Although Capcom’s Monster Hunter series is more popular than ever in the West, it’s still a scary series due to its overpowering tutorials and complicated user interface. Koei Tecmo Omega Force development team did not want to repeat this mistake with Wild hearts — his upcoming fantasy monster hunting game with a complex offensive crafting element. To solve this problem, he partnered with Electronic Arts’ EA Originals publishing house to better understand how Western gamers prefer to be treated in the earliest stages of a complicated adventure.
“We wanted to better understand how this game could be accepted by players in different parts of the world,” said one of the directors Takuto Edagawa, talking about the fruits of the EA partnership. “Players around the world don’t tend to like overly presented information. They don’t want you to explain too much; they want to learn more in a practical way by experiencing it themselves through play.”
WILD HEARTS | 7 minutes of gameplay
Digital Trends puts this to the test with our three-hour version of the earliest parts of the game Wild hearts and found his intro and guides to be better than anything Monster Hunter has done. Within 30 minutes, Wild hearts players should be familiar with the basic concepts the game deals with and be ready for what will look like an enjoyable cooperative hunting and crafting adventure.
“One thing that was very important to us is that we don’t have to explain a lot and then get into the story and the gameplay,” Edagawa tells Digital Trends. “We wanted you to be able to play as soon as possible. We know our players want to experience the game and the world as quickly as possible, so that was the core approach we took at launch.”
Wild hearts begins calmly, with a lone hunter walking through a forest full of friendly little Kemono creatures. Soon a small hunt begins when the player spots a deer-like Kemon. During this hunt, players will learn the basics of camera and movement control, attacks available during combat, how to climb ledges with limited stamina, and how to sneak up on an enemy.
These are some basic basics in hunting games, but the difference compared to Monster Hunter Rise is that the game doesn’t constantly stop the player with long cutscenes or large text boxes to explain basic things. Text boxes only appear if players choose to activate them when the tutorial appears.
WILD HEARTS Official Reveal Trailer
The best game openings get right into things, which Wild hearts successfully does. According to EA Originals executive producer Lewis Harvey, this is an aspect of the game that Koei Tecmo wanted to work closely with EA on, although EA also provided some character and world design input to the Japanese development team at Omega Force.
“EA has a lot of experience in their user research department, and we were able to provide a tremendous amount of testing and data to Koei Tecmo that really helped them fine-tune the game and make critical decisions about the feature set,” Harvey said. “A lot of the creative input and feedback we gave was around tutorials, onboarding, and clarity of features and user interface to players.”
The hunt continues
The setup that EA and Koei Tecmo decided on was already effective, but it’s not quite finished yet. I soon encountered a mystical being who calls himself Mujina. While talking to them, I established my character’s backstory, customized their appearance, learned more about Kemon, and got my first significant goal: to go to the nearby city of Minato.
Image used with permission of the copyright holder
However, before I could do that, the environment around us quickly changed and was covered in ice. I used the skills the game had taught me up until that point to hunt down the source, the giant ice wolf Kemon, and engaged them in battle. Unfortunately, this fight was impossible to win, so my character was defeated and thrown into a deep cave. Then Mujina reappeared and activated my Karakuri, a small device my hunter had found on a previous hunt and carried with him.
Then came the second part of the guide, which focused on this unique system. During development, Koei Tecmo decided to make crafts Wild hearts not just a defensive or prep thing, but something that can help during exploration and combat. In order to get out of this cave I had to build Karakuri boxes to help me climb the wall and then build more to create a vantage point from which to attack enemies from the air.
Karakuri building skills are also critically important when preparing to hunt large Kemons. After escaping the cave, I used the Karakuri in a more traditional way to build a camp near the girl I found passed out on the ground. After I did that, another giant Kemono that looked like a giant rat with plants growing out of it attacked and I went on my first real hunt in the game, wrapping up the beginning and kicking out a real Wild hearts adventure.
While there was a lot more to my liking later — like the colorful world design, the amount of attack damage, and the fact that Karakuri remains on the world map after hunting to remind you of previous exploits — this opening is what stuck with me.
Sayonara, Monster Hunter
I’ve tried to get into the main Monster Hunter series multiple times, but I’ve always found the start of those games awkward because of how intimidating their intros and guides are. The king of this genre has an accessibility problem and Wild hearts it has a high chance of becoming the preferred option for new players thanks to the way it handles player onboarding. Couple that with a cleaner user interface and this Wild heat it already has a better user experience — even just 30 minutes in the preview version I played months before its launch.
Image used with permission of the copyright holder
Wild hearts it is also developing well on the accessibility front. Even this preview version gave me a dedicated accessibility menu with options for menu narration, text-to-audio and audio-to-text for voice chat, subtitles and menu size and shading mods, toggle or hold button press settings, and more . According to Edagawa, Koei Tecmo is creating these thorough accessibility options with the help of EA and hopes to apply them to other games in development at Koei Tecmo.
“As a company, we work towards the Sustainable Development Goals, so we want to make games accessible to everyone,” Edagawa explained. “It’s something we considered very early in development. We also talked about what kinds of elements would be helpful with EA, so that was a very important part of our partnership. As a company, we hope to continue incorporating these elements into future games.”
Wild hearts is a great example of finding something your competitor does poorly and attracting people by doing it better. Monster Hunter is currently the undisputed ruler of the monster hunting genre, but it’s not perfect. By learning the appropriate lessons from EA and making sure the start of the game is more welcoming and accessible than Monster Hunter Rise, Wild hearts is shaping up to be a force to be reckoned with in the monster hunting genre.
Wild hearts will launch for PC, PS5 and Xbox Series X/S on February 17, 2023.