Great Combat Makes Wuthering Waves A Promising Alternative To Genshin Impact

Image: Kuro Games
Image: Kuro Games

There’s nothing definitively wrong with being an iterative clone of something else people already love. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and all that. So I don’t really mind that on the surface, the new gacha open-world RPG Wuthering Waves looks to be a flattering copy of HoYoverse’s widely popular Genshin Impact. Hey, Genshin was often called a Breath of the Wild clone on its release in 2020. And after around ten hours with developer Kuro Games’ new release, I can say that it isn’t just a Genshin clone, thanks primarily to an excellent combat system that adds new flavor to a familiar formula and makes a promising first impression.

Wuthering Waves sets up its narrative pretty quickly. You are Rover, an amnesiac who awakens in a post-apocalyptic future, on a world called Solaris-3. You set out with the help of a growing cast of characters to learn more about yourself, while fighting off monsters called Tacet Discords. It’s a basic premise that does the job. Once into the world, the game begins to teach you about its core pillars of exploration and combat.

Proof that adding a grappling hook is always a good idea

As in Genshin Impact, you navigate a large open world, mainly through climbing and gliding. One quality-of-life improvement in Wuthering Waves is that sprinting does not cost stamina here, instead being reserved for climbing, meaning you feel much freer to enjoy exploring. You’re also able to run up walls for a short time, although this burns through stamina very quickly.

Image: <a class="link " href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Kuro Games / YouTube/ Gamers Heroes;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas">Kuro Games / YouTube/ Gamers Heroes</a>

There’s also a grappling hook! Certain structures across the map have grapple points that let you zip across long distances, and it can be used anywhere else to zip you up in the air slightly, offering a nice boost from which you can then glide forward.

Combining these three main methods of traversal together makes exploring the world of Wuthering Waves a joy. Solaris-3 has a gorgeous color palette, ranging from bright greens and purples to more muted apocalyptic greys and browns, although the world design does lack the unique aesthetic style of Genshin. Wuthering Waves has a more generic vibe, and I don’t find myself stopping to smell the roses.

The combat is a knockout

Combat is the star of the show in Wuthering Waves. Characters have basic and special attacks they can trigger, and you can switch between characters in a party at any time. There’s a dedicated dodge button, as well as an especially engaging parry mechanic that requires you to attack when a yellow circle appears on enemies and, when executed properly, gives you a chance to do high damage. The parry window also discourages attack spamming—a smart mechanic that incentivizes more thoughtful and involved fighting.

Switching between characters triggers special intro and outro attacks that let you tag-team opponents in combat. It’s a smart addition that brings more depth to combat and team composition. However, I think my favorite bit of combat design is the echoes, a system in which you collect the enemies you defeat in the world and can then equip them, granting your characters new skills and attacks. Echoes and regular team composition make for a fun mix-and-match style of play that, when combined with all the other combat systems, makes fighting in Wuthering Waves feel truly exhilarating. I like having more to do when fighting, and it feels like a more strategic system than I’m used to from Genshin.

Image: <a class="link " href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Kuro Games / YouTube/ Steparu;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas">Kuro Games / YouTube/ Steparu</a>

Of course, all this is wrapped inside a gacha game. That means a lot of time will be spent grinding for leveling materials, as well as pulling for new characters and weapons as they get added to the game. The hope is that players spend money to acquire these items, but a good gacha game has a balance between how many characters and items you can acquire for free and those that will likely require spending that keeps players hooked. So far Wuthering Waves is pretty forgiving in this respect.

Banners currently guarantee that players will get a five-star item (either a character or weapon depending on the banner) within 80 pulls. The inclusion of this system on the weapons banner is a godsend after dealing with the absolutely horrid weapons banners of Genshin. Currently, it feels balanced enough that I can feasibly work toward all the five-star items I want without having to spend real-world money, all in a reasonable amount of time. However, there is one aspect of Wuthering Waves that is holding me back from truly diving into the grind.

Room for growth

Image: Kuro Games
Image: Kuro Games

If combat is the shining star of Wuthering Waves, then narrative is its downfall. Currently, the story lacks interesting character stories or an enticing overarching tension. Now, I am a player who values story a lot, so the lack of an interesting narrative is a big drawback for me. That may not be the case for everybody, and if you just want a crunchy combat system to engage with, then this game will fit the bill nicely. Of course, all of this does come with the big caveat that this is only the 1.0 release of Wuthering Waves. Genshin Impact’s 1.0 release was also lacking in some crucial areas, and the story really didn’t kick in until players managed to get out of the introductory nation of Monstadt and into Liyue. So I’m not gonna hold the weak narrative against Wuthering Waves too much at this point. For now, the game’s combat system will be enough to hook a lot of players into the gacha grind.

Wuthering Waves is dropping at a perfect time for me. Genshin Impact is wrapping up its Fontaine storyline which means I’ll probably put that game on the back burner for a bit until I need to do some farming ahead of 5.0. That leaves room for Wuthering Waves to be my go-to mobile title in the meantime. Yeah, the story isn’t much right now, but as a reprieve from more story-focused titles I spend my time with it’s perfect, and the action is a delight. It’s also getting its claws into me right before HoYoverse releases its new combat-focused title, Zenless Zone Zero, in July. So for now, I’m going to keep on exploring and fighting through the world of Wuthering Waves.


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