Wild Hearts Review – Enriching The Hunting Game Ecosystem

Wild Hearts can be summed up in one sentence: Koei Tecmo and EA teamed up to take down Monster Hunter. It’s clear what the game wants to be, another player in the hunting game subgenre of action-RPGs. There are many Monster Hunter-likes out there, but WH clearly wants to be as big as MH.

Wild Hearts is a title developed by Japan-based developers Omega Force (and no relation to Sayonara Wild Hearts, a game with a Japanese word in its title). The dev team is mostly known for their Musou games (Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors series). Wild Hearts lets them get back into making hunting games, like their previous Toukiden series. But this time, with a bigger budget and scope.

How does it turn out? As someone who dabbled in various other hunting games but never being good at them, Wild Hearts is superb. It won’t be replacing the Monster Hunter series as the alpha of the hunting games out there, but it brings fresh ideas, an impressive depth in mechanics and a serious challenge to veterans of this genre.


Wild Hearts is unapologetically Japanese. Everything about the game’s world and setting is clearly a fantasy take on feudal Japan. The eastern land of Azuma is filled with Sengoku-era-styled architecture. left in ruin as the wild kemono take control of the land from humanity. The four main zones are based on the four seasons, so you get to see the cherry blossom trail that reminds you of spring, the bright summer beaches of a far-away island, the autumnal leaves fall at the harvest canyon and the snowy landscapes of winter.

The way the characters dress, and the armour sets that you unlock, all have that medieval Japanese aesthetic to them. Hakamas, archer dresses, headbands, the whole shebang.

I love that the devs go hard on their chosen theme and aesthetic. It’s lovely, and gives more exposure to this specific culture to a worldwide audience.

The characters you meet, even with the English dub, will sometimes utter in Japanese manner of speech words. And not just them saying “arigatou” instead of thanks and the usual greetings, but other Nihongo-isms like saying “suman suman” to casually apologise. It works, the English dub does a good job of pronouncing the Japanese terms (maybe too well, it can sound non-natural at times) and the way they sprinkle in the terms are always given context so that even folks that are not familiar with the language can still understand the dialogue.

But if you want to go full immersion, the JP dub is available, and switching back-and-forth between them the Japanese voice acting did some localising (or is it the other way around, the non-Japanese script was localised?) as the dialogue doesn’t match the subtitle word-by-word, but gets across the same points. There are voice-overs in FIGS languages too.

Even the kemono, the creatures that roam in the wild which you need to hunt down, have a mention of their Japanese name in text and speech. Most of the kemono names have an easy-to-remember adjective-noun name, like the Ragetail or the Deathstalker. But you’ll at least see or hear the Japanese name. One exception is Amaterasu, likely because that name is ubiquitous enough among English-speaking gamers.

The overall presentation, in terms of its vision, is fantastic. The environments are lush and fun to explore and see the many details it has to offer. The kemono, big and small, have a strong design that makes them memorable and easy to spot at a glance (unless there are of the same species- because the difference between a Ragetail and a Sporetail can only be spotted upon closer inspection- I may have had hit the wrong rat when hunting another with unfortunate results).

If you’re longing for a game with the same vibes as Ghost Of Tsushima but with a more fantastical twist to it, Wild Hearts is where it’s at. And this one’s made by a Japan-based studio.

The soundtrack is astoundingly good. The main theme evokes this beautiful yet melancholic vibe, paired with the visuals of the current location your save is showcasing the beautiful ruins of civilisations as kemono roam free in the wild which is the core theme of Wild Hearts. The orchestral arrangement has an Eastern flair with its strings and flutes, slightly punctuated with Japanese instruments, and overall paints this swooping, vast epic that perfectly accompanies the hunts. The music only chimes in occasionally when you are in roaming the map in your free time. But when the hunt starts, the orchestra is primed and ready to get you in the mood. The music takes a dramatic turn when a kemono goes enraged, so you know things get serious by how hard the boss music goes. Not all kemono have their own theme music, but there’s definitely enough variety.

Two of my favourite piece of music is the one accompanying the Sporetail and Ripclaw hunts. The Sporetail one paints a musical picture of a tragedy unfolding, as you smash a big giant rat (that makes all of the rules) in front of its own children. Harrowing stuff. The music in the Ripclaw hunt, on the other hand, is more heroic and triumphant, what better to complement a hunt where a giant chicken literally egging on you. No seriously, it works out rather well.

