Since Black Myth: Wukong released its first trailer three years ago, every year on August 20th, the developer Game Science has shown something new about the development progress of the game. However, what’s different this year is that we finally got to play it. Game Science held a large-scale Black Myth: Wukong hands-on event in Hangzhou China, inviting over one thousand players from all over the country to personally play the latest trial version of this anticipated action-RPG.
This 45-minute demo provided three different boss fights and a relatively complete chapter experience. It’s worth noting that after the event, the dev team made some adjustments to the trial version based on the feedback and suggestions received during the closed-door evaluation I participated in. As a result, my experience may differ slightly from what others experienced in Hangzhou and at Gamescom in Cologne.
Due to time limitations, this trial version did not include the level-up system. However, it provided players with a set of skills and equipment that will be obtained in the mid-game of the final version. In addition to basic light and heavy attacks, the protagonist’s attack stances can be switched between three different postures including Smash Form, Pillar Form, and Thrust Form at any time. Furthermore, spells such as Immobilize, Stone Solid, Ring of Fire, and The Pluck of Many are also available for use. There are also two transformation abilities: one turns you into the previously seen Fireblade Wolf, and the other results in a creature with poisonous attacks. Additionally, players will find and collect certain potions for in-game use. It’s important to note that these configurations may vary slightly depending on the different stages.
The first boss is named Centipede Guai, and it appeared in the first 13-minute gameplay trailer released in 2020. This time, it awaits players in a horrible cave. Its attack methods include rolling and heavy punches, as well as the ability to release poisonous gas. This gas inflicts a slow-acting poison effect on the protagonist, causing gradual health loss, which can only be cured by consuming antidote potions. However, this boss is considered relatively easy overall in terms of difficulty for this trial version. After becoming familiar with its attack patterns, most players should be able to defeat it easily.
The second boss is the Macaque Chief, as seen in the snow mountain of the 2021 trailer. This time, players can experience the sequence just as it was shown. You can observe how the protagonist’s movements and combat in the snow-covered terrain dynamically affect the accumulation of snow in real-time. This battle also holds a secret: if the Macaque Chief’s health is reduced to half within a certain time, it triggers his second phase. To encounter the monkey with wings, the protagonist needs to venture deeper into the scene. In this state, the monkey’s aggression, attack range, and attack patterns all increase significantly. It gains the ability to launch aerial assaults against the player, making for a thrilling and intense encounter.
The third boss is the Tiger Vanguard, who appeared in the 2022 trailer. This time, the Tiger Vanguard awaits players’ challenges in a blood pool in a temple. According to the developers, this boss will play a role in the storyline as an NPC who imparts the Stone Solid skill to the protagonist. Therefore, you will witness him using this skill during the battle. One highlight of this scene is how the water reacts and changes dynamically with the actions and combat. The Tiger Vanguard boasts the highest attack speed and aggression among the three bosses. Not only does he possess both physical and spell-based attack abilities, but his combo attacks also deal substantial damage, making it easy to fall victim to his assault.
The chapter experience provided during the Hangzhou event is called Purple Cloud Mountain. The overall scenery is somewhat reminiscent of the in-game footage shown in the 2022 trailer. This is a relatively complete level experience, featuring various environments such as forests, villages, and temples. There are also as many as four or five types of enemies waiting for players along the way. Don’t underestimate these minions, they also possess the ability to deliver a fatal blow to the protagonist with a single strike.
This level features a semi-open map with multiple paths for players to explore. It includes a short cutscene, an optional quest to obtain a new transformation ability , and a final boss encounter with the two-phase transformation, Blood Moon General. This boss is of enormous size, and the protagonist can only engage in battle by standing at its feet. It possesses the ability to unleash area-wide attacks, making dodging these attacks a challenge. Additionally, during its second phase transformation, the entire scene is shrouded in a blood moon, and its attack patterns undergo some changes.
There is also a detour path in the level that players might not easily find, where they can encounter a hidden boss, the Poisonous King. This creature has the appearance of a scorpion-like monster. After engaging in conversation with it, players need to break the wine barrel beside it to start the battle. This hidden boss presents the highest level of difficulty in this trial version. It possesses extremely fast attacks, deals heavy damage, and boasts skills that inflict poison on the protagonist. It took me nearly an hour of fighting to defeat it, and there were several instances where I succumbed to poison before being able to use the cure potion in time.
From my experience in this trial version, Black Myth: Wukong appears to be a classic action-RPG game that features both physical and spell attacks, along with an equipment and growth system. The protagonist’s weapon, the Golden Cudgel, changes its attack range based on the attack rhythm. Light attacks can accumulate Focus Points displayed in the bottom right corner of the screen, while heavy attacks consume these points. Combining light and heavy attacks can create combos. During a combo, if you press the heavy attack button just before an enemy’s attack is about to hit the protagonist, you can expend special points to execute a combo that deals greater damage to the enemy in an invincible status.
You can also jump and dodge. An instant-dodge allows the protagonist to create a phantom and evade the attacks while immediately counterattacking. It has no recovery time, allowing for consecutive evasions of enemy combo attacks but you need to focus on depleting your energy bar. According to the developers, the skill tree will include abilities that allow the phantom to explode, dealing damage to enemies.
Black Myth encourages players to combine physical and spell attacks. For instance, freezing an enemy with the Immobilize before attacking can result in dealing more damage to the enemy in a safer way. Additionally, the timing of spell usage affects their effectiveness. Using the Ring of Fire and then drinking the gourd will restore more health than using it outside the fire ring. Using The Pluck of Many allows you to summon a group of clones to assist you and temporarily disengage from battle. Moreover, after transforming, the protagonist can wield the specific weapons associated with the transformation, such as a fiery blade for the Fireblade Wolf or a poisonous attribute for the attacks of the Worm Man.
And while Black Myth shares some similarities in its mechanics with the Dark Souls series, the combat feel here is quite distinct from any other similar games. In my opinion, this distinction arises from the fact that, in other soulslike games, players typically wielded weapons like swords or axes, with the grip at the weapon’s end during combat. However, in Black Myth: Wukong, the main weapon is a staff, primarily held in the middle. The grip on the staff changes according to different moves, creating a varied rhythm and action, even changing the length of the staff in combat. The impact feedback from the staff striking enemies is quite distinctive as well. Coupled with the support from the spell system during combat, Black Myth: Wukong stands apart as an ARPG with a unique feel, differentiating itself from other ARPG and action games that have come before.
Ultimately, despite Game Science providing a substantial amount of gameplay content in this trial version, there are still numerous questions waiting to be answered. For example, whether the protagonist possesses other weapons, how the level-up system works and what the skill tree looks like, and how many transformations and spells are available—all of these questions can only be answered once the game is officially released.
Speaking of which, Black Myth: Wukong is currently scheduled for release in the summer of 2024. According to Game Science, the game is targeting a release on both PC and next-generation console platforms on day one.
Meanwhile, Game Science has also announced its participation in this year’s Gamescom and will be offering a playable version for global players at the event. Additionally, the Gamescom playable version may feature something different from the Hangzhou event. For more details about this new gameplay content, please stay tuned to IGN’s Gamescom coverage!
Charles Young is the editor-in-chief of IGN China.
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Author: Ryan McCaffrey