Unveiling the Charm of Black Myth: Wukong: Beyond the Bounds of Soulslike

Some new game has emerged in the shadows of the action RPG – a growing, lingering shadow that might irrevocably alter the landscape of player expectations. Black Myth: Wukong is a game that whispers of myth and magic to the unwary and credulous. To see it credited with no more than a superficial resemblance to a Soulslikesays rather less about itself than it says about the critical atmosphere surrounding it. Black Myth: Wukong clamours to be judged by more than a simple checklist of aesthetics and mechanics. And, when viewed through the proper overlay, it can be seen to stand confidently, even comfortably, in a space that it has staked for itself.


A Journey Begins with a Single Step

From the moment I first played Black Myth: Wukong as part of the Summer Game Fest demo, I knew I was in for something that would demand preconceptions to be tossed aside despite its genre familiarity. This was to be a Soulslike, at least initially. This was to be an action RPG, for sure. But, this was to be neither quite like those experiences before.

Speed Meets Strategy

Battled through the instinctual quick-time events of its thickly forested opening chapters, it offers up an intuitive combat system whose speed never comes at the expense of depth. The hero’s rapid-fire combos keep you on the front foot at all times, demanding you stay on the offensive, but the lack of a traditional block or parry button injectk a dose of tactical complexity, pushing you to string together a dance of dodges and measured strikes.


Depth Beneath the Surface

A 90-minute demo of Black Myth: Wukong already seemed to indicate an intricate skill tree – an abundance of paths that could utterly transform how you approached combat. Attack stances! Frost spells! Monkey turning into a demon! You could make an entire other game just getting to the top of that tree.


A Genre in Flux

This is where Black Myth: Wukong fits the bill, marrying this tradition of speedrunning with RPG elements. The dearth of Soulslike mechanics and progression system (based on experience points instead of upgrades) is one of the major ways Black Myth: Wukong stands apart from its contemporaries; it straddles genres, with the lack of corpse runs and addition of experience points influencing the game leveling system and how we level our characters.

Facing the Challenge

Even so, despite having so few of the hallmarks of Soulslike games, Black Myth: Wukong doesn’t hesitate to put you to the challenge. Boss fights are punishing – as tough as you’d want them to be in places – and strategic.


Beyond the Horizon

Although the Chinese origins lend a much richer backstory to the characters, mythologies and landscapes, Wukong hasn’t enjoyed an era of gaming renown. Black Myth: Wukong appears poised to change that. Set into a visually splendid world of Chinese mythology, the game seems poised to offer an action RPG that combines the tight challenge and sense of agency that gamers feel when engaging with the environment, alongside the sense of flux, discovery and serendipity that many players feel when they explore freely. Black Myth: Wukong is due out in an expected launch on PlayStation 5 and PC soon.


Looking Forward

Black Myth: Wukong promises the best of both worlds, something new and yet already recognisable. It’s a welcome new take on the action RPG genre, and one that leaves its players on tenterhooks as they await its release. Looking over the trailers, there’s an appealing sense of potential. It’s a promising genre-stretching game that ponders where the Soulslike form truly ends, and finds its answer in the adventure, combat and Chinese mythology constructed in its place.


‘Sense’ in the context of a game, especially when thinking about Black Myth: Wukong, is this feeling that players develop when they learn more and more about the game and begin to understand its rhythms. It’s being able to appreciate the intricate design of the world and how it flows; it’s being able to anticipate how the game-feel will evolve. The more sense you get, the better you’ll be able to deal with the challenges of the game you’re playing, and the more you’ll enjoy the experience!

But even as Black Myth: Wukong sets out to change the game and do what it wishes and as it wishes, it does so with a strong sense of self and a journey that feels like an adventure outside genre norms, and invites the player to find their own sense of wonder along the way.

Jun 17, 2024
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