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Black Myth: Wukong – Hands-On With an Impressive First 2 Hours


The list of impressive looking soulslike games on the horizon is long, with games like Phantom Blade Zero, Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn, and Wuchong: Fallen Feathers all having solid showings this summer event season. But there’s always been something extra special about Black Myth: Wukong. It’s stunningly gorgeous, the animations are incredibly fluid, it’s steeped in rich Chinese culture, and there’s just something immensely satisfying about playing as a Monkey King and beating up all sorts of mythical creatures with a giant extendable staff. While this isn’t the first time IGN has gone hands-on with the game, it is my own personal first time with it – and after two hours of playtime with the opening chapter, I somehow walked away even more excited for its August 20th release.

IGN China has already done an extensive preview on what Wukong plays like on a late game build with many techniques, stances, and transformations already unlocked, which is great because my two hours covered pretty much the very start of the game. The first thing that I noticed as I started playing was how fluid and fast Wukong feels to control. Many soulslikes are built on a foundation of slower and more methodical combat, but Wukong feels exceptionally quick and agile. From the beginning, there’s actually no block button. Wukong can twirl his staff to block projectiles, but as far as melee attacks go, everything must be dodged. To that end, there’s a Bayonetta-style dodge system where you can dodge up to three times very quickly, but after the third one, you’re punished with a lengthy recovery time to try and curb people from just mindlessly mashing the dodge button.

Wukong feels exceptionally quick and agile.

Perfectly timed dodges will reward you with extra focus, and once your focus bar has been filled, you get a focus point that allows you to chain a strong attack into your light combo string for a big chunk of damage. Later on, those focus points can also be spent on different types of special moves that you unlock in the skill tree, which we’ll get to later.

Wukong also has access to a number of spells that consume his mana. I only really got to play around with the immobilize spell, which as you can imagine, stops an enemy in their tracks and allows you to sneak in a few free hits before the spell’s effect wears off. Stronger enemies and especially bosses are affected by the spell much less, and sometimes they were able to shrug it off entirely.

Even at just an early stage, combat was a fun dance of actively looking for opportunities to avoid enemy attacks and find openings to attack, keeping an eye on my focus meter so I could use a damaging heavy attack whenever I had a chance, while also managing my mana and cooldown for my immobilize spell. Eventually I got my first transformation, which turns Wukong into an absolute beast, with much stronger attacks, and a hugely damaging super attack that he can use out of a dodge if he manages to build up a focus point. One of his moves in this transformation is a lightning fast dash attack that made me feel like I had basically turned into the boss that I got the transformation from.

Later on I added another tool to my repertoire: the tower stance, which swapped out my chargeable overhead strong attack for the ability to stand on my staff and avoid damage on the ground as long as my stamina held out. If I managed to stay on the staff long enough for a focus point to charge, I could spend it to leap off the staff, flip it around, and come crashing down with a powerful strike that felt incredibly cool to pull off.

These stances, along with my general combat abilities, could all be upgraded through a level-up system that works a lot like Sekiro’s. As you defeat enemies, you’ll gain Will, which builds up a bar in the top right of the screen. When the bar is full, you gain a Spark, which can be used to purchase upgrades from one of your various skill trees. Once you fill the bar and bank a point, you can’t lose it. You can even add that skill point whenever you want, not just at a shrine, which serves as Wukong’s version of a bonfire-like checkpoint. However, if you die before you manage to fill the bar, a portion of that experience will be lost in typical soulslike fashion.

Don’t let that trick you into thinking that Wukong is an easy game though, because it certainly is not. Enemies are aggressive, bosses are relentless and even more so in their second phases, and you only have a scant few restorative potions to keep yourself alive. I also managed to find a secret boss room behind a waterfall that took me to a dragon boss that just absolutely wrecked me. Fortunately, you can teleport from shrine to shrine, so you can come back to him much later down the road once you’ve upgraded your gear and added some more points into your skill trees. And speaking of gear, I didn’t manage to find all that much, but I did find enough to at least know that there are sets of armor that grant extra bonuses for wearing multiple pieces of gear from that set.

Enemies are aggressive, bosses are relentless, and you only have a scant few restorative potions to keep you alive.

The levels themselves were fairly linear with a couple of branching points that led to some sort of treasure or item pickup. The real star of the show, though, were the boss battles. Even in just two hours I fought against a wide variety of bosses, from a speedy wolf boss that I snagged my first transformation from, to a mule-kicking frog in human clothes, to an extremely difficult two-phased battle against a snake man.

All in all, I greatly enjoyed my time with Black Myth: Wukong. Even in just two hours of playtime, I felt like I got to experience a lot of combat progression and am excited to see how things continue to evolve as the game goes on. We won’t have to wait much longer to see how the full game shakes out, as Black Myth: Wukong releases on PC and PlayStation 5 on August 20.

About Our Report From Last Year

By Rebekah Valentine

Last year, we published a comprehensive report on IGN detailing a number of sexist and inappropriate remarks made by multiple developers of Black Myth: Wukong, including those in leadership roles at Game Science. As of the publication of this preview, Game Science has yet to provide any response or statement addressing our report or their past remarks.

Like Mitchell, I had the opportunity to see Black Myth: Wukong at Summer Game Fest, though my appointment was admittedly a little strange. I was told as a part of my invitation that Game Science would have a statement “related to the reports of sexism.” I arrived at the appointment and saw the game as planned, but when I asked for the promised statement, I was told by a PR representative, “Game Science is focused on the demo during Play Days and will only answer questions related to gameplay.”

Mitchell’s preview doesn’t need my validation, but for what it’s worth, I fully back everything he’s written here. Black Myth: Wukong looks like it’ll be a great game. It’s gorgeous, with snappy combat, fantastic monster design, and some really interesting boss fights. It is also true that several of the people who are making it have made disparaging remarks about women, and don’t seem to be interested either in retracting their past statements, or in supporting the numerous women who are being harassed in online conversations about Black Myth: Wukong purely for expressing their discomfort with those statements. Both of these ideas can exist simultaneously – what audiences want to do about this conflict is ultimately their choice.

One last note – I didn’t see any women or femme-coded characters in the demo, and I was able to confirm from Game Science that there were none present in the section of the game presented to the press. There will be women in the final game, but for now it is impossible to really comment on whether or not Game Science developers’ expressed beliefs permeate Black Myth: Wukong in a meaningful way.


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