Gaming

With EA’s Assistance, Wild Hearts Overcomes Monster Hunter’s Biggest Challenge

A Game for Everyone: How Wild Hearts Revolutionizes the Monster Hunter Experience

Although Capcom’s Monster Hunter series enjoys immense popularity in the West, it can be intimidating for newcomers due to its overwhelming tutorials and complex user interface. Recognizing the importance of avoiding these pitfalls, Koei Tecmo’s Omega Force development team partnered with Electronic Arts’ EA Originals label to gain insights into how Western players prefer to approach intricate adventures.

“We wanted to gain a better understanding of how players from different parts of the world would receive this game,” explained Co-Director Takuto Edagawa, discussing the invaluable collaboration with EA. “Players worldwide dislike an excessive amount of information. They prefer a hands-on learning experience through gameplay rather than being bombarded with explanations.”

Digital Trends corroborated this claim in their three-hour preview of Wild Hearts, where they found the game’s introduction and tutorials to be superior to those of Monster Hunter. Within just 30 minutes, players can grasp the key concepts and embark on an enjoyable cooperative hunting and crafting adventure.

A Thrilling Journey Unfolds

“One of our main goals was to minimize explanations and focus on the story and gameplay,” shared Edagawa with Digital Trends. “We wanted players to dive into the game as soon as possible. We understand their eagerness to experience the game world firsthand, so we prioritized expedient gameplay.”

Wild Hearts commences with a serene scene of a lone hunter traversing a lush forest inhabited by friendly Kemono creatures. Soon, a small-scale hunt begins as the player encounters a deer-like Kemono. During this hunt, players become familiar with camera and movement controls, combat techniques, limited stamina for climbing ledges, and the art of stealthily approaching enemies.

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These fundamental elements are common in hunting games, but unlike Monster Hunter Rise, Wild Hearts refrains from incessant interruptions with lengthy cutscenes or expository text boxes. Text boxes only appear if players choose to activate them when tutorials pop up.

The best game introductions dive straight into action, and Wild Hearts accomplishes exactly that. According to EA Originals Executive Producer Lewis Harvey, this particular aspect of the game was closely collaboratively with EA. EA also provided input on character design and world-building to Omega Force, the Japanese development team.

“EA boasts a wealth of experience in user research. We were able to offer extensive testing and data to Koei Tecmo, enabling them to fine-tune the game and make crucial decisions regarding features and UI clarity,” Harvey revealed. “Our creative input and feedback primarily focused on tutorials, player onboarding, and feature and UI comprehensibility.”

The Adventure Unfolds

The partnership between EA and Koei Tecmo yielded an already effective setup, but there were more surprises to come. As the journey progresses, players encounter a mystical being named Mujina. Through interactions with Mujina, players establish their character’s backstory, customize their appearance, learn about the mysterious Kemono, and receive their first significant objective: journey to the nearby town of Minato.

Before embarking on this mission, however, the surroundings undergo a sudden transformation, succumbing to icy terrain. Armed with the skills acquired during the initial stages, players must track down the source of this frigid onslaught—an enormous ice wolf Kemono—engaging it in a fierce battle. Unfortunately, victory proves elusive, and the player’s character is defeated and cast into the depths of a dark cave. It is at this moment that Mujina reappears, activating the Karakuri—a small device the hunter discovered during the previous hunt and kept by their side.

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The second part of the tutorial then focuses on this unique system. During development, Koei Tecmo decided to make crafting in Wild Hearts not merely a defensive or preparatory measure but also an integral part of exploration and combat. To escape the cave, players must construct Karakuri boxes to create a pathway up a wall and subsequently build more boxes to establish a vantage point for aerial attacks against enemies.

Effective Karakuri building skills are crucial for preparing to hunt large Kemono as well. Having escaped the cave, players employ Karakuri more conventionally to set up camp near an unconscious girl lying on the ground. But their respite is short-lived, as a gigantic Kemono resembling a rat adorned with plant life launches an attack, marking the beginning of the game’s first true hunt and setting the stage for the grand adventure that lies ahead.

While Wild Hearts offers many more delightful surprises, such as vibrant world design, visual indicators for attack damage, and the fact that Karakuri remains on the game’s map as a reminder of past exploits, it is the game’s opening that truly captivates.

Goodbye, Monster Hunter

As much as I’ve attempted to immerse myself in the mainline Monster Hunter series, I’ve always found the beginning of those games off-putting due to their overwhelming openings and tutorials. The reigning champion in the monster-hunting genre suffers from a lack of accessibility. However, Wild Hearts has the opportunity to become the preferred option for new players by delivering a more welcoming and accessible experience. Coupled with a streamlined user interface, Wild Hearts offers a far superior user experience, even in the early stages of the preview build I played months before its official release.

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The accessibility front is also well-covered in Wild Hearts. Even in this preview build, I was presented with a dedicated accessibility menu offering options such as menu narration, text-to-audio, audio-to-text for voice chat, subtitle customization, menu size and shading adjustments, and more. According to Edagawa, Koei Tecmo is developing these comprehensive accessibility options with EA’s assistance and plans to implement them in other games currently in development.

“As a company, we strive to achieve sustainable development goals, and our aim is to make games accessible to all players,” explained Edagawa. “That was a crucial consideration from the early stages of development. We engaged in extensive discussions with EA to identify helpful elements, and this collaboration was a pivotal part of our partnership. We intend to incorporate these elements into future games.”

Wild Hearts serves as a prime example of identifying a weakness in a competitor’s strategy and capitalizing on it to attract a larger audience. While Monster Hunter currently reigns supreme in the monster-hunting genre, it is not without flaws. By learning invaluable lessons from EA and ensuring a more welcoming and accessible opening than Monster Hunter Rise, Wild Hearts has everything it takes to become a formidable contender in this genre.

Wild Hearts will be available on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S starting February 17, 2023.


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