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Wuthering Waves Review

Nick Shively Updated: Posted:
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It’s hard to blame developers and publishers for wanting to chase hot gaming trends. In theory it makes sense to replicate what’s popular at any given time. Most of the hard work is already done and developers just need to put their own spin on it. However, there’s a reason only a handful of games dominate certain genres; the graveyards full of MOBAs and Hero Shooters can attest to this. Unfortunately, Wuthering Waves seems poised to follow this trend with its drip-fed content, dreadfully boring story, and lackluster endgame in an attempt to capitalize on the success of Genshin Impact.

Never have I wanted a skip button so much

When I was asked to review Wuthering Waves, I was actually excited. I rather liked Genshin Impact during the time that I played it, and Wuthering Waves seemed to be in similar vein but with a much more complex combat system. To be fair, that is essentially what I got. The combat in Wuthering Waves is honestly fantastic for a mobile game and it’s a shame that it attempts to stop you from enjoying its best parts for so long.

Initially, Wuthering Waves drop you right into the action. You just sort of wake up and are found by a pair of patrollers who help you through the movement and combat tutorials. Shortly after, you’re faced with a pretty tough boss fight all things considered. Apparently, this was even toned down from the beta tests and it made me hopeful for what was to come.

Unfortunately, while the tutorial dropped me straight into the action, it was a long time until the next interesting combat segment. The game spends hours holding your hand, explaining the lore, the enemies (Tacet Discords or ‘TDs’ for short), forcing you through ‘cooking’ tutorials, except most of the time you just need the required materials and to click a single button to produce the goods, and other back-and-forth small talk.

The worst part is that almost none of this conversation is skippable. The skip mechanic does exist, but for some reason, the developers have only implemented it in very specific instances. There was more than one instance where the story would go from cut-scene to skippable text to un-skippable text and back again. Sometimes, these conversations would take upwards of 30 minutes or even close to an hour while being partially broken up by a few walking or puzzle segments.

Additionally, in the portions you can’t skip (almost all of them), you have to wait for the character to finish talking before it will go to the next line. You can’t simply fast-forward the text when you’re done reading.

Normally, I don’t mind a plethora of story content in my games (I am a huge JRPG fan), but what I managed to absorb wasn’t interesting to me in the slightest. You’re a mysterious Resonator with the unique ability to manipulate the frequencies of multiple elements and the world is threatened by these mysterious TDs that pop up due to residual chaotic frequency energy. The lore and backstory could have been interesting or could have become interesting at some point, but after 20 lines of dialogue about someone’s favorite cooking dish and who should get credit for solving the world’s simplest puzzle, I lost all personal interest.

Finally, a real combat system

Let’s face it. The combat systems in most mobile games are usually shallow and tepid. Most of them include some type of auto-play or auto-combat system, which, in my opinion, defeats the purpose of actually playing a game. In others, you are loaded up with skills just to spam all of them as soon as they’re off cooldown in order to do as much damage in as short a time as possible because every class is a DPS; the tank is a DPS, the healer is a DPS, and so is every other class, with a slightly different flavor mixed in.

However, Wuthering Waves managed to put together a relatively deep combat system. It's not quite on the same level as Dark Souls, but it's very close to something like Final Fantasy 16. At any time, you will have access to 3 characters (resonators) with their own set of skills and Echos (captured TDs). There is a huge focus on counterattacks (parry), dodging, immobilizing (breaking), and building up energy to perform intro skills or powerful Resonance Liberation attacks.

In addition to having a complex combat system that rewards quick reaction times, there are also character archetypes that matter. Sure, building a team of all strong DPS resonators will probably let you brute force most content, but having a strong healer and/or buffer if going to make things much easier. For example, Jianxin groups up enemies with her intro skill and buffs the Resonance Liberation damage when you switch her out, so she’s great to switch to before rotating to another DPS.

While I definitely enjoy the combat system, for some reason the game just doesn’t want you to enjoy it. Between the initial tutorial boss and the next major fight, there are hours of extremely boring side and fetch quests. Wuthering Waves also copies the terrible Adventure Rank from Genshin Impact with its own Union Level that locks you out of content until you do enough dailies or menial tasks.

Thankfully, this can be leveled up at a decent pace spamming the Simulation Challenge, but you can only do that a handful of times until you run out of energy. Otherwise, you’re forced to grind side quests or go exploring the overworld, neither of which grant a ton of experience for the time spent.

Stale Endgame

Another unfortunate problem with Wuthering Waves is the repetitive state of its endgame, which does tend to plague similar mobile games as well. At the moment, there are 3 main types of endgame content that earn various currency to purchase things like experience potions, echo-tuning materials and new echos. These are the Tower of Adversity, Illusive Realm, and Tactical Hologram.

The Tower of Adversity is very similar to the Abyss from Genshin Impact. You’ll be forced to fight through multiple instances of enemies within a handful of different towers. In order to advance to the higher-difficulty towers, you’ll need to complete the lower-difficulty ones first. The gimmick is that using characters will deplete their vigor, so you’ll need access to a few different rosters to complete each tower and won’t be able to rely on a couple strong characters to carry you through.

The Illusive Realm is Wuthering Waves version of the Simulated Universe from Honkai: Star Rail. You’ll explore multiple open-world stages filled with enemies and provide buffs for clearing them, eventually leading to a boss fight. The unique mechanic here is that you only bring a single resonator with one echo and a support character who can be tagged in to use their unique skill. This is one of the more unique versions of endgame content and does provide a lot of combat targets in a small area.

Wuthering Waves

The final endgame challenge in Wuthering Waves is the Tactical Hologram, which is essentially just a tiered boss system. There are a handful of bosses with multiple stages each. They start out relatively easy and quickly ramp up in difficulty adding increased damage, health, and new mechanics. This is fairly standard endgame content and doesn’t really add anything new, but it does allow players to experience Wuthering Waves’ combat at its peak.

Despite its excellent combat system, there isn’t enough unique content to carry Wuthering Waves. Most of its other systems are copied from other games, and while it might improve upon some of these, such as having a better movement system than Genshin Impact, it also brings a lot of poorly designed systems, like the Union Level and terrible gacha pull rates on 5* weapons and characters (0.8%).

Furthermore, the overall design of the characters and world did nothing to pull me in. In Genshin Impact, I enjoyed my initial meetings with Amber, Jean, and Diluc, and even while I didn’t care for Venti, his character was at least entertaining. However, I didn’t feel that way about a single member of Wuthering Waves’ cast. Everyone felt generic with slightly different haircuts or clothes, and the world felt like it was built from stock sci-fi aspects. Too much of the rest of the game falls flat for its great combat to carry it across the finish line.

Reviewed on Android.

6.5 Okay
  • Exciting combat system
  • My wallet is safe
  • Incredibly boring story
  • Drip-fed content without a way to speed through it
  • Generic looking world and characters


Nick Shively