EA caught many of us gamers by surprise when they revealed WILD HEARTS as a new beast hunting game under the EA Originals label. While the game might look like a Monster Hunter World rip off at first glance, there are plenty of substantial differences between the two that you are going to notice once you start looking into the details.
To that end, here is a comprehensive graphics analysis for WILD HEARTS on the PS5.
Much like the developer’s prior works, WILD HEARTS is built using the developer’s in-house proprietary tech and in house game engine. As such, it’s the same engine that has been used in Dynasty Warriors games but it seems to have received some internal upgrades for this new project. While WILD HEARTS may not be as technically impressive as other current gen games like Horizon Forbidden West, it definitely represents the developer’s proprietary tech at its best.
And a lot of that can be chalked up to two major points – lighting and environment. The lighting works to great effect for displaying a serene Feudal Japan, and the markedly improved texture quality really helps in giving the visuals a sense of realism all around. There are other elements to the presentation as well, but nothing that we noticed in WILD HEARTS seemed convincing enough for the game to be exclusive to current gen consoles. It’s all stuff that the last gen machines should have handled without much hassle, so it certainly seems weird that the developer would disband these machines with such humongous install bases for no solid reason.
The character models in the developer’s Dynasty Warriors series weren’t anything to gawk at, and this remains the case here as well. That said, we should emphasize that we are talking about the player character models here which have a decently high level of fidelity, but little in the name of impressive hair rendering or detailed skin meshes and the like. You can customize your character with different clothes and armor which do look good with detailed textures, and loose fit clothes like capes also react properly to your movements with physics properties.
But coming over to the beasts, it’s a completely different story. The Kemono (as WILD HEARTS calls these creatures) are definitely the highlight of the show even from a visual standpoint. They are huge creatures that can topple down an ill prepared player within a few hits, and they come in different shapes and sizes.
The skin meshes on these monsters are highly detailed and depending on what you are fighting, they can be made up of rough surfaces like scales or comparatively smoother surfaces with wrinkles and pores visible throughout. Take for instance, the humongous Wild Boar whose skin is infused with overgrown vegetation throughout its body which looks absolutely gorgeous and scary at the same time.
Rough surfaces like its paws and tusks are comprised of bone like rough materials that don’t reflect light, while its natural skin is made of a softer material that’s more reactive to light and dark – so it seems a fair guess that the game is using a lot of physically based materials for these monsters. The polycounts for these monsters are adequately high too, but it’s the spectacular art direction that really makes them so endearing in the first place.
Let’s briefly touch upon the animations as well. The developer has done a great job in the animations department as well, and the game purposefully utilizes swift animations to ensure that the combat remains snappy all along. There are tons of different attack animations which differ based on variables like positioning, equipped weapon etc – and they all blend nicely into one another which results in a smooth flowing combat loop.
The Kemono that you face throughout your adventures also have plenty of different animations and the developer uses smart but obvious tricks to guide and warn the player. Strong attacks that deal large amounts of damage have long wind ups while some attacks are swift with subtle tells and hard to avoid. All in all, WILD HEARTS is pretty robust in its animations department, which isn’t too surprising considering this is the developer behind Dynasty Warriors.
Environment, Lighting, And Reflections
The environment in WILD HEARTS can be a mixed bag, which shouldn’t be too surprising if you are familiar with any of the developer’s prior works. On the surface level, the world of Azuma is a striking one that does a great job of depicting the beauty of Feudal Japan with its serene countryside areas and well organized architecture. But if you look closely to analyze the level of micro fidelity within these environments, it can be hit or miss depending on where you look.
Certain parts of the world like rocks and bare ground can have pretty mushy textures that seem like they are low quality assets, while other parts like trees look really beautiful with naturally complex geometry and detailing within leaves and overgrown roots. Tall grasses also sway majestically to the tune of winds and react appropriately to your movements, which works in a similar vein to Ghost of Tsushima.
The water looks great as well; there are streams of running water spread throughout the map which house different kinds of creatures. Splashes accompany your movements when walking or running in water, but they are static animations so they don’t really stand out. Of course, water also reflects its surroundings but it seems to be utilizing pretty low quality cube maps to do that. All in all, the water rendering is pretty average but functional enough to not be distracting.
Switching gears over to lighting, WILD HEARTS does a great job in its lighting department. While there aren’t many dynamic light sources, Koei Tecmo is able to paint a beautiful world mostly lit by one global light source. Pockets of light beam through gaps between treetops, and pink trees shine brightly in the presence of sunlight. Shadow quality is on the level of what you would expect from an eighth generation game, and while it isn’t anything to gawk at – it doesn’t really hinder the visual presentation in any meaningful way. Furthermore, you can also see reasonably accurate shadows being cast on land structures out in the distance which really helps in giving a uniform look throughout the world.
The PS5 version offers two graphical options. Quality mode which targets 4K resolution and 30 frame per second, and performance mode, which targets 1080p and 60fps. The quality mode runs at a stable 30 frames per second but the performance has some issues in holding on to a stable 60 frames per second. On the loading front, fast travelling in WILD HEARTS takes around a second on the PlayStation 5.
In conclusion, WILD HEARTS is a pretty good looking game with plenty to love but it seems that the art direction is doing a lot of the heavy lifting here. It’s definitely the developer’s best looking game yet, but it doesn’t seem to make full use of current gen console capabilities. Asset quality isn’t up to the mark, water reflections are low resolution, and absence of current gen technology like ray tracing among other things has us baffled at why WILD HEARTS isn’t a cross gen game in the first place. Sure, it isn’t a bad looking game by any stretch and the gameplay is fun – but we can’t help but wonder that a lot of potential has been wasted away from a technical standpoint.