A trailer for the hitherto unknown Black Myth: Wukong dropped a little under two weeks ago and in that time the hitherto unknown game has become the talk of the town. But what is it? Who’s making it? And when is it coming out? All these questions, and more (like its connection to Dragon Ball Z and the scandal brewing on Chinese social media), are answered below!
WHAT IS BLACK MYTH: WUKONG?
The trailer gives us a 13-minute glimpse of official gameplay footage for the mysterious Black Myth: Wukong and seems to show us an exquisitely rendered action RPG set in ancient China.
It begins with the camera following a bee through a detailed mountainous forest, giving us a brief tour of the terrain and establishing a clearcut fantasy setting with a few anthropomorphic fox warriors. The airborne tour suddenly ends with the bee suddenly transforming into the titular Wukong and leaping right into crisp real-time combat. A minute of staff-swinging violence later and we’re introduced to a boss fight that puts a few combat skills on display and demonstrates a fluid combat system with a particular emphasis on dodge mechanics.
It only takes a couple of minutes to see a second transformation, this time as an enormous monkey-hulk that makes short work of a whole cadre of fox warriors. The second half of the trailer sports an extended, seemingly difficult boss fight that shows us a Naruto-esque clone skill Wukong uses in a tight spot, followed by a third transformation into the first boss we saw defeated earlier.
The final minute shows us a glimpse of what we can expect from the rest of the game. Huge (we mean Shadow of the Colossus huge) boss fights, nimbus-riding, and a particularly diverse array of stunning environments.
Black Myth Release Date
So, what’s the release date, you ask? Well, we hate to break it to you that Black Myth’s maker Game Science has given indication yet when the game would be reaching the public — or if it will be released anytime soon. But for what it’s worth, they are indeed aiming for a simultaneous release on PC, console, and game-streaming services when the fateful day finally arrives.
WHAT WE SEE: Journey to the West, Dark Souls and Dragon Ball
Based on the thirteen minutes of gameplay footage, we see a game with more than a passing resemblance to FromSoftware’s souls-like. With the brutal-looking real-time combat, rich level design, and a particular emphasis on extended boss fights, it’s pretty safe to say we’re looking at Journey to the West meets Dark Souls. And that sounds awesome.
The game is clearly based on Sun Wukong, a.k.a Handsome Monkey King, from Journey to the West, the 16th century classic of Chinese literature that follows the pilgrimage of the Tang dynasty Buddhist monk, Xuanzang, as he searches for sacred Buddhist texts. Many of the combat skills seen in the trailer, from the multiple transformations to the cloning, cloud riding, and his special staff come straight out of the original lore in faithful form.
Some of these abilities might look strikingly familiar to even those unfamiliar with Wukong or Journey to the West. Indeed, these are all abilities shared by Goku, the main character of the Dragon Ball Franchise. Everything from the re-sizable staff (called the Power Pole in Dragon Ball), to the nimbus cloud and even the giant ape transformation (known as the Oozaru in the manga/series), Son Goku’s character is directly based on Sun Wukong, and thus the millions of Dragon Ball fans out there have yet another reason to be excited for Black Myth: Wukong.
The game seems to take special emphasis on fidelity to the original lore. In Journey to the West, Wukong plucks hairs from his head to transform into whatever he needs, frequently clones of himself. We see that very cloning skill in the trailer, and while the animation doesn’t show it explicitly, there is a definite particle effect that looks something like hair.
A key moment in the novel comes when Wukong, after growing annoyed at the Jade Emperor for being annoyed at him, decides to start causing trouble throughout heaven with the sort of mischief only a superpower-endowed monkey can create. In response, the Four Heavenly Kings decide to lead an entire army of celestial warriors to deal with him. And, well…
Wukong beats the pants off everybody. All 100,004 of them.
Now, if you look at the sneak-peak sequence at the end, you’ll notice a moment at 11:38 where we catch Wukong running along the greenish-bronze face of a colossal being that looks suspiciously like one of the Heavenly Kings, followed by a closing sequence starting at 11:52 that shows clouds whipping and whirling around Wukong as he enters the Matrix against an entire army in the clouds. This suggests that the creators are taking special care to showcase the lore as it was originally written, so a good place to learn more might actually be Journey to the West itself.
Why was Jade Emperor annoyed with Wukong in the first place? Well, because he appointed Wukong as Guardian of the Heavenly Peach Garden, where the peaches grow only once every 3000 years and a single bite of which is enough to bestow everlasting immortality.
So of course Wukong ate all of them.
And when the Heavens became justifiably annoyed and uninvited him to their feast, Wukong made enough noise to get an entire army sent after him and then proceeded to beat the crap out of the said army when it showed up. Yeah, Wukong has a special sort of swagger, and there’s a reason his character has proven so enduring and memorable through literal centuries.
Developer’s Mixed Feelings and Scandal
The trailer, which has since gone viral, was never meant to be a commercial promo. Rather, Game Science, the few-dozen strong indie developer team behind the game, isn’t exactly over the moon about the number of eyeballs suddenly on the project. So much so that Feng Ji, founder of Game Science, went to great lengths to detail everything he felt was wrong with the trailer in a lengthy post on the Chinese social media site, Weibo, and explained that its primary purpose was to attract talent to the project in order to expand the development team.
Let’s say, a monkey wrench was thrown into the gears six days ago when South China Post reported some fan outcry over sexually explicit jokes made by Feng Ji on Weibo, with some calling for a boycott of what many hoped might be the best AAA title to come out of China. It seems a movement unlikely to take hold in the face of what might be an extended wait for the final product and the near-universal thrill at those thirteen golden minutes of gameplay.
Excited for Black Myth: Wukong? Think the boycott has any merit or traction? Let us know, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we’re done speed-reading the rest of Journey to the West.