Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty


This game was reviewed on Xbox One X.

Reviewed by: Oskar van der Vliet

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is a game developed by Team ninja, published by Koei Tecmo, and was released on March 3rd of 2023. The team behind it is known for games like Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive, though more relevantly they have also made the Nioh games, which Wo Long certainly fits under a lot more. The game is set in a dark fantasy version of Chinese history, primarily the Three Kingdoms period. It plays like a standard souls like with a unique spirit system we will get into later. I played the game on my Xbox one X, through game pass where it was released day one. 

Presentation wise the game is fairly impressive. Certainly not a technical showcase but it looks and runs very well. However after seeing gameplay on PS5 I can tell that it was not built for last gen consoles like I played, but regardless runs well. The music doesn't leave a significant impression but it certainly never got grating. As for the art direction itself the areas are certainly varied and well considered. It does fail to reach the heights of Elden ring which I unfortunately feel the need to compare it to, but I would absolutely say the art design clears the average triple A title, just not a defining example.

Now to begin on the gameplay. As a basis, if you have played a souls like, you are in familiar territory. A lot of the general gameplay conventions are maintained, with a twist or two that makes it stand out among the many titles that came out after Dark souls' critical resurgence. The largely linear levels are a lot closer to dark souls 3's areas simplified a bit, rather than the originals labyrinthine design. The areas are populated with battle flags as your save points, and bosses at the end of each spot, it feels comfortable for a Souls fan such as myself.

However where the game starts to differ in its design is the morale system and the spirit system. Going in order, the morale system is a mechanic in which every enemy has a different numbered rating, including the player. The character's morale corresponds with the enemies strength, and the more than the players it is, the player will be fighting them at a disadvantage, and vice versa if it's lower. For the player it can be increased as you defeat enemies and get reset when you die. The player also has a fortitude rank, which acts the same, but the players will never drop below the fortitude rank. This provides a nice bit of permanent progress which can sometimes be sorely missed in these types of games. For enemies, as well as acting as an indicator for the challenge of that fight it can also be affected in a few ways, with the player being able to lower it. Using the rank as a difficulty measure does allow for more clarity as you explore, though some could argue that is for better or for worse. Secondly by maxing out their spirit gauge and performing a special attack on them, which brings us to the spirit system. Every enemy and the player has a spirit gauge, which goes both into the negative and positive. By deflecting enemy attacks, attacking enemies and a couple other ways you can raise the spirit gauge, which will slowly try to return to a neutral position. By using any special attacks or getting hit it will use up spirit gauge and go into the negative, and slowly restore to be neutral. However if you get hit with a fully lowered spirit gauge you will be stunned for a few seconds, and all of this applies to enemies. You can also use spirit attacks as the player to slowly shave off the spirit gauge, letting them have less maximum gauge and make it easier to max out negatively. When enemies and bosses get maxed out, the player can critical hit them, dealing a lot of damage. All of this creates an interesting interplay between the player and their enemy, another layer on top of the traditional souls combat, harkening a lot of Sekiro's posture system while still being unique enough to stand on its own. As for the context of the gameplay, as mentioned before it is fairly similar to the average souls like formula. Explore an area, fight enemies, find items, eventually you will find a boss and by beating the boss you will find more areas to explore. Unfortunately those areas are not very intelligently designed, and those implicit comparisons to the souls series really does this game a disservice. The areas are quite bland, with poor enemy placement. There are consistent group battles, and as everyone knows souls like gameplay sucks at battles against 5 enemies, and that happens way too often here. However the Boss fights are where the game shines, with incredibly tough and clean movesets, the dodge system feeling incredible when facing a single powerful foe, learning their critical hits that are a lot higher risk reward to deflect, it's just wonderful. The first boss continues to stick out to me as a boss that rivals some of the better bosses in the souls series.

My greatest issue with the game is the equipment system. It is littered with hundreds of tiny numbers that I never find satisfying, rather just hollow. The amount of equipment also supports this problem, leaving you to pick up way too much stuff. It is also quite annoying not having the ability to upgrade your equipment at the rest spots, rather requiring you to seek out the roaming blacksmith. These are my strongest grievances, but even then they are quite easy to ignore, just feels like a missed opportunity.

All in all, I feel that if you are looking for a clean streamlined experience you will not find it here. This game is lower budget, it's scrappy, it's got hilariously bad voice acting, a lot of the level design is messy. But it still hits those highs that make these games special, and if you know what you are getting going in I find it quite easy to ignore and speed through the fluff to get to those points where everything clicks together and it works. I rate it a 4 out of 5, as I think with a little more refinement this studio is on its way to being the second place to go to for souls likes, right after FromSoftware themselves.

Reviewed by: Oskar van der Vliet