Hands On: Will Wuthering Waves Really Replace Genshin Impact on PS5, PS4? 1
Image: Push Square

Wuthering Waves has released worldwide amid a global marketing campaign likely to have HoYoverse’s higher-ups in cold sweats. The game has seen wall-to-wall promotion here in Asia, where the release’s anime promotional material can be glimpsed in every baseball commercial break, inside most subway stations, and even plastered across giant skyscraper billboards. To say that Kuro Games has bet the proverbial bank on this open world gacha would be an understatement.

But with the PS5 and PS4 release date still at least several months away, does it really have the legs to outpace Genshin Impact, the game it’s clearly gunning for?

Early impressions based on the PC and mobile build are mixed. There’s no doubt the title has potential: its character designs, despite doing little to distance itself from its contemporaries, are eye-grabbing – and there are definitely heroes you’ll want to pull for. Calcharo – who’s effectively Sephiroth in all but name – looks menacing with his long grey locks and furrowed brows, while Chixia is much cutesier, with her red bob, freckles, and black bow.

Hands On: Will Wuthering Waves Really Replace Genshin Impact on PS5, PS4? 2

The game’s fantasy world is darker and drearier than Genshin Impact, but this is no bad thing. An early city location is much larger in scale than Monstadt, the introductory town in HoYoverse’s hit, and it feels more lived in as a result. The open expanses feel a smidgeon busier, too – open world exploration feels more rewarding in these early exchanges than the likes of Liyue ever did at launch.

This is aided, perhaps, by significantly better exploration mechanics. Genshin Impact feels a bit stilted in 2024, with stamina limited unless you’ve collected enough arbitrary items to increase it. This isn’t the case in Wuthering Waves, where there’s a much more forgiving energy system, allowing you to more or less get exactly where you want. A grappling hook and improved glider provide even greater navigation options, making getting about an entertaining activity.

Combat is also superior. While it doesn’t have the depth of a true character action like Devil May Cry or Stellar Blade, there’s more depth here than Genshin Impact – certainly with regards to its earlier characters, anyway. Dodge is an important mechanic, while teams of three need to be cycled through to trigger “outro” events, which either replenish health, buff combat, or perform other important utilities.

Hands On: Will Wuthering Waves Really Replace Genshin Impact on PS5, PS4? 4

There are also Echoes, which can be absorbed from defeated enemies. These are Wuthering Waves’ version of Artifacts, and similarly they provide statistical boosts that will buff your favourite characters in key areas. However, the key twist here is that they can also be collected like Pokémon and used in combat, so you can temporarily transform into a gorilla to pound the ground or a giant turtle to trigger important defensive statistics.

While this is fun, it’s one of the few original ideas the game actually has. Structurally, this is identical to Genshin Impact, almost to the point of plagiarism. The gacha system works exactly the same, and many of the currencies are resources can be compared 1:1 with those in HoYoverse’s game. While this does make onboarding easier for fans of the existing game, it remains to be seen what ideas Kuro Games actually has of its own, beyond the abovementioned Echoes system.

The developer has also borrowed the worst aspects of Genshin Impact, such as the inexplicable storytelling, which is stuffed with generic proper nouns that even the most engaged player will struggle to keep track of. This is the worst kind of fiction: where you’re just bombarded with the lore to the point of oversaturation. It’s hard to understand why this keeps happening in all Chinese developed titles of this ilk.

Hands On: Will Wuthering Waves Really Replace Genshin Impact on PS5, PS4? 5

Of course, despite the very obvious similarities, it’s hard to directly compare Wuthering Waves to Genshin Impact, simply because the latter has a four-year head start on the former. For that reason, it’s difficult to imagine how Kuro Games will steal players away, when many have invested thousands upon thousands of hours into their accounts.

Perhaps the real positive here will be the pressure it puts on HoYoverse. The latter, in anticipation of its rival, already announced that it will be upping Resin restrictions with its next major update. Many fans have felt that, certainly in comparison to Honkai: Star Rail, Genshin Impact has stopped trying to keep players engaged. With the threat of a legitimate rival on the horizon, perhaps this will force the developer to work a bit harder to hold onto fans.

Do you think Wuthering Waves will have the legs to steal players away from Genshin Impact? Have you managed to try out the latest and greatest gacha yet? Pull your opinions into the comments section below.