Wild Hearts Q&A – EA/KT Partnership, Karakuri, Kemono and Much More

Alessio Palumbo
Wild Hearts

Out of nowhere, just a couple of weeks ago, Koei Tecmo's Omega Force and EA Originals announced a partnership for a next-generation game in the hunting genre called Wild Hearts.

Set in the fantasy land of Azuma (openly inspired by Feudal Japan), Wild Hearts features colossal beasts named Kemono that have been empowered by nature and rampage the environments until the players discover an ancient technology called Karakuri. These crafting tools provide a great deal of options when it comes to movement, utility, and combat, making Wild Hearts feel unique in the hunting genre.

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Following the promising reveal, we've been able to try a preview build of the game and participated in a roundtable press Q&A with Lewis Harvey, Executive Producer for Wild Hearts from the EA Originals team. You can check out the full transcript, which is chock-full of juicy details on Wild Hearts mechanics and features, below.

What made Wild Hearts an appealing title to the EA Originals team? It's quite different from anything EA has done before with the label.

As a label, EA Originals are interested in partnering with studios, whether they're established or they're new or they're indie or they're triple-A, when they're doing something truly bold and original and different. We're really excited about the vision that Koei Tecmo presented to us with Wild Hearts and its original take on this genre. Internally here at EA, we're big fans of the genre, so it just felt like a perfect project that we were excited to be a part of.

Going back a little bit to the partnership between EA and Koei Tecmo, what kind of help and creative consultation did EA provide during development?

We have provided the full force of EA's resources to Koei Tecmo, as we do with any EA Originals partnership. Some of the biggest parts that I think have paid off for this game are user research. EA has a great wealth of experience and an incredible user research division. We provided a huge amount of testing and data to Koei Tecmo that helped them fine-tune the game and make critical decisions around their feature set and the game's design. One of the other things that we have helped Koei Tecmo with was being able to reach a broader and more Western audience. A lot of the creative input that we have had and feedback that we've given them has been around tutorialization and onboarding clarity of features and UI to players.

Is this a natural evolution of the Toukiden franchise or more of its own thing?

It is more its own thing. I think we should let Koei Tecmo speak to that first part of that question. But for sure, the way that we've talked about it throughout this partnership is this is its own thing and, hopefully, the beginning of a new franchise.

Can you tell us about the variety of weapons and armor we can expect in Wild Hearts? Is there any customization?

We've got eight unique weapon types for Wild Hearts, with over 200 variations of those weapons across all the things you can craft. And there's a huge variety of armor that goes along with that. In terms of customization, you can customize your weapons and armor beyond just what they look like. When you craft them a base state, you can move your armor to look more like a Kemono or more of kind of a human interpretation of that armor. And we also feature a sort of transmogrification system where you can change the appearance of your armor while maintaining the stats that you want for that particular build.

Each weapon has its own deep gameplay systems and combos and skill mastery. And then, additionally, the thing that kind of cracks the weapons open in this game, to be honest, is how they interact with all of the Karakuri combinations you can build. Every weapon has completely unique attacks and behaviors when used in conjunction with the Karakuri.

What steps have been taken for balance between all the weapons? How do you ensure one particular weapon doesn't become the dominant preference?

That's a good question. It's an ongoing process, as with any game dealing with multiplayer and different weapons and this kind of experience. We're constantly tuning and balancing the weapons as best we can with our data from user research, our own teams, and everybody playing the game internally. We've definitely had weapons in development that have been quite dominant and we've tried to tune all of that out so that every weapon is equally viable and also just a fun and great experience to play and use. But it's an ongoing process, and I'm sure we'll make changes right up to the launch and beyond.

What was the inspiration behind Karakuri? How does the crafting mechanic differentiate Wild Hearts from other popular hunting games?

In terms of inspiration, again, I think Koei Tecmo should speak to their original inspirations four years ago when they started this project. But in terms of how that mechanic differentiates the game from other hunting games, it completely changes the game's pace and flow. There isn't a hunting game out there that has this free-form Karakuri construction mechanic that gives you a huge amount of freedom to traverse across the world. It also gives you much experimental freedom to attack these Kemono beasts in very different and ingenious ways. There's a huge number of ways to use the Karakuri and honestly, we don't know all of them because it's that kind of open and experimental. We're really excited to see where the players take this system.

Are the Karakuri all used for traversal and damage, or are there other support or buffs that they provide?