The presentation isn’t overall perfect, however. For one, there are noticeable framerate drops, even on the performance mode on the PS5. But there’s also a weird slow-down effect where everything just moves sluggishly for no reason. I can understand if it’s during online play which likely indicates a not-so-good connection and the game is compensating for this, but it also happens during solo play. Probably a bug, which the game has a lot in particular during the pre-release period which I spend my time playing.

The reflections of water also look off, as it can dramatically change the lighting when you pan the camera up and down.

Not only that, but performance on PC is just woeful right now. I have a 2019-spec gaming laptop (9th-gen Intel Core i7, Nvidia RTX 2060, 16GB RAM) and Wild Hearts struggles to get a good 30fps framerate on standard settings. Turning the game down to the lowest settings also see the game struggling in maintaining a stable framerate. Hopefully, things improve in the coming months, but the PC version is the not the most optimal way to play Wild Hearts for now, especially if your PC rig isn’t fully spec-ed out.

Also, one choice of a sound effect bothers me. It’s the sounds a Spineglider/ Venomglider makes. These are giant flying squirrels that can burst with plentiful water attacks but I cannot unhear the sound they make other than a dolphin noise, or that sound effect used to censor swear words in that one episode of SpongeBob SquarePants.

Overall, Wild Hearts nails its visual and audio direction, just the execution isn’t quite perfect.


In Wild Hearts, you play as a hunter wandering into the lands of Azuma, only to encounter the kemono called Deathstalker that almost left you for dead. But you didn’t, and instead awakened the power of the karakuri, an ancient tech that can make you conjure buildings and infrastructure instantaneously. From there, you make the journey to the main town of Minato, and help out the citizens left in ruin from the constant kemono attacks (and the environmental effects they caused) using your newfound ability.

A lot of the core gameplay loop and mechanics in Wild Hearts are pretty much what you’d expect from a Monster Hunter. You go to the different maps, set up camp, start a hunt, track the monster/kemono and then fight them. The kemono may run away after a period of time or after enough damage was made and you have to track them again (or take a breather and restock what you need), and then continue until the kemono falls where you win, or until you and/or your party falls three times which ends the hunt in failure. Wild Hearts does all of that.

But this is no Monster Hunter clone, as you see, Wild Hearts has a trick up its sleeve, the karakuri. The wooden contraptions you can summon does conjure comparisons of Fortnite, but Wild Hearts integrated it even deeper for use in combat (as well as for traversal and exploration).

The crate and the spring karakuri are part of a weapon’s moveset, the former allowing you to perform attacks from right up above, the latter letting you close in the distance with a lunge forward. It’s a simple additional move, but man is it effective when you get it right. The satisfying hitstops (and the many numbers popping up consecutively) as you land multiple blows from a well-time aerial jump makes it worth plopping a few boxes.

But it goes even deeper. You can combine basic karakuri by doing specific combos to create fusion karakuri. These objects are situationally strong and when conjured correctly and used in the right moment, it can change the tide of battle. Summoning six crates in two rows of three stacks high (which automatically form in that motion if you conjure the box six times consecutively) will form a Bulwark, a bigger wall that can withstand some heavy attacks. Use it on a charging hog like a Kingtusk and see the pig fly and land on its back, opening up a brief window to chop the pork out of them. But some charge attacks, like the onslaught of charges a Deathstalker does after it howls really really loud. You can instead combine crate, spring, crate, in that order, to form a Shield Wall. It won’t last long, but if an attack connects to it, it will repel the kemono. A parry in karakuri form, and it’s always hype to perform parries.

Other fusion karakuri includes offensive options like summoning crossbows (good at taking potshots at flying kemono) bombs and a giant whacking hammer, support options like healing mists and more.

While each fusion karakuri has one intended usage, you can use some of them in other ways. Putting up a Bulwark so you can have a buffer as you heal up or revive a teammate. Use harpoons, intended to hold flying kemono in place, on other kemono that just can’t stop moving (looking at you, Lavaback). So there’s plenty of ways how to use trick mechanism mechanic in battle, and that keeps the hunt interesting to re-do for hours on end.

The karakuri also has its uses outside of combat. Each of the maps is designed to have lengthy pathways, broken paths, and high ledges. The land has been in ruin and nature has run rampant, so it’s up to you to make the pathing easier. You can take the time in between hunts to explore the map, find materials and food, and then place some dragon karakuri, permanent objects and items that will be re-plopped again if it’s broken.

Some fans of the hunting game series may just prefer to go on hunt after hunt, but Wild Hearts really want you to take your time to explore the world surrounding you, get a better lay of the land and make shortcuts, pathways and other convenient amenities using dragon karakuri which will make you hunt efficiently. Tired of having to needlessly sprint around a map after a kemono peace out mid-way through battle? Wild Hearts gives you the tools to make those runs less tiresome, by combining the right karakuri placements and fast travel, you’ll waste less time.

