Black Myth: Wukong – hands-on activities with an impressive first 2 hours

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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 releases this summer event season. But there was always something special about the Black Myth: Wukong. It’s stunningly handsome, the animations are incredibly polished, it’s steeped in opulent Chinese culture, and there’s just something incredibly satisfying about playing as the Monkey King and beating up all sorts of mythical creatures with a giant extendable staff. While this isn’t IGN’s first time hands-on with the game, it is my first time with it in person – and after two hours of playing with the opening chapter, I somehow came away even more excited for its August 20 release.

IGN China has already done this extensive preview how Wukong plays in the slow game, with many of his techniques, stances, and transformations already unlocked, which is great because my two hours pretty much covered the very beginning of the game. The first thing I noticed when I started playing was how polished and quick Wukong feels in control. Many souls are built on a foundation of slower and more methodical fighting, but Wukong is exceptionally quick and agile. There’s actually no lock button from the start. Wukong can swing his staff to block projectiles, but when it comes to melee attacks, everything should be avoided. To that end, there’s a Bayonetta-style dodge system where you can dodge very quickly up to three times, but after the third time you’re penalized with a long recovery time to try and stop people from mindlessly mashing the dodge button.

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Wukong is exceptionally quick and agile.

Perfectly timed dodges will reward you with extra focus, and when your focus bar is filled, you’ll have a focus point that allows you to combine a weighty attack with a string of airy combos for weighty damage. Later, these focus points can also be spent on all sorts of special moves that you unlock in the skill tree, which we’ll talk about later.

Wukong also has access to a number of spells that consume his mana. I really just need to play around with the immobilize spell, which, as you can imagine, freezes the enemy in place and allows you to sneak in a few free hits before the spell’s effect wears off. Stronger enemies, especially bosses, are much less affected by this spell, and have sometimes been able to completely shrug it off.

Even early on, combat was a fun dance of actively looking for opportunities to dodge enemy attacks and finding openings to attack, while also keeping an eye on my focus meter so I could operate a damaging weighty attack whenever I had the chance while also managing my mana and time renewing my immobilization spell. I finally got through the first transformation, which turns Wukong into an absolute beast with much stronger attacks and an extremely devastating super attack that he can operate after dodging if he can concentrate. One of his moves in this transformation is a lightning-quick dash attack, which made me feel like I was basically turning into the boss I got the transformation from.

I later added another tool to my repertoire: the tower stance, which traded my weight-bearing overhead forceful attack for the ability to stand on a staff and avoid damage on the ground for as long as my stamina could endure. If I could stay on the staff long enough for the focus point to charge, I could spend it to jump off the staff, spin it around, and come crashing down with a powerful impact that was incredibly chilly to perform.

All of these stances, along with my overall combat abilities, can be improved through a level-up system that works similarly to Sekiro. By defeating enemies, you will gain Will, which forms a bar in the upper right corner of the screen. When the bar fills, you gain Spark, which you can operate to purchase upgrades from one of the various skill trees. Once you fill the bar and accumulate a point, you cannot lose it. You can even add this skill point whenever you want, not just at the temple that serves as a bonfire-like checkpoint for Wukong. However, if you die before you can fill the bar, some of that experience will be lost in typical soul fashion.

But don’t be fooled into thinking that Wukong is an simple game, because it certainly isn’t. The enemies are aggressive, the bosses are relentless, especially in the second phase, and you only have a few recovery potions to keep you alive. I also managed to find a secret boss room behind the waterfall, which took me to a dragon boss that just absolutely blew me away. Fortunately, you can teleport from shrine to shrine, so you’ll be able to return to it much later as you upgrade your gear and add more points to your skill tree. Speaking of gear, I didn’t find much, but I did find enough to at least know that there are armor sets that provide additional bonuses for wearing multiple pieces of gear from that set.

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

The levels themselves were quite linear and had several branches that led to obtaining some treasure or item. However, the real star of the show was the boss battles. Even in just two hours, I fought a wide variety of bosses, from a fast-paced wolf boss from which I grabbed my first transformation, to a mule-kicking frog in human clothing, to an incredibly hard two-phase battle with a snake man.

Overall, I really enjoyed my time with Black Myth: Wukong. Even in just two hours of play, I felt like I experienced a lot of progress in combat, and I’m excited to see how things develop as the game progresses. We won’t have to wait long to see what the full version of the game will look like, as Black Myth: Wukong will be released on August 20 for PC and PlayStation 5.

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