With the resurgence in quality found in Team Ninja‘s Nioh series in delivering well-polished action titles, it’s no surprise that Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty continues that trend by providing a stellar and rewarding action game set during the Han Dynasty of ancient China.
Wo Long’s narrative is a concoction mixing grounded story elements with fantastical notes centring on exploiting a corrupting elixir that has ravaged the lands. With the primary threat in Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty composed of the Yellow Turban group, a secret rebellious faction of peasants with the ambition to take over the governing powers, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty does an excellent job in slowly introducing some of its more fantasy-based elements into the game world.
Unlike Nioh and its sequel, which feel like things are always cranked up to 11 on the batshit factor, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty‘s world and setting tend to feel more nuanced in that environments and enemies start off as your regular infantry set against the backdrop of say, a dilapidated village, only then gradually introducing monstrous beasts and other fantasy elements.
“Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty does an excellent job in slowly introducing some of its more fantasy-based elements into the game world.”
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty’s gameplay also reflects this slightly more grounded approach in that most enemies can be felled using its Sekiro-esque parrying system rather than an over-reliance on spells and magic. Unfortunately, this does lead to an overall fighting system that feels less fleshed out than something like Nioh 2 and its fighting-game-style input system.
Saying that, however, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty’s combat is still a lot of fun and can feel incredibly rewarding, such as when you finally overcome a tough enemy or boss by learning their patterns and breaking their spirit gauge to deal massive damage. Martial arts, spells and spirit attacks also add a healthy amount of variety to your weapons, including unique martial art-based attacks based on the weapon type, with spells and spirit attacks, instead, relegated to the player’s build and summon skill.
Spirit attacks, in particular, unlock near the end of chapter 2, allowing the player to either unleash a punishingly strong “screen clear” style attack or a powerful, temporary buff emboldening the player’s party. Something that can mean the difference between breaking an enemy’s defences or having to retreat.
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty’s loot, on the other hand, feels like a deluge of MMORPG-inspired junk in its sheer volume, making it often difficult to parse through what is worth keeping or scrapping. Thankfully, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty doesn’t force the player to master their wardrobes as long you take the time to find a balance between good stats and weight limits.
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty features an excellent character-creator, something that Team Ninja is fully aware of as the game allows the player to wear what they want as glamour while still equipped with other, higher-graded gear, akin to something like Final Fantasy XIV. In other words, players wanting to look their best while they cause carnage and mayhem in ancient China can rest assured.
“Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty doesn’t force the player to master their wardrobes as long you take the time to find a balance between good stats and weight limits.”
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty Wo Long’s approach to level design feels very familiar in that stages are broken up into different maps, with most featuring a decent level of freedom and interconnected areas that feel larger than the sum of their parts, with secrets and shortcuts abound that encourage exploration. Additionally, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty introduces a morale system, which helps set it apart from Nioh and other Soulslike games.
The morale in Wo Long is a persistent stat that dictates how much damage you will deal versus what the enemy can dish out. In essence, if the enemy has a higher number, you’ll likely struggle against it. Thankfully, taking over fallen outposts, which include battle and marking flags, will substantially increase that number, in addition to fighting lesser enemies and clearing rooms before proceeding to the boss. Ultimately, the morale system in Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty does a great job of reinforcing player exploration.
Multiplayer in Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is probably the most painless experience I’ve had in a Soulsborne-styled game, as the title allows the player to join their friends seamlessly without using any consumable items, with death only resulting in a return to the last outpost used. Playing with randoms, however, requires using an item called a tiger seal, but they are thankfully easy resources to farm if so desired.
With what can feel like a slightly too streamlined approach to combat when compared to games like Nioh 2 and a story that continues the trend of vapid nonsense in the guise of an intriguing historical setting, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty may not surpass its predecessors, but it still warrants a playthrough for fans of hard but rewarding action games thanks to its rock-solid foundation and excellent use of genre staples.