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When the developers at Koei Tecmo and Omega Force decided to make Wild Hearts in 2018, they felt like there was still room in the monster-hunting genre besides Monster Hunter.

And so they set out to create a triple-A title that took the genre in a new direction. And now Wild Hearts will put their theories about the market to the test.

The developers built a new world dubbed Azuma, a place that resembles feudal Japan except it has ferocious kemono, or monsters that combine nature and animals. Azuma has expansive environments, though it’s not quite a full open world with a huge continuous map.

The game has giant monsters fighting in four different environments that reflect the seasons of the year. These Kemono include the volcanic-bodied Lavaback and a wide variety of others. Wild Hearts also features a lot of crafting through karakuri, which are like giant wooden cabinets that players can use to trap, trick, or shield against the creatures.


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You can craft a giant mallet that can hammer a Kemono, or make a rolling wheel that lets you run circles around the monster. Players can also just build platforms to jump off and small Kemono with a deadly katana or other types of weapons.

The solo or three-player co-op game debuts as an EA Originals title on February 7 on the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S and PC via the EA App, Steam and Epic Games Store. I spoke with the game directors Kotaro Hirata and Takuto Edagawa of Omega Force via a translator.

Omega Force is a division of Koei Tecmo in Japan, and EA will publish the title under its EA Originals label.

Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.

A creature in Wild Hearts.

GamesBeat: How did you feel about the comparisons people have made to Monster Hunter and how this is different? One observation some people have already made is that it’s easier to start Wild Hearts and get familiar with it. It’s easier to get on board and start the game. But in general, what would you say are the differences compared to Monster Hunter?

Kotaro Hirata: You spoke about the fact that the entry point here is a bit easier when you get started. When we were developing this hunting action game, we wanted to make it possible for as many players around the world to try to enjoy it. That’s why we made the very beginning easier. We were quite conscious of making it as intuitive as possible to play. When you take any of the actions here – dash, jump, grab, slide – it’s easy to learn how to do that using your controller. We wanted it to be something that could appeal to any action game fan.

From there, how is it different from Monster Hunter? The craft system we’ve incorporated here, the karakuri system, that makes a huge difference. You use the karakuri system to defeat the kemono. That kind of crafting system incorporated into a game is something that’s still quite rare in the hunting action genre, or action games in general. While you’re battling it out, you might suddenly have an idea that comes to mind. “Maybe I can use this.” You can incorporate the additional karakuri functions into the attacks that you’re making. Being able to do that is quite addictive, actually, once you learn how to do it.

Takuto Edogawa: One characteristic of the game here, something that we take very seriously, is the idea of change. With a lot of hunting games, you go back to the same places to fight the same monsters again. There’s some repetition involved in the hunting genre. We wanted to make it so you weren’t always going back to the same situation. Within Wild Hearts, as you go and fight and build karakuri in different areas, you see that those karakuri remain in place. You have all these additional features that get left in the field. Also, through natural evolution, the kemono are always changing and changing as they live longer out in the field. Whenever you go back to a certain stage or area, it’s not always going to be the same place you saw before. There’s always that constant change.

GamesBeat: The karakuri, is that referring to the big wooden cabinets that appear in front of you? It looked like it was giving you shelter, but at the same time lay a trap for the monsters. I didn’t quite fully understand it from what I watched.

Hirata: It’s something that the player can voluntarily create within the field. The whole crafting aspect, the entire repertoire of all the crafting, is called karakuri. It’s a very all-encompassing thing. The player can build a wall, or traps, or cannon. A lot of different components go into it, and there are a lot of different things you can build with it. The system as a whole is called karakuri.

There are four seasons in Wild Hearts.

GamesBeat: It sounds like this accommodates different player styles. There are probably some players who love laying traps, and then there are others who might use weapons more aggressively to take the fight to the enemy. Where did that idea come from, that you wanted to give players those different options to use with the karakuri system?

