This Is Not A Review of Wild Hearts (PC)

N.B. I am very bad at Wild Hearts and Monster Hunter which likely contributes to my lack of enthusiasm. I am aware I suck at these games.

I flipped back and forth between whether I’d write an actual review of Wild Hearts or not. In the end, I decided not to because of how much I truly do not like the game. I know that Wild Hearts isn’t really a ‘bad’ game but my enjoyment of it is so non-existent that writing a bunch of negative things about it and slapping a bad score at the end would feel disingenuous.

Not being a fan of the monster-hunting genre, I was fairly confident I wasn’t going to like Wild Hearts but the I thought building mechanics and speedier combat might help get me over the hump. Sadly, I was wrong. Hamstrung by a truly terrible camera and gameplay that never once “clicked,” Wild Hearts is another in a long line of games that I just DONT GET.

However, just because I hate it doesn’t mean it’s no good. Fans of this genre are absolutely going to froth Wild Hearts for reasons I will never understand.

Not a Review of Wild Hearts

I didn’t immediately dislike Wild Hearts. The opening section of the game had me intrigued as the beautiful visuals and the fantasy-themed world slowly opened up before me. What I really did LOVE was the tutorial. Wild Hearts gradually introduces you to its mechanics in a sequence where you track a deer. As you approach the deer continually bounds off, escaping before you can do it any harm.

Eventually, you’re tasked with sneaking up on the deer and when close to it are offered two options; kill it or pat it. This was a surprising moment in a game that’s primary objective is to hunt creatures. I pet the deer and of it went on its merry way. Sadly, any follow-through or continuation of this time appears absent after this one brief moment. The rest of the game is all about killing stuff.

And this is where Wild Hearts lost me. The combat is clunky, janky, overly difficult and very, very boring. I’m really not interested in fighting something for 20 minutes or more, especially when it seems impossible to properly dodge their attacks or learn how to confidently anticipate their next move. Look, it’s probably that I’m just not very good at the game but even trying to solely focus on learning the enemy’s moves and telegraphs of their attacks, I was at a loss.

On top of my inability to ever properly learn how to fight the enemy effectively, the camera was actively trying to make it harder every step of the way. During each fight, because the Kemono (Wild Hearts for monster) are so enormous, I spent the majority of my time underneath them, trying to wrangle the camera which was showing me nothing but Kemono hide. I don’t know about you, but I like to be able to see what I’m doing when I play a game. The actual mechanics of combat also did nothing to impress me. You have a light, heavy and special attack but none of them feels as though they have any heft or weight to them. Combos feel incredibly loose and because there’s no health gauge for the Kemono and fights take so long, I felt like I was bashing my head against a brick wall.

Yes, there is feedback in the form of damage numbers, but they mean nothing when you can’t see how much health the enemy has. I get the impression that Wild Hearts‘ combat is meant to be leaning more towards the Soulsborne side of things but it widely misses the mark. Combat in Soulsborne games is about precision. Wild Hearts wants to appear as though it is but it’s not. Enemies are too unpredictable, too fast, and too big and use attacks that cover far too much real estate for players to ever be able to actually fight back with precise attacks and strategy. Instead, you’re left to flail around, hoping to somehow get close enough without also losing most of your health and deal enough damage to eventually kill the thing. It’s tedious.

I guess this is where the building mechanics are supposed to come in but I just found them woeful. You can build blocks and combos of blocks to create buildings and objects to help you in the world and in your fight. Unfortunately, this system is overly convoluted and wildly inaccurate. The Bulwark, for example, is built out of 6 blocks stacked in two groups of 3 next to each other. It is designed to stop charging enemies and give you a chance to fight back. At least 50% of the time I wanted to build a Bulwark I ended up with a stack of 3 and a stack of 2 with another block built outside the combo. You need to stand perfectly still to build these combos which totally goes against trying to stay alive and fight the Kemono who are charging, diving, rolling and flying around trying to kill you.

I’ve read quite a few reviews that mention that the initial difficulty of the building mechanics subsides and it becomes second nature. After hours and hours and hours of playing, I still found them overly finicky and too difficult to use effectively. Again, I realise this is most likely due to my skill level and admittedly dwindling enthusiasm for the game.

It’s just not for me.

And this is why I’m not writing a review of giving Wild Hearts a score. Fans of the genre will easily pick up on the combat cues and learn how to build effectively. They’ll laugh at my inability to dodge enemy attacks and tell me I need to “git gud.” But I don’t want to get good at Wild Hearts because I am not entertained by it in the slightest. I don’t like the mechanics and I find no value in the core gameplay loop. This whole genre is a mystery to me.

I do like the art style and aesthetic of Wild Hearts. It looks like Japanese woodblock prints crossed with Miyazaki animation come to life. As you explore each zone you’ll find smaller, non-dangerous Kemono; which I hunted and then felt guilty about. There is an abundance of vegetation, landscapes, buildings and vistas to explore and take in and everything comes together to make the world feel like a magical living place.

Just not a place I want to spend any time.

My experience with Wild Hearts got me thinking about game reviews in general. Sometimes games are genuinely terrible and sometimes they’re really good. I’m not sure If I can say objectively because any personal experience of art by a person is subjective. But in a case like this where I have such negative feelings about a game and I know huge swathes of others will be the opposite, I don’t think there’s much value in being a dissenting voice for the sake of it.

Players who don’t like monster-hunting games are going to avoid Wild Hearts anyway. And people who do like the genre aren’t going to be swayed one way or another by someone who just doesn’t get it and doesn’t like it.

At the end of the day, my opinion of Wild Hearts matters far less than that of a person who plays and enjoys games in this genre. For me, it’s an easy pass and I always knew it would be. These previous thousand or so words aren’t convincing anyone and they were never going to. Rather, they exist as an exercise in both talking about why I don’t enjoy Wild Hearts and why reviews are a purely subjective endeavour.

Wild Hearts is a game made for a very specific audience and one that I’m not part of. Just because I hate it doesn’t mean it’s not somebody else’s game of the year. And that’s the beauty of games. There really is something for everyone and you don’t have to like every single game released. There’s nothing wrong with not liking something.

If we all liked the same games it would be a rather boring pastime.

Wild Hearts was not reviewed on PC using a digital code provided by EA.

Leo Stevenson
Leo Stevenson
I've been playing games for the past 27 years and have been writing for almost as long. Combining two passions in the way I'm able is a true privilege. PowerUp! is a labour of love and one I am so excited to share.

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