Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty Review
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is an action RPG Souls-like video game developed by Team Ninja. Wo Long plays like a spiritual successor to the two Nioh games, except the storyline is not related to the Nioh series. Rather, this game’s story is heavily influenced by Chinese mythology and legends set during the time period of the Three Kingdoms in China.
A succinct explanation is that this game is similar in gameplay to Nioh, but with historical figures from the Three Kingdoms in China, so think Dynasty Warriors’ characters (Lu Bu and Cao Cao just to name a few historical figures). This is a surprisingly fun combination. A Souls-like game with Chinese historical figures from the Three Kingdoms is something I’d always wanted rather than a traditional musou or Warriors style game. This game is, of course, not a one-to-one re-telling of history and has many fantasy elements added. Without spoiling anything beyond the premise, this game features a player avatar caught up in a war for an elixir of immortal life, and you find yourself exploring many historical battles.
The combat system that is intuitive and very easy to learn. It is a Souls-like game, meaning you explore areas and fight enemies and collect items, as well as unlocking shortcuts as you progress through the levels. One difference though is that unlike Souls games the areas are all stages, meaning you can’t explore the entire world at once. Even though the areas consists of stages, they are pretty lengthy and many main missions each take an hour or more to complete.
There are flag checkpoints you unlock (flags you place in unique locations are the bonfires of this game) and rest at as you progress through the stage, allowing you to respawn there instead of at the beginning of the level and you have healing items that replenish when you rest at the flags just like estus flasks from Dark Souls. If you rest though, enemies will respawn. Typically there will be a boss at the end of a stage and sometimes some stages have a boss in the middle as well.
As you perform main missions you can also have followers accompany you who will share useful insight with comments such as “Watch out there’s a powerful enemy ahead” or “I think there’s treasure nearby,” just to name a few. You don’t have to go out of your way to unlock followers because they are unlocked just from progressing the main story.
In missions where you’re not automatically assigned followers you can choose up to 2 followers to go with you on missions. This makes the game much easier as you can have them distract the enemies, though they’ll generally die on bosses so you’ll still have to do due diligence. Extremely rarely the followers may block you from attacking a boss because you cannot physically pass through NPCs in this game, but thankfully it’s a rare occurrence. The only criticism I have is that on some complex levels the followers will fall into the water often. If you’ve ever played Sonic 2006 the side character Tails would often fall into water and in one levels it’s just like that. In one flooded level my follower would constantly keep screaming and falling into the water and in this game falling into the water doesn’t instantly kill you, it depletes all your health and you’d still need to be hit by an enemy to be killed. There would be no punishment of course because the follower can be summoned again later if they die but it was pretty funny and thankfully only happened in one level.
Even though the areas are categorized in stages, there are always numerous branching paths with amazing level design, even if the graphics are not cutting-edge. The game will foreshadow where you need to go next as well, so often you’d see a big castle in the far distance that you’d know you eventually be heading towards.
There was one house with a locked door, but there were tiny gaps so I could see a treasure in the house as well as a ladder leading into a sewer. Later in the level I found a sewer, so I was able to find a branching path leading to the ladder and the house, also opening another shortcut for me. It was a nice touch and the level design is never labyrinthine.
In addition to enemies and bosses you can have real-life player invasions, which can be turned off. There are AI-controlled player invasions too, which is just a computer controlling an human avatar NPC enemy rather than a regular monster enemy, but these were never hard.
Like in Nioh you can see graves where other players were killed and how they were killed. You can offer up a healing item to player graves for accolades, another type of currency that can be used to buy randomized equipment. You can also see the enemies who killed another player, and if you kill that enemy that’s another way to get accolades. There was no better feeling than killing a group of enemies who killed dozens of players!
This game also has a unique morale system, represented with a number from 0 to 25 that you and enemies have and resets with each stage. If the enemies or bosses have a higher morale, they will be tougher. It’s not a bad system at all, by defeating enemies, parrying their attacks, and placing flags are some of the ways you can increase your morale. Dying will cause your morale to fall, but it will not drop below a certain threshold. For me, it encouraged me to fully explore the level and defeat all the enemies before going into the boss room, and the boss rooms were very well-telegraphed. There was one level where the boss can be found in a door early on, but it was a trap because if you explored all around the castle instead you could get more morale points. At the same time, if you want to just rush to the boss room with a lower morale to purposely have a greater challenge that’s fine too.
The game’s combat system is fun and keeps players engaged. There isn’t a stamina stat like other games. Rather, there is a unique “Spirit” system. Spirit is basically like posture and both you and the enemy or boss have it. If you land attacks on enemies their spirit decreases and yours increases and vice versa. You can also parry enemy attacks by dodging when their attack is about to hit you, decreasing the enemy spirit significantly. If the spirit bar is empty then the enemy (or you) get staggered (like running out of stamina in Souls-like games). When you do this to regular enemies you can pretty much instantly kill them, even big enemies. On bosses breaking their spirit allows you to unleash a powerful attack significantly dealing damage. Surprisingly, this title isn’t too hard in difficulty. Compared to other similar games such as Sekiro, Nioh, or Elden Ring this title is probably the easiest and most approachable for a newcomer. I say this because the parry timing is very generous among any Souls-like game.