There's a ton of different variations of Karakuri. Yes, there's a decent chunk that are used for traversal. Some of those traversal Karakuri are more combat-focused, like the glider and the springboard, which you can use to move around the world. But they can also be instantly summoned to be useful in combat for dodging in and out of attacks. We have damage Karakuri like the automatic crossbow, the bomb, the hammer, things that you've seen in the videos. But something we haven't talked about much yet is we do have more utility Karakuri, so players can build camps, campfires, and blacksmith tables to access crafting while they're out in the world. There's also just nice cosmetic Karakuri that we have in the game, like lanterns, benches for you to sit on with your friends. As I mentioned, all of these things are persistent in your world. As you begin to build Karakuri across your world, they will stay persistently in your world. When other players join you, they will see how you have set up Karakuri in your world. And when you visit other players, you'll be able to see what they did, their customizations, their shortcuts and traversal, and what kind of attack and damage Karakuri they have access to. So yeah, we're really excited about the breadth of Karakuri we have in the game.

Are Karakuri upgradeable? I want to bonk every monster with that giant hammer!

The Giant Hammer seems to be a fan favorite already, and it's a favorite internally too. But yes, Karakuri are upgradeable. There are upgrades to their health, build speed, etc. But there's also just the upgrade tree for Karakuri is quite expansive. There's a lot of Karakuri to unlock, and as I mentioned, there are many varieties of Karakuri that you can choose to unlock at different times. If you're focused more on cosmetics and customizations and making your caps look great and be very useful to your players, whether you're building food racks to make your food buffs better or whether you're building benches and lanterns to sit around and tell stories and chat with a game chat, you might be that kind of player. Also, you could upgrade the traversal and damage Karakuri as well.

Will there be any farm system for growing our ingredients and materials in Wild Hearts?

We do actually have some things that fit that description. One of the Karakuri that you can build is this automated paddle scoop that you can stick in water areas. It will kind of go around on its own and collect fish and other materials from the water for you. When you return to that paddle scoop later, collect those resources, and then it's kind of done a job for you. You don't have to sit there and hunt fish for ages. A big part of the Karakuri is just helping players do things in an easier way. It's making your workload as a hunter more efficient. There's a lot of fun Karakuri that do things like that. We have other Karakuri that can mature and cook your ingredients back at your camp, and you can collect them later for additional benefits.

What makes the Kemono from Wild Hearts stand out from monsters or beasts seen in other hunting games?

We've gone for a real variety of Kemono in this game. As you've seen, most of them are themed around real creatures that you would expect to see here on planet Earth rather than dinosaurs and dragons and other such things. Some of the things that make them unique in this game is the way that they manipulate the environment around them. You've seen a little bit of that in some of the videos that we've shown, but there's definitely more to come in that respect. The scale of our Kemono is also more drastic than we've seen in other hunting games. We have much larger Kemono, and we also have some smaller ones that are just as deadly. So there's a great variety of them in the game.

Will Kemono interact with each other, or are they all mostly separate battles?

You will see them interact with each other. They have their areas that they'll be in, but they'll wander around. Maybe they'll bump into each other. Maybe things will happen.

It was mentioned that the game draws from feudal Japan. Are the Kemono beasts based on real Japanese lore?

Some of the creatures definitely have ties back to Japanese lore. But yeah, again, it's not my area of expertise. It's a great question for Koei Tecmo.

Will we be meeting Kemono early in the game? Like weaker ones and then fight them again later in the game when they're stronger? Or will we consistently fight new Kemono as we progress through the game?

You will definitely be revisiting some of the Kemono that you see earlier in the game and they will have some significant alterations to them to make them as challenging as they should be for a hunter that is that far into the game. So yes, you will be revisiting the Kemono in different forms as you go through the game.

Will there be larger, boss-style hunts? How will the hunts escalate in scale and danger?

We have huge boss-style hunts that require different gameplay mechanics and ways of attacking those Kemono. And they absolutely scale up through the campaign in terms of danger. Scale, as I mentioned, depends on the Kemono. Some are smaller but still super deadly, while others are much grander in size and equally dangerous. There's a good progression ramp of danger and scale through the game. And then, as I mentioned, there's going back to see some other changes in the kimono as you get towards the end of the story and the end game experience.

Approximately how long will it take to complete the story mode in Wild Hearts?

It takes roughly 30 hours to get through the full story just in one run without doing too many side activities or exploration. So about 30 hours to get through the story, but there's a hell of a lot more content to go through once you get to that point.

What is the story of this world?

