Recently a 13-minute trailer was released for Black Myth: Wukong, a new story-driven game from Chinese developer Game Science. The trailer showcases a stunning re-imagining of the timeless Chinese novel Journey to the West. The entire trailer is voiced in Chinese and only features subtitles for the opening, leaving English audiences with only a portion of the full story. This article is going to break down Journey to the West, the legacy of Wukong, and everything we know about Black Myth: Wukong so far.
A Journey to the West and Sun Wukong
The 16th-century book follows the journey of Xuanzang, a Chinese monk who travels to India to recover Buddhist scriptures. Accompanying him are four godlike bodyguards: the river ogre Zha Wujing, Pigsy who is also named Zhu Bajie, the dragon Yulong, and of course, Sun Wukong, the Monkey King.
Sun Wukong was the ruler of the monkey tribes on Flower Fruit Mountain, defeating numerous demons and earning gifts that furthered his formidable power. Among these are his gold armor gifted from the Dragon King of the East Sea, an eight-ton staff with gold bands that can grow or shrink at Wukong’s command, and boots that allow him to summon and ride a cloud. The Monkey King went to war with the Heavens, defeating most of the gods and consuming all peaches of immortality before he was confined to the depths of a mountain. Sun Wukong is released by Xuanzang with the condition that he must help the monk recover the Buddhist scriptures and earn redemption for his previous transgressions.
Journey to the West and Wukong have had their share of adaptations in modern media. The Monkey King is a common playable character in MOBAs, and the original book’s story arch is reflected in many western adaptations. The opening half of the trailer shows what is believed to be a young Wukong, donning a simple wooden staff and cloth armor. Visually, the trailer brings to life the world of Journey to the West and places the viewer in a mystical setting of talking demon animals and an ape with a vengeance. Anyone familiar with the analogous tale may think this is a retelling of Wukong’s journey, but they would be wrong.
As previously mentioned, all of the audio is in Chinese, as are the subtitles. Most of the clues about the storyline of the new IP come from translations made by Youtuber Serious Trivia. A charming yet nervous Earth God provides an exposition on the destruction of the Guanyin Monastery.
Despite its reconstruction, people no longer visit to worship. In Journey to the West, greedy Buddhist monks are the cause for the burning of the monastery, placing Black Myth: Wukong after the events of the novel. A sneaky suspicion is confirmed, as the younger monkey prepares to deliver a final blow to a wolf demon boss.
A staff, banded in gold on the ends, blocks the measly wooden quarterstaff, and the camera gives way to a boisterous Wukong, clad in golden armor and a Phoenix-feather helm. The trailer cuts to cinematic shots from the game following the younger monkey on a trek across a beautiful and dark world. Later it shows the golden armor-clad Wukong riding a cloud in pursuit of a white dragon, approaching what appears to be the Southern Gate to Heaven. The trailer ends with a large-scale battle between Wukong and a heavenly army.
Game Science have not confirmed anything about what the story will be about, but that hasn’t stopped speculation. The most popular guess is that the player will swap between this new Wukong and the former Monkey King through flashbacks.
Breaking down Wukong’s gameplay
Stepping away from speculation, this next portion focuses on the gameplay features of Black Myth: Wukong. We know that the game is going to be an action-adventure RPG that focuses on story-driven progression. In the trailer, we get a look at four different styles of combat that could appear in Black Myth: Wukong – minion battles, mini-boss fights, boss fights, and mob fights.
On the left-hand side of the screen, you can see that Wukong has four abilities, one of which is a steel-skin type ability that blocks all incoming damage, while another freezes the enemy in time and allows the Monkey King to unleash a devastating attack. Holding to the lore of Wukong, one of the other abilities summons a pack of clones to fight for him.
One thing to note is how Wukong seems to execute over a dozen different attacks throughout the trailer. At the bottom right of the screen, the monkey icon changes from time to time, indicating that Wukong may have stances that alter his attacks. This system works beautifully in Ghost of Tsushima, with each stance being more effective against certain enemy types.
Up until the first mini-boss fight, there is only one Chinese word, “Ape”, and when the fire-wielding wolf is defeated, a second word appears, “Wolf”. This “Ape” ability transforms Wukong into a demon monkey, triple his normal size and covered in black and white fur. Later on, when facing the main boss, Wukong transforms into the fiery wolf mini-boss he faced earlier, and cuts down the monstrous wolf demon, setting its fur ablaze. Wukong gains access to the previous boss’s move set and weapon, completely altering how the fight is approached. Each of these form abilities only lasts for a set period, and has a cooldown that is unspecified as of yet.
The 13-minute trailer was a recruitment video of sorts for Game Science. It was a way to showcase their current project and recruit staff members for the ambitious project. This will be the first AAA game produced by a Chinese studio, but so far, culture and passion seem to be the core of the project. Retelling a story such as Journey to the West can be a daunting task. Not only has it been done countless times, but the story and its themes have significant value in Chinese culture and history.