Wuthering Waves – PC Review

Wuthering Waves recently embraced its full global launch, hailed by many to be the first real competition to the gacha flagship Genshin Impact. Genshin has long and firmly occupied the top of the gacha space, now shared with its younger sibling Honkai: Star Rail, and the previous Genshin Killer in the face of Tower of Fantasy didn’t manage to measure up. So it is up to the developers of the rather successful Punishing: Gray Raven to try and move MiHoYo from the pedestal.

Wuthering Waves copies a lot of Genshin mechanics as well as features from other MiHoYo projects while adding some modifications for the better. The changes are very specific. The setting of the game is sci-fi instead of the usual magic-wielding fantasy, which significantly changes the visual component of the game. Additionally, the game engine itself (Unreal Engine 4) is significantly different from Genshin’s. And, while it is one of the topics that raises a lot of game questions, there will be more on that later.

This is our Wuthering Waves PC review. Dig right in, but remember: spoilers for the main plot ahead!

Before diving into the game mechanics, let’s take a quick look at the overall plot of the game, without spoiling too many details and twists.

The game starts with the protagonist going through a psychedelic dream where an unknown girl punches a hole through their chest before tossing the hero into the abyss and literally turning their world upside down. Following that, we encounter the classic gacha trope: the protagonist is found unconscious by some girls who were passing by, and the hero cannot remember anything from their past. Thus, the newly named Rover starts this adventure with a clean slate, finding themself not too far from the city of Jinzhou. There is also a huge dragon statue, created in honor of the guardian of the city of Jue… who is not too averse to running into the protag’s visions, further proving that Rover is not that simple.

A little later, the hero’s exclusivity is further confirmed by having access to a special ability: a way to absorb local echoes of enemies. The protagonist can consume especially strong ones and seal them in their terminal. This sequence raises more questions rather than offering more answers: for example, where did the protag get the terminal that are supposed to only belong to Resonators. However, a message from the Judge – a head of the nearby city – speaks of the arrival of an unusual guest that is to be aided in all their endeavors and prompts our character to set out to meet the Judge to figure out what’s going on.

It is clear that developers are trying to harmoniously fit Rover into the world of the game by using such a plot tool, but there could and should have been a less primitive way to go about it. The plot really begins when the protagonist arrives in the city and immediately gets introduced to the way things are running in these parts.

In particular, the protag gets a lecture on the city having a research center and a library that contains the data of almost the entire humanity, and Rover’s hallucinations are caused by the fact that the frequencies of the anomaly and the protag’s subconsciousness coincide. Unlike the side-quests, main story dialogues cannot be skipped, even if they spend 70% of the time rambling on barely connected topics. In this case, going for quality of writing over the quantity of spoken lines would have been a stronger and more engaging choice.

Wuthering Waves_Screen_1

Wuthering Waves has it rough when it comes to the presentation of story in-game. It is hard to work up empathy or interest towards the characters, with the sole exception of the antagonist, who so far turned out to be quite intriguing and charismatic. Most other characters present in the plot act as cardboard cutouts with, admittedly, pretty cool facial animations but with no motivations or emotions. The protagonist is a happy-go-lucky puppy that goes where they are told, does what is needed and never doubts the sincerity of others.

The local Judge could have taken the role of a local schemer or, at least, a strong, interesting leader, but her entire role in the plot is limited to sending messages with information to further the plot. There is also a single 6-minute long meeting with the protagonist that gives absolutely no useful information.

The dialogue staging faces a similar problem. Generally speaking, each scene uses 4-5 production angles that usually focus either on characters’ faces or on their fingers. The aforementioned dialogue with Judge Jinshi is a vivid example. Instead of making at least a slide show, the game shows two characters idly standing and barely moving for almost 6 minutes, featured in a number of angles. An important chat with the leader of an entire city deserves at least a cutscene.