The karakuri isn’t just a gimmick, it truly offers a different flavour of the same fundamental hunting gameplay you’d expect. The trick mechanism is a brilliant gameplay mechanic.

The width and depth of gameplay don’t end there. The weapon and armour crafting system also has something different. Each of the eight weapons types can be forged to become about 88 different weapons, all with different stats and passives. The way the weapons are crafted is by going through a weapon crafting grid. It’s a grid, not a tree, as you can move freely along the nodes as long you don’t go to a previously unlocked node.

Weapons can carry over inherited skills, passives that give you an edge in hunts or to complement and accentuate your play style. Sure, there is designated lanes of a linear upgrade path, but if you’re feeling a bit crafty you can do sidegrades and downgrades so you can reach a particular node to inherit a particular skill. In fact, this is something the game nudges you to do. For example, there’s a particularly strong inherited skill that boosts elemental damage, but they are always located so far off their designated elemental line in the grid. So if you want that 15% Stone Wilt passive you’ll have to go to the center of the grid before moving back to the right-most side where all the Stone weapons reside.

As for the armour sets, they too offer different skills (passives). But for armour, each piece of armour has a value that will move your alignment to lean over the human path or the kemono path. The alignment system encourages you to mix-and-match the sets to ensure you end up with the alignment you want and activate the skill you want.

There’s no lavish animation of cooking meals for buffs, but food items do give buffs. Instead of a simple pick-and-choose menu, you have to prepare and process food in a multi-step process to get the best buffs out of them. It’s another elaborate system where players can discover how to min-max accordingly.

Wild Hearts’ hunts can be brutal, especially for newcomers. The first hunts will feel approachable, but by the time you have to hunt your first Lavaback you really need to learn all the systems the game offers. If you die in one-shot, that means you still have plenty of things to prepare before you’re fully ready to take on the stronger kemono. Get the right armour with the right resilience, get the right weapon with an element that kemono is weak at, prepare food with the right buffs, and then learn their moveset and pattern and how to counter them- either by dodging or using particular karakuri.

Thankfully, there’s online multiplayer that can make hunts easier (most of the time). Wild Hearts support cross-play (but not cross save) on all platforms, so by the time the game launches expect plenty of hunters willing to give a hand. Players can seamlessly jump into a random hunt via the many Hunter’s Gate found in all of the maps. And for the most part, the online holds up well. Expect some slowdowns where all movements are sluggish, which can happen if all players don’t have a perfect connection with each other. You can set up private or public lobbies as well. And if you have the same progression, all three players get to keep that progression back when they return to solo play, so it never hurts helping a fellow hunter. Especially those that stuck at the progression-impeding hunts like the three-star Lavaback and the five-star Deathstalker.

Oh, and the character creator is awesome too. It has most of the sliders you want, but it also has a per-piece hair customisation which is really neat.

If there are complaints about the gameplay, then it will be two things. First, the camera requires manual operation to be fully functional. The lock-on system can be disorienting, but not using lock-on means having to manually adjust the camera around so your view won’t get blocked. There are measures to ensure this is addressed, like the glowing silhouttes of your character and the cut-out effect that removes obstacles from blocking your view of the character. But it’s not enough. I still can’t see my character through Bulwark. And every time I climbed on a kemono to use the Hunter’s Arm move the camera spasmed out and becomes disorienting. It gets worse- your movement is relative to the camera angle so every time the camera goes haywire you’ll be wasting time not climbing to the direction you want to be climbing, oof.

The other complaint is how the in-game Cyclopedia could be further expanded to cover materials. There will be a point of time where you discover the next weapon upgrade requires a material you never picked up before. And you have no idea where to look for them, or why you missed them, only to realised later that the material you seek only spawned in an area you can’t go before. If there’s an easy way to track where all the material drops without consulting an external wiki or guide, that would be swell.

Also, if there’s a way to keep track of all the materials you wanted to get as an objective, something like automation games with lots of crafting like Satisfactory does it, that would be a nice quality-of-life feature as well.

The game could use another few rounds of bug-fixing, as there is a litany of little issues that still linger even with the day-1 patch installed. From menus not working correctly to campsites not spawning the right dragon karakuri objects. The issues can be rectified by closing the game and opening again, but it’s annoying to see.


