Black Myth: Wukong is pretty, intriguing and as challenging as it looks

Black Myth: Wukong is pretty, intriguing and as challenging as it looks

Black Myth: Wukong is gorgeous. It’s built up a lot of momentum, feeding trailer after gorgeous trailer, and at Summer Game Fest this year, I finally got to play it. Is it just a gorgeous tech demo with a heavy dose of Chinese mythology or your next gaming challenge?

A Chinese folk story, Journey to the West, inspired Game Science Studio’s action RPG. You play as the “destined one,” a monkey hero wielding an extending bo-staff and a handful of magic spells. I was given the higher-specced (though undisclosed) PC rig to play on, ensuring all that Unreal Engine 5 eye candy had a fighting chance of running smoothly. While less than an hour with a game won’t give the definitive answer, Wukong ran smoothly despite my chaotic play style. The game has been held up as a major example of next-gen graphical tech, so I’m relieved it didn’t chug during my demo.

I played a relatively early part of the game, starting with the Forest of Wolves and the Guanyin Temple. I fought my way through several typical wolf-humanoid enemies, a bigger mid-level boss and then a giant wolf creature. On the way, I unlocked the ability to transform into one of the monsters, summoning their flaming weapon and opening up new attacks and skills. Midway through the demo, an old man with a head like a ginseng root gave me an immobilization spell with its own cooldown meter and offered me a brief reprieve against more dangerous foes, like the final giant wolf. He also briefly transformed me into an insect, able to fly over enemies’ heads. This was fun but will apparently only be available at certain points in the game — you won’t be able to dodge all the fights.



However, you won’t progress (or even stay alive long) unless you get a handle on the basics. Attacks are separated into light and heavy, with the ability to charge the heavy attack for even stronger blows. Given how stamina drains during attacks, you’ll need to keep on top of defense, too, with jumps and dodges. Dodge perfectly, and time slows a little, an extra illusion of yourself appears and you get to pull a few extra moves before an enemy realizes what happened.

As you progress, you earn points to unlock new skills from a talent tree, which teases three staff styles to switch between. I unlocked the ‘pillar’ style, so my character could vault up to the top of his staff and ‘grow’ it by holding the strong attack button. This way, you avoid ground-level attacks. But if enemies hit your staff, your stamina (but not your health) takes a hit.

Releasing the button unleashes an extra strong move that seems to daze enemies if it interrupts their attack. It’s high risk, high reward and, like the best action RPGs, there’s nothing more satisfying than nailing the timing and move choice. Wukong’s battle system means you can’t just spam attacks and dodge rolls, as both burn through a stamina bar, which sits next to your health bar. The destined one also carries a rechargeable health potion, but he has to pause to use it. More risk and reward: If you don’t use it in a timely way, you’ll die and get reincarnated a few minutes down the mountain and have to face (or run past) most of the enemies you’d already dispatched — the fundamental backbone of soulslike games like Wukong. The battle system seemed responsive, and the biggest challenges came from groups of warriors: I had to combine evasion with prioritizing, say, the archer, before other enemies.

Black Myth: Wukong

Game Science

It’s all elevated by how good the environment looks, the bizarre monster design and the quiet, unsettling soundtrack. The giant wolf boss I encountered was small potatoes compared to other enemies the developer teased in earlier trailers — I want to fight that dragon. While the protagonist was entirely taciturn during my demo, Game Science, the studio behind the game, says the player will “uncover the stories behind various characters, understanding their love and hate, greed and anger, past lives and present.” I’m intrigued to see how that goes.

Black Myth: Wukong is, finally, almost here. It launches on PC and PS5 on August 20, 2024.

Catch up on all of the news from Summer Game Fest 2024 right here!

By John Routledge

Founder and owner of - I'm an avid tech junkie, a lover of new gadgets and home automation. You will often find me reading, writing, and learning about new technologies. I've been featured in many leading technology magazines where I've written about my favorite topics.