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SGF 2024: Black Myth Wukong Hands-On Preview

Kazuma Hashimoto Posted:
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Black Myth Wukong stunned audiences with its announcement trailer, showcasing gorgeous visuals and fluid combat animations that garnered immediate interest internationally. Developer Game Science has continued to show off more gameplay, showcasing enemies players will encounter in the title, and MMORPG was given the chance to check out an early level of the game. And what I played did not disappoint.

I traveled through verdant forests beset with bandits that took the form of fantastical creatures from Chinese mythology. Packs of wolves with spears and bows attempted to assail me as I navigated through winding paths and clearings dotted with mushrooms, ferns, and other lush vegetation. Engrossed in my exploration of the forest, I found a spot that overlooked a cliff, the dilapidated remains of what I assume was a shrine nestled against a far wall with a pillow sat smack dab in the center. I approached and plopped down, the camera transitioning to a more cinematic view during this moment of meditation.

The developer explained that these somewhat hidden spots exist for the player to take a moment to relax and really soak in the scenery between navigating from combat encounter to combat encounter. I found several of these during my time with Black Myth Wukong, each vista more beautiful than the last. Maybe it was because these instances did provide an opportunity to rest as I ran from boss to boss, eager to test my mettle against whatever obstacle would next block my path.

Black Myth Wukong

In my haste, I encountered the massive white wolf Lingxui, the first major boss available in the build of the game that I played. I was woefully underprepared but gave it a few more attempts before the developer mentioned that I had missed a mini-boss that would make defeating Lingxui much easier. With that information, I backtracked until I encountered Guangzhi, a wolf-like Yaoguai who wielded a double-tipped spear. Through the use of the Immobilize Spell I acquired through progression, I was able to halt Guangzhi in his tracks, freezing him in place until the spell would “shatter” and the Yaoguai would stagger back.

I discovered that building up your heavy attack through combos was the best way to use the Immobile Spell, as an immediate heavy attack would break it, leaving little time to actually deal significant amounts of damage. On my second attempt I defeated Guangzhi and was granted the ability to now transform into him for a limited period of time. Running back to Lingxui, dodging arrows and dodging past quick spear thrusts or the swipe of a sword, I eagerly dove into my next attempt at fighting the massive beast. This time, through the use of the Immobilize Spell and the “Red Tides” spell that allowed me to turn into Guangzhi, I was able to defeat Lingxui. It was in no part due to the fact that when transformed into Guangzhi I was able to inflict Lingxui with a debilitating burn debuff, which caused damage over time.

Spells are one of the more interesting aspects of combat in Black Myth Wukong. I was given access to the few I mentioned, which allowed me to turn the tide of combat relatively quickly, but that didn’t mean I was always given an edge. Red Tides has a cooldown, and your transformation is limited based on health and a timer that gradually ticks down. If you lose all of the health of that form before the timer runs out, you will transform back into Wukong, leaving you open to an attack. 

I mentioned that the invincibility frames in Black Myth Wukong felt more deliberate than Soulslikes I had played recently, and the developer mentioned that they wanted to make Wukong an Action RPG first. Dodging is a key part of combat in Black Myth Wukong, but you can’t roll infinitely in any direction, and each dodge has a unique animation with its own frames. This means you just can’t spam dodge over and over again. This was something I had to get used to.

Black Myth Wukong

But it made combat more exhilarating; even if the pace wasn’t always the fastest, it felt a lot more tense. I would circle around an opponent, waiting for an opening, and because enemy attacks don’t track, it was easier to identify what I was doing wrong or what direction I should move in to avoid taking damage. There was a level of fairness there that was understood, and if I died, I knew it was because the error had been on my end. I had dodged too much and hadn’t timed it properly, or I was too aggressive. But because I was able to identify these errors, it made it much easier for me to jump back into whatever encounter I had previously failed at and defeat whatever barred my pass with little resistance.

Concerning the narrative of Black Myth Wukong I asked if it was set sometime during the novel, to which the developer responded the game would take place after the fact. There was enough in the small bit I played to keep me interested, with Wukong meeting a colorful cast of characters throughout. I met an old monk who taught me magic, a strange monkey that took refuge in a cave, and other anthropomorphic beasts. When asked about the localization, the developer mentioned that the same studio that handled Baldur’s Gate III was employed for Black Myth Wukong, which made me hopeful that the final product could be great. It’s easy to tell when a developer skimps out on a good localization, and with Black Myth Wukong sampling from Journey to the West, the narrative feels like something the team needs to nail.

Overall, I’m optimistic about Black Myth Wukong even if I have hesitations due to controversies surrounding the environment at Game Science. The game is gorgeous, plays well, and has an interesting gameplay loop when it comes to combat. It’s hard to find an Action RPG that truly feels fair, and from what I played of Black Myth Wukong, that at least holds true in some respects. It’s also exciting to see interest in one of the most popular pieces of East Asian mythology in the West.


kazumahashimoto

Kazuma Hashimoto