I don't want to give away too much about the story because I think it has some great twists and turns that we're not ready to discuss. But there is a great storyline here. The narrative is something that Koei Tecmo do really care about, they wanted to tell a great narrative story for Wild Hearts. It's important. When we talked about the partnership between EA and Koei Tecmo, we were able to bring the full force of EA's localization division to Wild Hearts and help deliver a true triple-A English translation, as well as translations in all of the other languages, using incredible actors and talent. There are some really great performances in there, some great characters you'll meet along the way and some incredible twists and turns in the story that will take the game into some unexpected places.

How important is Minato to the success of Wild Hearts? Is it purely a mission hub, or is there more to it than that?

There's definitely more to it than just a mission hub. You can go there and collect sidequests from NPC villagers that need your aid. There are a lot of story moments. It's a central calling point for the story and things to unfold and happen. It's an important place. Some things happen in Minato that I don't want to spoil, but there are some great moments in Minato. It's not a place that you need to go back to all the time. One of the things that we're really excited about for Wild Hearts is this sense of freedom. Not just through the character and how that changes the gameplay and how you traverse this open world, but in the way you access everything. You don't need to go to Minato to trigger your next Kemono. You don't need to go there to upgrade your weapons or craft new weapons. You can just build a Karakuri workbench and do that wherever you are, or you can just access the world map and decide which Kemono you want to try and track down. Join multiplayer or not from that point and go and do that. Minato is a great place to chill out, a great place to explore characters and side quests and see the story unfold, and make some customizations and changes there. So it's a great place to be, but it's not somewhere you have to be all the time.

Is cross-play supported for Wild Hearts?

Yes, full cross-play is supported.

Are loot and rewards instanced for each player?

Yeah, there's no rush to get loot. You'll get the loot that is rolled for you. So every player will receive the rewards that they get.

While playing co-op, does the second player have to have already completed a hunt for the two players to join up? 

No. You can join each other at any point in the progress. If you are behind in the story and join someone further along, you can still do that. But you'll only be progressing their story at that point or their quest at that point. Equally, if you're at the same point just naturally in the game, then you will just continue to progress at the same pace that you would if you are playing single player. Hunters that are further along in the game can come back and help other players at any time. There's no restriction to how and when you can join other players.

Can you talk about the decision to focus on three player co-op? How does a character impact how you play with others, and how does scaling work with the other players?

When we started out on this journey, we tried four-player co-op as the standard approach, but it wasn't as fun in this game. And I think one of the things that really became apparent was the Karakuri system adds so much flavor to the gameplay that it's honestly overwhelming to have four players plus four players that are building these Karakuri contraptions all over the battlefield. We also loved that it's easier to get two friends together than it is to get three. The balance just worked out to be much more fun with three players in terms of the scaling. So the game will dynamically scale its difficulty. If you're on your own, it will be scaled to single player. If another player seamlessly jumps in and joins you because you're in an open match state, it will dynamically scale a little bit higher to accommodate two players and again with three.

Will Wild Hearts be good for those just getting into the hunting genre?

Yes, we think so. As I mentioned earlier, this is something that the folks from Koei Tecmo were very keen on collaborating with EA and something that we've been very particular about working with. The opening to the game and the onboarding of the game, we've tried to make that very clean and accessible and fun and engaging to allow players to get into the game and get up to speed with the new systems like Karakuri, but also the basic systems like the different weapons. As I said, Wild Hearts is designed to be faster paced and a bit more action RPG orientated. Hopefully, players feel a bit more comfortable and at home with the kind of systems and controls that we have.

Is there any personalization or customization for the player avatar in Wild Hearts?

There is a full character creation system very similar to Koei Tecmo's previous Nioh series games. You can completely customize your hunter very close to the start of the game.

Which engine is being used for this game? Will Wild Hearts support raytracing, DLSS/FSR/XeSS on PC?

I am not the technical guy, but I will try and answer this. Koei Tecmo uses a proprietary engine called the Katana engine. It's an engine in development; as you all well know, building an engine and a game simultaneously can have challenges. I don't believe that raytracing is something that will be supported at the launch of Wild Hearts. But as I mentioned, the engine is an ongoing development, and we hope to see improvements in the future.

What's the post-launch support plan for Wild Hearts?

It's all TBD right now as we figure out those plans. But as I mentioned earlier, we're hoping that Wild Hearts is a kickoff point for a new franchise, and we would love to continue to support it into the future. But we will announce what we know when we can.

Thank you for your time.

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