You can also slowly walk to use stealth, and by striking enemies from behind you can unleash a very powerful attack. Surprisingly, this was the Souls-like game where I used the most stealth because of how many branching paths there were and the fact that many levels were structured like you invading a castle full of soldiers, so you could pick off most soldiers one-by-one.
Without spoiling, I’d say that the first boss (the tutorial boss) is probably the hardest in the game because it’s your first time playing the game and because you didn’t have the opportunity to create a character build and you can’t grind too easily. However, once you get past that most of the bosses are extremely reasonable. All of the bosses are fair because they telegraph their attacks well, even for fast bosses you can learn the pattern pretty quickly and once you master the parrying their powerful attacks you can defeat bosses very quickly. Don’t quit the game if the first boss takes you a few hours, it honestly is the hardest and the game really picks up afterwards with much bigger levels to explore.
I suspect that the first boss is difficult because the developers want you to get the hang of parrying attacks. With the exception of the first boss, the enemies and bosses become increasingly challenging as players progress through the game. There is new game plus available with a harder difficulty as well.
The game’s character development system is also well thought out. You can level up their characters by earning experience points from completing quests (there are main and optional stages) and defeating enemies. The game’s character development system allows players to tailor their characters to their playstyle and preferences.
Players can choose from different kinds of weapons, different kinds of stats to invest into (the five Chinese elements of Wu Xing, instead of the usual elements like Fire, Water, Earth and Wind it’s instead Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water). You can also invest into a magic skill tree, with a wide variety of abilities. I used many Earth spells which had access to buffs. Using magic lowers your spirit leaving you susceptible to getting stunned if you get hit soon afterwards, but in certain situations it can be very handy. I used an earth spell to raise my defense, then hack and slashed into the bosses to make up for the lost spirit.
One of the game’s most impressive features is its visuals. The game’s art style is heavily influenced by Chinese culture, with intricate details in the architecture, clothing, and weapons of the game’s characters. The game’s attention to detail extends beyond the visuals and is evident in the game’s combat system. The game’s combat system is visually stunning, with each hit and attack feeling impactful and satisfying.
The game’s environments are also well-designed, with each location feeling unique and immersive. The game’s world is vast and varied, with different regions of the world featuring different environments, from forests to wintery areas. My favorite stage was one that started off flooded, so you had to carefully jump across an archipelago of bridges and boats. Then you find a way to drain the water, allowing you to explore an entire area underneath the flooded water you were jumping over before.
The game’s soundtrack is also noteworthy, featuring a blend of traditional Chinese music and modern sound effects that add to the game’s overall immersion. The sound effects are particularly impressive, with each hit and attack feeling impactful and satisfying, especially during boss encounters.
The game features an English dub by default, but it can be changed to Japanese or Chinese. Most of the voice acting is well done, but there are a few voices of a few side characters here and there that are a little poorly acted. One great part is that the voice direction is better than old Koei Tecmo dubbed games. The Chinese names are pronounced correctly now, whereas in Dynasty Warriors 8 back in 2018 many of the Chinese names were horrible mispronounced so it’s great to see the publisher localized their titles better now.
The game’s story is engaging and will keep players invested in the game’s world. The game’s story draws heavily on Chinese mythology and legends, which adds depth to the game’s lore. The game’s story features various twists and turns, with the player character encountering various characters and factions from the Three Kingdoms that have their agendas and motivations.
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is a very fun game that features a well-designed combat system, a vast and immersive world focusing on Chinese mythology, an engaging story, and high replayability. The game’s visuals are stunning, with a unique art style that is heavily influenced by Chinese culture. The game’s sound design is also noteworthy, with a blend of traditional Chinese music that really ramps up during the boss fights and dramatic cutscenes. There are a few missteps such as no skill trees for weapons, only for magic skills, but there’s still plenty of character customization available. The best selling-part of the game is that it’s very fair and very accessible with a generous parrying system and a morale system allowing you to make the bosses a bit easier if you explore the levels in more detail.
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty
- It has many real-life characters from the Three Kingdoms time period in China (the characters in Samurai Warriors) so think Lu Bu and Cao Cao.
- The Chinese aesthetic makes for many beautiful landscapes to explore, from forests to flooded areas to castles.
- The level design is top notch, with many branching paths in all of the levels and many shortcuts you can unlock.
- The game is divided into stages, meaning you can re-visit levels and re-fight bosses at any time without having to do an entire new game plus.
- The combat is some of the best I’ve seen in the “Souls-like” genre. Parrying is a lot of fun and isn’t as hard to do as in other games such as Sekiro. The enemies and bosses have attacks that are telegraphed with a red glow that you can easily learn from.
- The stats on your gear can be a bit overcomplicated and overwhelming at time.
- You’ll be collecting hundreds of pieces of equipment over game, and you’ll have to make pit-stops to clean out your inventory or else it’ll be full.
- The story can be a little generic, especially compared to Nioh where it followed a clear storyline with William. There is a lot of plot convenience all the time so that you always happen to be in the major battles of the Three Kingdoms.
- The English dub voice acting can be bad at times.
– Brandon Harris
Reviewed on PC