All the narrative tools meant to keep players interested and intrigued run into a very blunt main story ending that makes it not at all interesting to keep farming after you’ve experienced the plot. No real plot twists, sudden appearances of characters, crazy secrets, just an overall feeling of “meh”. To me, the story and quests are as important to a gacha as a variety of unique characters and mechanics, after all it is the main source of experience for any player’s account. However, Wuthering Waves’ way is to ensure you’d rather do anything else, be it farming Bosses and Echoes, scouring the map for collectibles and puzzles, just to avoid questing.

The game provides information as to the reason the fighting is going on around the middle of the currently available plot. The entirety of it is explained at the very end. In my opinion, the plot of Wuthering Waves so far had been one of the weakest I’d seen.

The component that’s been clearly created with love and creativity is the combat system of the game, the developers have tried really hard to make it beautiful and interesting, and have largely succeeded. The battles are dynamic and bewitching, no worse than those from a full-scale slasher. Such an effect is achieved with the help of several tools: combo-attacks, the parry mechanics, character swap effects, active Echo, and more.

Of course you could simply click our way through any battle if you really wanted to do so, but the developers managed to competently integrate full-fledged mechanics of various combinations and effects to encourage players to combine different attacks for maximum profit.

Each character has a light and heavy attack, an attack in the air, special energy spent on unique moves and ultimates as well as intro/outro skills. The combos are unique to characters, with some simply requiring 4 light attacks, and some demanding more exact actions. For example, three light attacks into a heavy to launch an enemy in the air, at which point you can use up the special energy to finish them off airborne.

The parry mechanics reward players for paying attention to enemies on the battlefield, since a successful parry knocks out a lot of endurance from normal enemies and even bosses. Fighting battles against numerous trash-tier opponents might not require one to pay too much attention to parrying, however, boss battles elevate this gameplay element greatly. Not only does it feel great to deflect or interrupt a boss attack, some mechanics actively require you to do so.

The further you move in the plot, the more involved the bosses’ moves become, and therefore the harder it gets to parry them successfully. Failing to parry a couple of boss attacks could easily lead to Rover’s death on high levels and at the end of the currently available story.

Intro/outro skills are the automatic special abilities that are used when you swap characters, provided you have enough accumulated energy. They might not look too hot at first, but moving through the plot and upgrading your characters make them quite pleasant to use. The protagonist’s intro skill in the spectro branch creates a small explosion at the landing site, while the outro skill allows the following character to enter battle in a kind of slo-mo. On the higher levels of these skills, you can build entire large combinations from character swaps and their skills. Even considering the game’s modest lineup of starting characters, these skills open a large selection of commands for different situations.

The last (but certainly not the least): Echo. Echo is something like ghosts of monsters and bosses that can sometimes be acquired after vanquishing enemies. Each Echo has its own active ability that allows players to commit certain actions. For example, an Echo can deal damage all on its own, or transform the hero to carry out certain attacks. Some deal constant damage, others offer a large burst, a third yet can slow down or imprison an enemy.

The game offers a large world to explore even in its very first iteration, filled with a great number of all kinds of chests, puzzles, flowers, ores, and other materials. We all know intrusive thoughts won’t let you simply run by interactables and collectibles.

The world also features a great heap of various puzzles and mini-games: tetris, dimensional puzzles, jumping puzzles, and so much more. There are no restrictions on the time of opening chests (like in ToF), Wuthering Waves also offers a convenient fast travel system and a number of pleasant movement mechanics.

  • Sprint doesn’t spend stamina outside battle;
  • You have a hook that allows you to overcome average distances swiftly (uses up stamina);
  • A jump in the air consumes stamina and resets when you touch the ground;
  • Wall-running consumes stamina but allows you to climb faster;
  • More control over your movements when sliding along the slope;
  • If you come across a ledge while wall-running, your character can grab and climb it;
  • If you hold any movement key (WASD) when you stop sliding, your character will continue moving in that direction when falling. You can also stop at any time;
  • Gadget menu slows down while you are choosing a tool.

World exploration is an extremely comfy activity, you can easily spend hours digging through the locations. The game offers a wide variety of biomes, diverse in visuals and designs: forests, swamps, deserts, scorched ruins, and much more.

