Souls-like games all have a way of standing out from each other in terms of mechanics and overall feel. But they all have a common theme in providing the players with a fantastic experience through their carefully crafted worlds, not to mention the brutal and unforgiving combat. With Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, the setting of the Three Kingdoms provides a memorable experience for players who want to experience a pivotal era in human history. And, with its unique take on some combat mechanics, this epic by Team Ninja and Koei Tecmo is certainly a standout in the genre.
Set during the Yellow Turban Rebellion during the later Han Dynasty, the game puts you at the foot of a nameless soldier embedded with powerful abilities to defeat the enemies and demons that are ravaging the lands. The customization in the game is pretty amazing, with a bunch of options for face, body, shape, and organs like the eyes, ears, and nose. It also includes the option to choose your personal pronouns. With all these available, you can create the ultimate Chinese warrior. The exploration is quite interesting, and the game is much more open than other Soulslike games. But in the end, I was more invested in the combat than anything.
The combat mechanics are where Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty particularly shines as it is satisfying and overall rewarding if you give it some time. You do have access to a variety of weapons, but picking heavier weapons is bound to slow you down. That’s why I opted for a light approach, although stats wise they are less powerful. The armor also affects your movement speed as some may slow you down and others will make everything feel slippery. The equipment you use will just depend on the way you want to approach most encounters.
Combat as with Souls-like games is brutal and there is a steep learning curve with it. Waiting is a death sentence in boss fights as they will make mincemeat of you in a matter of seconds. Wo Long wants you to be aggressive in fights and make sure you don’t have to leave the enemy any breathing space. Parrying and deflecting are also heavily encouraged in the game as they can turn the tide of a boss fight or any encounter in your favor. This is particularly useful when enemies use Critical Blows, unblockable attacks that formulate with a red glow. The timing of your parry has to be precise or you have a high chance of ending up dead.
Parrying these Critical Blows will stun them for a short while, and it will allow you to land a Fatal Strike that greatly reduces their health. While it does take some time to get the timing right or even understand how the whole system works, the satisfaction you receive after parrying the Critical Blows is like no other. I was particularly put to the test by the first boss in the game. It took me around thirty tries to kill the first boss and when I did manage to do it, the relief was unreal. After that, it became much easier in tackling the late bosses, who all were different and interesting to take on.
During the attempts on the first boss, they got harder and harder due to the Morale system in the game which is another standout feature. This Morale acts as your strength in combat and resets every time you die. Though you can increase it permanently via Battle Flags in the areas, which act as checkpoints. Defeating enemies, parrying attacks, and Critical Blows will increase your Morale Rank while getting hit and dying will decrease it. And, not only that if your Morale Rank is lower than an enemy, say a boss, then they will become much harder to defeat, thereby adding an extra layer of unforgiveness.
Throughout the game, you will meet various real-life historical figures like Zhao Yun and Guan Lu, who will act as companions and aid you in combat. They are pretty helpful particularly when overwhelmed by a boss or a buffed-up soldier or demon. The game also has co-op and raiding though I was unable to try them out. The story is intriguing at the start but I did not find it quite that engaging compared to others in the genre like Bloodborne or Team Ninja’s own, Nioh.
Overall, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is an impressive offering from Team Ninja and Koei Tecmo, particularly with how uniquely the combat and gameplay mechanics works. For the veterans of the Souls-like genre, this will surely be a worthwhile experience and definitely a perfect match. For those who are inexperienced, however, this will definitely be challenging if they are not patient and understanding of the overall mechanics.
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is a game I would recommend if you:
- Want a unique and satisfying take on the Souls-like combat formula
- Want to experience a pivotal era of human history
- Want to fight a variety of bosses and enemy types
- Want to dive into the Souls-like genre for the first time
I would not recommend this game if you:
- Want a forgiving experience
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is available on the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Microsoft Windows. It is also available via Xbox & PC Game Pass.
A review copy of the game for the PlayStation 5 was provided by Koei Tecmo.