can really frustrate you during combat until you get used to it. This is in large part because of how Wild Heart handles two important mechanics, Ukemi, and Stamina.
Turns out that if you’re fighting monsters, you’d actually get flung around by them, a lot. Most of the monster attacks in this game love to send the player character flying away from the monster, and into a state where they’ll pick up off the ground. In most video games if you get knocked down you’re in a state of invincibility and you can’t get damaged, letting you immediately roll away from danger and reset the situation.
But in Wild Hearts, if you hit a button while you’re getting knocked away, which you absolutely will do by instinct, your character will immediately recover and slide onto the ground. During this time you can’t act freely, and you instantly lose all your I-frames. Couple that with monsters that love to attack multiple times, and projectiles that go forward with you as you get knocked back, and you’ll be sent back to your campsite before you even know what happened.
This doesn’t happen all the time, but in certain fights where monsters love to attack repeatedly, it can be an absolute nightmare. The game does have an incredibly generous roll and ground slide technique you can use to avoid attacks, but it still doesn’t make it any less frustrating when you get combined to death for trying to get up.
Sometimes you might not even have the option to roll though because when you have your weapon out, you recover stamina very slowly. The basic idea is once you’ve smacked a monster around a couple of times, you want to sheath your weapon to quickly recover your stamina in preparation for another attack. This kind of makes sense because in reality, it’d be really hard to avoid a big attack with a huge stick in your way.
But remember how I mentioned the Nodachi uses stamina to attack? Well, I didn’t mention that every weapon in Wild Hearts uses stamina for its attacks, in one way or another. The Katana’s flurry attacks, the maul’s spinning spin, and every weapon’s signature techniques will drain your stamina, and since you recover so slowly in Wild Hearts with your weapon out, if you make the mistake of having too little during an attack, you won’t be able to avoid it.
Admittedly these gripes I mentioned above are skill issues. Because after about 15+ hours in and fighting some of the tougher monsters, I learned from my mistakes and figured out how to keep myself from these situations. I got more used to positioning away from monster attacks and don’t mash roll when I get knocked down, and there are skills to help make stamina recovery easier during combat.
One minor issue Wild Hearts inadvertently has, is certain monsters are weak to combo buildings, but to unlock these combo buildings you need to fight a monster, then get a “Flash of inspiration” where the game shows you how to combo into that building in question. Unfortunately, if you don’t bring the basic Karakuri required for it, you won’t get that flash of inspiration. In fact, if you never changed your Karakuri at all, Wild Hearts won’t tell you about it until you’ve looked at the Karakuri tree yourself to figure it out.
Even so, these differences in common mechanics are something you have to struggle to get used to at first. If you’re able to figure these out, it stops becoming much of an issue, but for players coming into Wild Hearts from other 3rd person action RPGs, it’ll definitely take some getting used to and can lead to some frustrating deaths.
▍One of the Better Monster Hunter Alternatives Out There
Wild Hearts is just an incredibly fun monster-hunting game, whether it’s your first time exploring the genre or just another on your road to taking down the biggest and meanest.
While Wild Hearts can be fairly frustrating to play at first, there’s so much to explore in its combat, unique upgrade systems, Karakuri threads, and map customization that even setting the early frustration aside, it’s worth exploring all of these mechanics that haven’t really been explored in the genre since.
If you’re looking for a new kind of monster-hunting experience to try out, or really enjoy the thrill of 1v1 combat against a boss, Wild Hearts is a new spin on the genre that you should definitely give a try, and it’s even better with a few friends. Just know you’ll be going in with a bit of a steep learning curve when you start.
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Wild Hearts Review - One of the Best Monster Hunter Alternatives
Wild Hearts is an incredibly engaging monster hunting game that might look familiar, but stands out with its customizable map, unique weapons, and spectacle it delivers in spades.