Can ya pass your buddy a vine? EA’s Wild Hearts is an exciting monster-hunting game centered on a Fortnite-esque building mechanic, attempting to emulate the thrills of its biggest competitor, Capcom’s Monster Hunter, with a dash of Death Stranding. While Wild Hearts delivers tense battles, iconic beasts, and strong co-op, it’s this building on the fly that ups the ante.
These structures, called Karakuri, require a specific resource cost called Thread, and players can help each other finish a structure if the other person runs out of Thread. Additionally, the game encourages players to leave their footprint in their friends’ worlds, much like Death Stranding’s emphasis on communal striving in times of isolation. That said, building structures in Wild Hearts can be the difference between life and death during particularly dangerous monster hunts. The social value of these construction mechanics makes the largest impact in Wild Hearts. The ability to place these aids in other players’ sessions and for them to place them in yours encourages players to not only help others but to leave their footprint in their friends’ worlds. Alongside its setting in feudal Japan, which heavily leverages Japanese folklore and culture, it’s a refreshing recipe for this style of game.
But, the core game is definitely its combat and Wild Hearts offers a lean arsenal of eight weapons, each with its unique set of moves and surprises. No surprise as the game is developed by Omega Force, a division of Koei Tecmo, specializing in the Dynasty Warriors series. From a bladed umbrella to a shapeshifting karakuri staff, each weapon provides its unique playstyle, making combat varied and exciting. The game’s creatures, known as kemono, are a highlight of the game, and each battle is challenging and intense.
With some beasts having elemental affinities and special abilities, each fight requires strategy and quick thinking. Yet, while Wild Hearts has some standout kemono designs, some of them are recycled too quickly, and the lack of variety may leave players wanting more. The game has only 11 fully distinct monsters, and one of them is a gimmick battle, which can be a disappointment for some players.
The game’s karakuri system, which allows players to build traps and defenses mid-battle, also leaves some aspects of the game feeling underdeveloped. While it adds a new level of strategy and creativity to the combat, the karakuri system feels clunky and sometimes frustrating. This mechanic requires players to be precise, but sometimes it can lead to mishaps or inaccuracies, causing frustration and annoyance.
While many of these constructions are temporary and enemies are quick to tear them down during battles, even if players can upgrade them later on with increased durability, Dragon Karakuri crafts are permanent. The game draws energy from Dragon Pits, located in different corners of the game’s four islands, and players can spend their elemental resources to materialize bigger and more useful tools nearby. Witnessing islands become increasingly populated by these gadgets, even appearing as icons on the map, is impressive.
Wild Hearts is a visually stunning game, and despite some issues with the karakuri system and the lack of monster variety, the game’s strengths outweigh its weaknesses. Definitely a must-play for players interested in Japanese folklore and are looking for a new take on the monster-hunting genre.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
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