The Elden Ring fan community, starved for new information on their open world messiah, has become a force unto itself on the internet. The 54,500-member strong Elden Ring subreddit is a bustling nexus of memes, theories, fake lore, and earnest discussion of other Soulslike games, the most recent being Mortal Shell. Last month we even covered just how much Elden Ring fans were losing it over the lack of updates.
Now a new contender has appeared for Elden Ring fans’ attention—a 13-minute trailer for Black Myth: Wu Kong from Chinese studio Game Science. Based on Wu Cheng’en’s literary classic Journey to the West, the action-RPG revolves around the Monkey King in a gorgeous, moody open world. Wukong transforms himself into a cicada to sneak past mobs, fights his way through Dynasty Warriors-style seas of enemies, and overcomes a tough Souls-style boss fight. The video immediately clicked with a community thirsting for the sort of dark, gripping atmosphere usually associated with FromSoftware games. And the graphics looked so good, the developers had to take to social media to reassure fans the demo was actually playable.
From doesn’t have a monopoly on dark and gritty, but in pioneering the Souls genre, it's placed itself on an impossible pedestal. Developers who make Soulslikes are almost as passionately masochistic as the people who love to play them. Creating for the Soulsborne community means putting on full-body eldritch armor and watching your work get picked apart into dust.
So far the Elden Ring community has shown tremendous enthusiasm for Black Myth—noticeably more than for games like Mortal Shell, Hellpoint, and Remnant: From the Ashes. Scrolling through r/eldenring, critiques of Mortal Shell acknowledge the amazing work of a small indie studio, but commonly say the combat doesn't feel polished and the game is too short and lacks the emotion and atmosphere of a FromSoftware world. The Elden Ring community isn’t so much fixated on Elden Ring itself (there’s barely anything to fixate on, really), but the possibilities that come with it—a rich new vein to mine for lore and challenge. One redditor commented that playing Mortal Shell, which he admittedly enjoyed, simply drove him back to playing Sekiro and Dark Souls.
On the other hand, Black Myth taps into the glorious bounty of Journey to the West mythology. For Chinese players, there's an emotional connection to the stories they grew up with. For western players, it's an exciting, fresh interpretation of a story they may only know through Enslaved (or Dragon Ball's extremely loose interpretation). The Soulslike connection makes perfect sense, since Game Science cofounder Feng Ji was also heavily into Dark Souls when the game's development began. Early on, as reported by Chinese journalist ChuApp, he even tried a similar approach to level design.
On the Elden Ring Discord, member Danatello is dying for Elden Ring, his dream game. "The level of freedom… along with the dynamic nature of the world and its structure, it all just sounds so grand exciting," he said. Unlike many of his brethren, he hasn’t played Mortal Shell or Remnant, has never watched Game of Thrones, or read any of George RR Martin’s work. Danatello is simply biding his time.
While his favorite is Bloodborne, Black Myth mostly prompted him to think of Sekiro. "It’s even more warranted considering the dev team for Black Myth played Sekiro during the game’s development," he said, referring to Daniel Ahmad’s Twitter thread on Black Myth.
"[Mortal Shell’s world] is something that’s been done again and again but we need more vibrant Soulslikes," said Ultimatelype, another Elden Ring Discord member who also sees the Sekrio connection. For him, Black Myth’s appeal is a combination of atmosphere and pacing. "It was that Fountainhead Palace vibe and Senpou temple vibe that I really liked about the game."
The cultural setting of Black Myth is another big draw, with numerous Elden Ring fans vibing with the relatively untapped universe of Chinese mythology, at least in mainstream western gaming. There’s also its incredible art, perhaps the result of noted concept artist Yang Qi being one of the studio’s cofounders. "They’re both challenging third-person fantasy games so the fanbase overlaps significantly," said Danatello. "Pair that with the… level of polish, and it’s no wonder so many of us are interested in it."
Black Myth's combat seems like it has some Souls fans optimistic, too. A huge part of Wukong’s identity is built around his legendary weapons. We’re talking about his iconic staff, the Compliant Golden-Hooped Rod (如意金箍棒 or Ruyi Jingu Bang) which makes a dramatic appearance in the gameplay trailer. It can shrink! It can grow! Traditionally, Wukong keeps it stored safely behind his ear, like a cigarette. He’ll also be able to do Taoist-style metamorphoses—the 72 earthly transformations—which make for fascinating, dynamic battles. But the core fight mechanics look meaty enough, too, with each swing of the staff delivering a weighty impact.
"I did think it looks Soulslike at first glance, but I guess what they’re trying to do is find a style that works for Wukong, like how [you’d] imagine Wukong to fight," Shanghai-based indie publisher Zhu told me. Zhu also noted that Black Myth even took many in the Chinese scene by surprise, Game Science isn’t a well-known studio beyond its founders’ Tencent pedigree and past work on Asura, a separate Journey to the West-inspired MMO.
Much smaller Chinese studios have attempted Soulslike games before—earlier this year, TipsWorks’ Pascal’s Wager was a remarkable attempt at bringing a console experience to mobile. At least one member of r/eldenring said they still play Pascal’s Wager on an iPhone 8 while waiting for more Elden Ring information. Sinner made copycat waves in 2018, again drawing from the Souls well. Today you can sign up for early access to Bloody Spell—a game being made by three people—which borrows heavily from Souls games and adds martial arts elements.
What makes Black Myth stand apart is how polished it looks for a pre-alpha demo—especially one that appeared so suddenly, seemingly fully formed. "The dev team seem to be pretty honest people that are passionate about their project in the same way that Miyazaki looks to be passionate about Elden Ring," said Danatello.
There’s not much else known about Black Myth besides the fact that it’s coming to PC and consoles, so there’s a long road ahead—probably years before we see a version we can play ourselves. But still, 13 impressive minutes of Black Myth is leaps and bounds ahead of what we’ve seen of Elden Ring in development, which feels more like an elaborate prank with each month of silence. For now, with no release date for Black Myth, there’s nothing much to do but sit back and wait—something that Elden Ring fans are intimately familiar with.