Developed by Chinese studio Game Science, Black Myth: Wukong has garnered a lot of attention since its unveiling back in 2020. After years of unbelievable trailers and gameplay footage, it's now just a couple of months away. Such is the excitement around this title that, after emailing the team as soon as we were able about a booking at Summer Game Fest Play Days, we were told there were no more slots available. Thankfully, the studio was able to accommodate us before we left Los Angeles, and we can now say we've played its upcoming action RPG. After about two hours, we think this is easily among the most exciting games heading to PS5.

Based on the seminal Chinese story Journey to the West, you play as Sun Wukong, a legendary monkey that's a master of both magic and martial arts. We played an early portion of the game in which you explore Black Wind Mountain. Running in Unreal Engine 5, the game looks stunning, with the forest ruins populated by various animal-based demons to fight.

We'd hesitate to call this a Soulslike — it's more Souls-adjacent, with some elements of that action game subgenre, but a touch more forgiving. Enemies, aside from bosses and mini-bosses, respawn when you die, and you can rest up at specific points within each location. However, you don't lose all your earned XP when defeated, instead simply losing a small percentage. You can pause whenever you like, too, and can upgrade yourself in the skill tree from the menu. The environment design feels more linear here, with some fairly wide spaces to explore but no sign of locations wrapping back onto themselves. In terms of difficulty, we'd say it still provides a very stern challenge, but Wukong's abilities give you a significant leg-up.

Hitting enemies with your basic combo builds up Will, which can then be spent using a heavy attack. If you land the hit, you'll gain back a small bit of health. Dodging is your main source of defence, with no block or parry in the demo. We had access to two of Wukong's three stances. Smash feels like the balanced, all-rounder type stance that'll serve you well with its simple combo and basic heavy slam attack. The other stance, Pillar, changes your main combo a little, but its big difference is the heavy; Wukong will climb to the top of his staff and it'll grow in size over time, getting you out of harm's way before you release it with a powerful smash. Both feel good to use, with the Pillar stance's heavy being particularly satisfying to land.

It isn't just melee strikes at your disposal, though. We quickly gain access to a spell called Immobilise which, as its name suggests, freezes the enemy temporarily. This allows you to smack them around for a few precious seconds before they're freed, which is an extremely handy tool to use in boss fights. Magic attacks like this one restore over time, meaning you can't cheese fights with endless Immobilise castings.

Speaking of bosses, the demo includes several. Some are large, intimidating beasts, while others are formidable human warriors. Guangzhi is of the latter type, and upon defeating him, you gain a powerful transformation spell, allowing Wukong to temporarily turn into the warrior and utilise his weapon and abilities. It seems this transformation feature will be a big part of Black Myth, and it feels like a natural part of the already solid combat. The cooldown on this is longer than for spells like Immobilise, but it's a great power trip that can melt enemy health bars if you use it right.

Our favourite boss we fought is a highly aggressive, giant, wolf-like demon, which you may remember from Black Myth's debut. This feels like a real test of all the game's systems: chipping away with the staff, hitting with heavy attacks when the time is right, freezing the boss with magic, and transforming to Guangzhi for some bigger punishment. All the bosses we sampled feel fraught and dangerous, though comfortably surmountable once you learn their patterns. As with all action games of this ilk, it feels brilliant when you get into the groove.

Aside from fighting bosses and regular enemy mobs, we visit numerous shrines at which you can rest and adjust which abilities you have equipped, and partake in a peaceful meditation sequence that offers a break from the action. This is where the gorgeous visuals really came into view, with the camera cutting to various picturesque shots of the environment. The game also ran wonderfully throughout our playtime, but we should say we were playing on a PC; the PS5 version will hopefully be able to keep up, but the jury's still out on that front.

We concluded our demo butting heads against a very tough opponent, getting within a couple of hits of defeating them but never quite managing the win. If we'd only had 10 more minutes, they'd be dead, damnit. Black Myth: Wukong has the same addictive pull of all your favourite action RPGs; through repeated attempts, you'll gradually learn how to deal with each boss, and putting it all into practice and finally coming up victorious is just as satisfying here as ever.

Though we didn't quite finish the hands-on demo, we thoroughly enjoyed our time. If the PS5 version is just as slick and performs just as well, Black Myth: Wukong could well become a 2024 favourite for many.

Black Myth: Wukong is coming up fast, releasing on PS5 on 20th August, 2024. Are you looking forward to it? Let us know in the comments section below.