Wild Hearts PS5 Preview

This partnership between EA and Koei Tecmo is a fairly surprising one, but during a recent preview event for upcoming action RPG Wild Hearts, we were told that the collaboration is all in service of realising the game's potential. Koei Tecmo, the Japanese publisher best known for the likes of Ninja Gaiden, Dead or Alive, and Dynasty Warriors, believes that it has something special on its hands with Wild Hearts — and it needs a juggernaut company like EA to give the title the push that it apparently deserves here in the West.

It's an interesting relationship, then, and we get the distinct impression that publishing label EA Originals has placed a lot of belief in this project as well. This is a Monster Hunter-esque game that, based on the gameplay we've seen, has bags of potential. While we doubt that it'll catch on in the same way as Capcom's colossus, it could well blossom into a worthy alternative, complete with its own, rather unique spin on the process of hunting down giant creatures.

Wild Hearts PS5 Preview

Wild Hearts has a heavy emphasis on what it calls 'karakuri' — structures that can be built both in and out of combat to provide all kinds of benefits. Some karakuri are simply massive weapons — hammers, catapults, landmines — while others focus on traversal. In this feudal Japan-styled world, your custom character is the only one capable of crafting karakuri — early story events force you into this position — and so putting rampaging monsters to the sword becomes your sacred duty.

These monsters are called kemono, by the way, and their designs are based on real animals, as opposed to fantastical creatures. During the preview, we saw kemono that resembled boars, gorillas, birds, wolves, frogs, and even squirrels. They tend to be infused with elemental power: the huge boar, for example, has a habit of summoning massive tree roots that rip across the battlefield, while the ape-like beast can set its fur ablaze.

Wild Hearts PS5 Preview

At its core, combat seems similar to what you'd find in the aforementioned Monster Hunter games, although there's perhaps a greater sense of speed to your movement and attacks. You've got eight weapon types to choose from, each with their own style of play, and you're relying on dodge rolls and evasive slides to avoid incoming damage. Add the aforementioned karakuri to the equation, and you've got the makings of a very involved battle system that rewards quick thinking.

It all looks great so far, but that's to be expected when developer Omega Force already has experience with this type of title. Indeed, the Koei Tecmo studio previously worked on the Toukiden games, which, for our money, are some of the most rock solid monster hunting action RPGs out there. Particularly in its art direction, Wild Hearts reminds us a lot of Toukiden, which made us wonder whether this was originally going to be some kind of sequel. We don't have a definitive answer on that query, but EA representatives told us that Wild Hearts is very much its own thing, with no direct ties to any previous Koei Tecmo titles. In fact, the hope is that Wild Hearts will become a standalone franchise.

Wild Hearts PS5 Preview

Anyway, let's go over what we know about the game's structure. As you may already seen in the recent gameplay trailer, Wild Hearts can be played cooperatively with up to two other players online. Co-op is being billed as a seamless feature, where you're able to drop into an open game at any time, and help out with whatever your ally is up to. Assembling your team inside a hub location isn't a necessity, and you don't need to select specific missions in order to get a co-op session rolling.

Which brings us neatly to Wild Hearts' setting. While there is a central city area, where you'll craft new equipment and supposedly chat with non-playable characters, the action takes place in "open world zones" — large expanses of countryside where kemono roam free. When you're playing online, you'll be able to bump into other players alongside any karakuri creations that they've set up around the map. Again, it's all supposed to be a seamless process, and the title will boast cross-play between PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC — which should help ease any concerns with online longevity.

Wild Hearts PS5 Preview

But what if you just want to hunt or explore alone? Well, we were told that solo play is fully supported in Wild Hearts. The game's difficulty is dynamic, meaning that it changes based on whether you're by yourself, or teamed up. Naturally, there will be things that you can't do if you're alone — like combining karakuri for combo attacks — but every beast and every quest, we're promised, is beatable without help.

EA says that just the main story — that's not taking side or endgame content into account — is around 30 hours long, and the gameplay we've seen does suggest that there'll be enough depth to keep players hooked throughout that runtime.

We've got reasonably high hopes for Wild Hearts. Based on this preview event alone, it's clearly one of the most ambitious titles that Omega Force has produced in ages — a project that's apparently been in the works for four whole years. Visually it looks fantastic, the core gameplay has unique flourishes, and it's set to be a meaty experience in terms of content. We're very much looking forward to seeing more.

Are you excited for Wild Hearts? Are you already a fan of similar hunting games? Get the drop on a kemono in the comments section below.