Wild Hearts is structurally short but in practice, can be a really long game depending on how deep into hunting you can get. And it gets really long if you’re not a seasoned hunting game player. I haven’t reached the post-game, but deep in Chapter 4, and I’ve spent a whopping 80 hours worth of playtime in the span of a week. I did my best to try and see the credits roll in time for the review, something I try to do in all of the games I reviewed, but I should have played enough of this game to form an informed opinion of it.

There are not that many story objectives, so if you’re somehow good enough there are plenty of hunts that are optional. But if you’re not, expect to grind and try out all the hunts and side objectives to build better gear, and be better at the game in general. The game can be excruciating hard playing solo, but not impossible. Somehow, a newcomer like me managed to beat some of the progress-impeding difficulty spike hunts that are at the end of each chapter solo. It becomes much easier in multiplayer, which hopefully should be well-populated with players ready to jump in and help out.

There are eight weapon types to master with a combination of 88 different weapons for each, with various ways to carry over passive skills. I’m not sure how many unique armour sets are there but there are more than 20 to craft. And there’s the whole human/kemono alignment that makes it viable to mix-and-match armour sets. If you’re looking to buildcrafting or min-maxing builds, there’s a lot to sink in.

There are 20 different kemonos to hunt, not counting the stronger variants- and not counting the one that only appears in the story. Sure, not all 20 of them are uniquely designed (some like the Ragetail and Sporetail are of the same species) but they all have different movesets and drop different materials.

And yet there’s more to come. Omega Force is committed to doing post-launch updates, with the first two months of updates already outlined. So expect more kemono and more armour sets to keep you busy, as well as bug fixes. And they made it explicitly clear there won’t be micro-transactions in Wild Hearts, in case you worry about EA publishing this.

Personal Enjoyment

I come into Wild Hearts as a person who is familiar with the hunting game subgenre of action-RPGs but never really put in the hours to appreciate it like how the hardcore fans do.

Even my main weapon choice in Wild Hearts is just the simple Nodachi. I have no authority to talk about how wild the weapon mechanics are, there are impressively complicated that I don’t think I can fully fathom them as best as folks more familiar with the genre.

And that said, I did put in a stonking 80 hours in. I did learn how to craft weapons and armour and think about stats. I did learn the attack patterns of almost all the kemono and have hunted them all down (bar one, still stuck at the Golden Tempest) solo.

It was not easy, mind you. It was a trial by fire, full of seething rage. But every time I went head down, head tilting forward and go gamer mode, Wild Hearts becomes this exhilarating test of strength, physically and mentally. Every hunt that was successful, I breathe a sigh of relief, I feel alive.

And it’s also fun when I joined in random players, giving a helping hand, showing some tricks and picking up tricks on how they do the same hunt. It’s amazing when everyone is on the same page, without verbal communication, and knows exactly what to do when a person sets up a trap. The sight of multiple hammers conjuring out of nowhere bonking an angry ape that could just not stop going unga-bunga and now being unga-bunga’d, is something to behold.

The difficulty spikes in Wild Hearts have left me with some battle scars (and even haunt me in my nightmares for a few days). But yet, I had fun. It’s such a different experience from the games designed to be consumed in full and see to completion at any skill level. Those games should exist, I still love those games, but some folks should also be able to play games like Wild Hearts.


Wild Hearts has some wild new ideas to set itself apart from the hunting game progenitor Monster Hunter. The karakuri system is fresh, robust and creative. The game also understands what players want out of this game by having some wildly complicated weaponry that’s so fun to use when mastered, with an in-depth weapon and armour customisation. And it all translates into amazing monster hunts with even more interesting, challenging foes.

Wild Hearts may not be replacing the Monster Hunter series as the king of the jungle, but it does provide a worthy challenge to the alpha. More competition in this space can only mean a healthier, richer ecosystem being cultivated in the hunting game subgenre, and we all benefit from this outcome.

When judged on its own merit, Wild Hearts is an amazing hunting action-RPG with a strong vision that promotes creative play as well as rewards technical prowess and knowledge. It’s currently held back by a myriad of fixable bugs and issues, but you’re in for a wild time should your heart heeds the call.

Reviewed on PS5, PC version was also tested. Review copy provided by EA.


Wild Hearts

When judged on its own merit, Wild Hearts is an amazing hunting action-RPG with a strong vision that promotes creative play as well as rewards technical prowess and knowledge. It's currently held back by a myriad of fixable bugs and issues, but you're in for a wild time should your heart heeds the call.

  • Presentation 8.5
  • Gameplay 9
  • Content 9.5
  • Personal Enjoyment 9

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