Another area where Wuthering Waves is currently suffering is the overall character design. Not the animations and the attack VFX, those have received a lot of attention and are quite smooth and catchy during battles, leading to the execution of juicy combos. However, the game itself currently features zero really memorable and unique characters. A lot of heroes you encounter also give a vague feeling of deja vu, as if you’ve seen them already somewhere…

The game’s music, however, is something simply gorgeous. Relaxing melodies playing during the world exploration, excellent dynamic tracks in combat, mysterious and contemplative music when Rover’s attempting to solve puzzles. Certain pieces of OST, for example the battle against the Inferno Raider, I will happily add to my playlist to listen to outside of the game.

However, in addition to music, we also have voice acting. Sadly, the English localization feels like simple reading of the text, lacking emotions and expressions. In especially dire cases it can even feel like the text was simply fed to a neural-network.

When it comes to other systems, if you have spent any time at all in Genshin Impact or Honkai: Star Rail, then you have seen them all. Wuthering Waves decided not to take any risks and simply copied the homework of older comrades. The menu, banners, energy system called the Wavematter, everything matches one-to-one. On the flip side, it also means that the game has not added anything new to the genre, sticking to the safe lane.

Wuthering Waves offers the Tower of Adversity or ToA, a high-level and high-difficulty game mode where you challenge the tower and its floors. Many players and the developers alike consider it to be an endgame of sorts that will test your mettle and skills.

The Tower is separated into three zones:

  • Stable Zone (1 tower, 4 stages);
  • Experimental Zone (2 towers with 4 stages each, 8 stages total);
  • Danger Zone (2 towers with 4 stages and one more tower with 2 stages, 10 stages total).

In the Tower, you will need a lot of levelled-up and geared up characters since you will not be able to use the same comp due to each floor taking away the special character energy. You’d need at least 2 comps of characters plus preferably having another one on stand-by. All in all, to complete this game mode you’ll need to farm gear, weapons, and materials for character Ascension.

In order to acquire rewards, you have to beat the challenge in the allocated time and get a certain number of stars based on how long it took you. However, since each Tower has different stages with unique buffs and challenges, it is recommended to change your character lineups and equipment at each stage.

Stable and Experimental Zones are permanent stages with a certain number of buffs that you can complete at any time regardless of the rotation. Danger Zone, however, rotates every few weeks, with the exact timer currently unknown. Experimental and Danger Zones offer 2 or more waves of enemies. Meanwhile, the Tower with 2 stages in the Hazard zone contains enemies and bosses of level 100+.

WuWa ToA

The technical state of the game leaves much to be desired. Wuthering Waves is objectively poorly optimized and manages to lag and freeze even on advanced PCs, let alone mobile phones. The game utilizes Unreal Engine 4, and Reddit is filled with footage of various bugs and visual glitches. Additionally, I find the 60 FPS limitation disappointing, however, the developers promised to fix it.

The game leaves a controversial, ambiguous aftertaste. In its current state, Wuthering Waves is a generic open-world gacha with mostly copied mechanics and designer decisions, with very few interesting and pleasant moments that shine in world exploration and battle system.

If you were looking for a game with a deep narrative, you might want to give WuWa more time to cook. However, if you were interested in a game that would hold you interested for a few evenings as you explore the world and throw your cast of characters into dynamic combat and various puzzles, then you will feel right at home.

I hope that 2-3 patches will let the developers implement player feedback and patch up the areas of the game that are lagging behind. I will keep my eye on the project but, alas, Version 1.0 did not leave a strong desire to keep playing actively.

Summary
In its current state, Wuthering Waves is a generic open-world gacha with very few interesting and pleasant moments that shine in world exploration and battle system. If you were looking for a game with a deep, engaging narrative, you might want to give WuWa some more time to cook. However, if you were interested in a title that would hold your interest for a few evenings as you explore the world and throw your cast of characters into dynamic combat and various puzzles, then you will feel right at home.
Good
  • Dynamic battle system
  • Interesting world exploration
  • Bright, catchy graphics
  • Great OST
Bad
  • Technical state leaves much to be desired
  • Convoluted, boring plot
  • Flat characters & voice-over
6.5
Fair

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