Wild Hearts is not a game for me. While I feel that I need to clarify that fact at the top of this review, I should also make it clear that I was aware of this going in. After watching the trailers, the gameplay sequences and art style clearly evoke those of Monster Hunter, which was also not my type of game. Thus, I was hoping that Wild Hearts could be the game to convert me; to show me everything that I had been missing out on by shunning Monster Hunter for all these years.
Unfortunately, it failed to do that in almost every way. After spending 20+ hours suffering through this game’s stiff combat, convoluted upgrade system, and cringe-worthy dialogue, the only thing that Wild Hearts succeeded in doing was putting me off the idea of playing any Monster Hunter title for the rest of my gaming life; both upcoming or previously released.
Wild Hearts is out now and is available on PC, PlayStation and Xbox consoles.
The narrative element of Wild Hearts is threadbare at best, washing over the player while having no real long-term effect. The player character doesn’t even have any audible dialogue and in essence, is just a bland silent protagonist. The plot of the game only ever serves as a reason to take the player from monster fight to monster fight and never manages to achieve anything deeper than fulfilling this basic, core function. The only benefit of this is that it allows the player the luxury of muting the annoying voice acting without worrying that they are missing anything of importance.
The only real positive that I took away from my time with Wild Hearts was what the game was able to achieve in terms of its visual storytelling via the game’s environment. The landscapes here are truly stunning and the environmental storytelling felt as if there was a lot more depth to it than the game’s actual plot.
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With that being said, a rich narrative thread was clearly never something that was on the developer’s minds when creating Wild Hearts. It is the gameplay systems which are the bread and butter of a game like this. Unfortunately, the gameplay element of Wild Hearts is just as sub-par as its narrative component, albeit for different reasons.
Many would expect the most challenging part of this game to be the contest of partaking in a David versus Goliath style battle to the death against an enlarged, vicious beast. In fact, the most difficult battle that players will encounter in Wild Hearts is the constant fight taking place between the player and the massively frustrating third-person camera, which wildly flails around uncontrollably during each and every combat encounter.
Even when the combat encounters are in view, they just aren’t fun to play. Imagine the gameplay of Horizon, but with any sense of fluidity stripped away; what you are left with is essentially a much less challenging Dark Souls, complete with all of the stiff, stunted jankyness of a souls-like.
There were actually a few elements of Wild Hearts that reminded me of the Horizon games, and none of the comparisons were positive. Just like Horizon, the gameplay loop of hunting the beasts across the game world, killing them, and using the loot they drop to upgrade your gear quickly becomes monotonous and tiresome. This rinse and repeat method causes the experience to feel more like a to-do list of busywork than any sort of engaging fun.
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Again, just like Horizon, the creature design in Wild Hearts is lazy and lacks any real sense of innovation. Instead of adding mechanical components to the outline of a real life creature, enlarging it, and calling it a day the way that Horizon’s designer’s did, Wild Hearts instead tacks a bunch of random organic nonsense onto real life animals, before enlarging them, and calling it a day.
Taking a wolf, making it larger and then giving it icicle projectiles to fire at the player isn’t innovative, nor is taking a monkey and giving it molten lava balls to toss at the player. This sort of uninspired creature design plagues every monster fight until about halfway through the game, after which time the creature design devolves into thoughtless repetition. Instead of fighting a big bird with purple wings that spits poison, you instead fight a big bird with blue wings that spits ice. Is that really the best that they could come up with?
Another thing that reminded me of Horizon in a bad way, was the sheer amount of one-dimensional characters who stand around wearing distractingly silly outfits spouting nonsense dialogue at the player character. Even if what they were saying was of any relevance, I couldn’t actually take it in due to the ridiculous costume design of almost every character in the game; including the protagonist.
Comparing 40 different sets of knee pads to find the ones which give the player a negligible advantage over a specific boss fight is not my idea of fun; nor is the mundane side-quest which must be completed to find said fancy knee-pads. There are some folks who love spending days comparing stats endlessly and I have never been one of those people.
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However, even if I was, the headache inducing UI found within Wild Hearts’ loot menus are enough to put anyone off. This in combination with the unnecessarily convoluted upgrade tree that the game forces upon players results in a feeling of dread upon discovering a new piece of armor or earning an upgrade point. Navigating these nightmarish menu systems to unlock yet another big, silly, glowing, comically oversized sword never felt worth it. Despite the obvious visual differences between certain weapons, they all end up feeling much the same.
Clearly there was a certain point in Wild Hearts’ development cycle that the studio came to the realization that they were going to have to do something do differentiate their game from Monster Hunter. Their solution was apparently to steal a mechanic from another successful game in the form of Fortnite’s building mechanic.
They call it Karakuri here, but essentially it allows the player to build blocks and structures mid-battle in order to gain a vertical advantage over the enemy or create some temporary cover. As is the case with the game’s main combat system, the Karakuri mechanic is somewhat janky, and whilst it is perfectly functional, it was clearly implemented later in the game’s development, rather than being planned from the start, meaning that it feels somewhat tacked-on. Fortnite did it first and frankly, Fortnite did it better.
For the sake of ending this review on a positive note, the game did run well on my PS5 for the most part, other than a few brief instances of pop-in. Although, there have been several reports of other PS5 and PC players experiencing significant drops in frame rate and significant screen-tearing during combat scenarios.
Overall, Wild Hearts is not a game for me. While I feel that I gave the game a fair chance to win me over, I am sad to report that it failed to do so. If you are a fan of Monster Hunter, then there may be something here which you can enjoy, but if you are not then I can’t really recommend this title.
Wild Hearts – 3/10
Wild Hearts was reviewed on PS5 with a code supplied by 160over90.
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