Hirata: In making a hunting action game, we had to think of a core system that players could employ in taking their actions. There was a lot of trial and error for us involved in deciding what tools we’d give to players for the hunt. What we got a hint from–with a hunting action game, there’s obviously a strong focus on combat and the actual fight scenes, but it’s not just that. You also have times where players exploring, or where they’re prepping their weapons for the next battle. When you think of hunting, it has multiple aspects. We wanted to make sure we incorporated things players could do at all of these various stages, and that’s where the crafting system would work here. That’s why we took the direction we did with the karakuri system.

GamesBeat: How did you approach building the world of Azuma? How big did you want it to be? How is it revealed to the player?

Edogawa: We wanted to make sure that the user goes to the world of Azuma and feels like it’s a believable experience for them. Yes, it’s a fictional location, but at the same time we wanted to make sure it felt real. We looked back at the history of Japan and made sure that this world was built around things that actually happened. Also, to incorporate more of the “Japaneseness” of things, we wanted to make sure that Japanese culture was reflected in the world as well.

We thought it would be tough to incorporate that into a hunting game, and that’s where the various artifacts come into play. You see different artifacts from Japanese culture embedded throughout the world here. A lot of that has been swallowed up by the kemono and what they’ve done to the environment, swallowing those Japanese artifacts. But you can see it and feel it all around.

When it comes to the scale and how big the world is, it’s not fully seamless. There are four distinct areas that we have here. Each one reflects a season in Japan: fall, winter, spring, and summer. But each stage, each area, is quite large in scale by itself. The karakuri also allow you to explore even further. Players will probably find each area a quite large space to explore.

It took about four years to make the world of Azuma in Wild Hearts.

GamesBeat: How would you describe the development process?

Edogawa: It all comes back to where we started, designing the battles with the kemono and the battle system we incorporated. Everything was designed and built around those battles. That came at the base of everything. Something that’s different for this game for us, though, was that we worked together with Electronic Arts. Throughout the development process, EA hosted frequent large-scale user reviews, where users would play the game and give their feedback. We were able to get a lot of feedback from a global perspective, which led to a lot of improvements we were able to make. I think we were able to come up with a very high-quality product because of that.

GamesBeat: Was there something that convinced you that the hunting genre was a big one, with room for more than one game?

Edogawa: You’re right that there’s basically one strong player there. It makes you wonder – can it even be called a full genre when you just have the one massive game? Maybe it’s just a feeling we had here, but we felt that players couldn’t stay and remain attracted just to one thing. When you talk about hunting games where you’re battling these large kemono, large monsters and things, going through the fighting experiences with them and growing, I felt that there were more angles to explore, that we could look at this from different directions. It was just a matter of figuring out which angle suited us best. That’s the part we spent a lot of time going over, especially at the beginning of development, to make sure that this was different enough, that people would think, “Yes, there’s more than one way to play this type of game.”

GamesBeat: The side quests that happen, can you describe them a bit more? How much of that is there in the game, and what kinds of things are you doing on those side quests?

Edogawa: We do have several side quests that are available here. With the main storyline, we really focused on the kemono. We look at how they’ve affected society or the world in general. But we have the town called Minato where all the people in the story live. We don’t put much focus on the town or those people in the main story – what they’re thinking and what they’re doing. That’s what we’ve left for the side quests.

A karakuri trap awaits this kemono in Wild Hearts.

GamesBeat: How did you feel about how much skill it should require for players to be successful in the game? How forgiving or unforgiving did you want the game to be when it comes to having that skill?

Hirata: We talked at the beginning about how learning the actions and such is pretty easy. We decided that the actions themselves should be easy to learn, easy to manipulate, easy to move your character around. But the difficulty of the kemono is set pretty high on purpose. The reason we set that difficulty high is because the level of the karakuri and the powers they give you–the karakuri are extremely powerful. We had to make sure that the prey was challenging enough for players who were properly using the karakuri.

Compared to other hunting action games, you could say that the difficulty might be higher. But the abilities the karakuri give you are much stronger. As you work on hunting an animal and master the karakuri, you’ll find different ways to overcome the kemono, more satisfying ways. We think it’s something players can repeatedly enjoy as they work on taking advantage of the karakuri system.

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