On the surface, it’s easy to look at Wild Hearts and just call it a “Monster Hunter clone.” However, Dynasty Warriors’ developer Omega Force has managed to carve its own niche within the monster hunting genre with unique gameplay elements that push combat further, and online systems that are outright improvements over Monster Hunter: World and Rise. And yet, janky performance and an overall lack of polish end up tainting what would have been a brilliant debut.
What sets Wild Hearts apart is its Karakuri system. This ancient technology allows players to build structures to aid them in and out of combat. It might attract comparisons to Fortnite with the quick builds during battle, but it’s a genius mechanic that works exceptionally well.
Initially, players start out with basic structures like a crate and spring, which can either knock creatures over or send the player high into the air for a devastating falling slash attack. This quickly evolves into players laying down chain traps, massive hammers, and crossbows.
While the controls are fairly intuitive, mastering movement and building will take some time. However, when it all comes together, and you’re causing hulking enemies to charge into a wall, knocking them over, followed by you launching into the air to land a huge slam, it feels incredible.
At first, Karakuri may look and feel gimmicky, but about 10 hours into my 40-hour campaign, I fell fully in love with them. This was when I started joining other players and found out that Karakuri remained in the game world until they are destroyed. I discovered a player’s world where ziplines had been placed all over, allowing for rapid traversal that brought back memories of Death Stranding’s endgame. I then went back to my world and generously furnished my own hunting grounds.
When you aren’t laying down Karakuri, you’re tasked with the usual monster hunting formula of hunting down a particular creature with one of eight key weapons, taking advantage of the beast’s weaknesses as you break it down and eventually kill it. After looting it, you use those materials to create new armor and weapons in order to take down even bigger monsters. That is the tried-and-tested Monster Hunter gameplay loop and it works well for Wild Hearts, too.
Though Monster Hunter does get in some wins for its enemy variety, deeper combat systems, more impressive environments, and overall better story, Wild Hearts secures some victories of its own by quickly getting into the action and reducing downtime between big fights, avoiding annoying weapon sharpness mechanics, allowing players to rollback upgrades, and having a robust multiplayer setup.
Co-op in Wild Hearts is done superbly well. It’s drop-in and drop-out with players not having to worry about progression issues. The game just lets you play with anyone you want and figures out balancing around that. I had zero headaches when joining other players, aside from a bit of lag on launch day, and I can see Wild Hearts being a joy to play through with two other friends. (Sadly the co-op does cap out at three players in contrast to Monster Hunter: World’s four.)
Jank and performance problems
Wild Hearts’ main weakness is its inconsistent performance and visuals. Playing on PS5, I was shocked by how often the game dropped below 60 FPS in its Performance mode, despite the resolution clearly taking a massive hit. While this was eventually made more bearable by leaving the demanding starting area and installing the latest patches, it still isn’t perfect.
The low resolution when targeting 60 FPS is just one small niggle when compared to the larger issues of poor texture quality and draw distance issues. The general lack of sharpness is reminiscent of struggling last-gen games, and I’d look to blame parity here, but Wild Hearts is only available on current-gen consoles. For some reason, we’re getting last-gen visuals in a current-gen game.
The jank in Wild Hearts also extends to its movement. Maneuvering around the battlefield has a floatiness to it that never goes away. The imprecise movement would be much more frustrating, if not for the generous dodge windows. It does feel like Omega Force identified the issues with movement and tossed in easier dodging as a quick fix.
Though it can be a blurry mess at times, Wild Hearts does plenty right to justify a play by both monster hunter veterans and newcomers to the genre. The Karakuri system is genius and enhances an already fantastic combat experience, and co-op is wonderfully implemented, making it easy to group up with other hunters.
Wild Hearts is a fantastic first attempt by Omega Force, as it goes toe-to-toe with an established franchise and gets in a few attacks of its own, and I’m excited to see how the team builds upon this victory, Karakuri-style!