Thank you to Koei Tecmo for providing a review code for this game, as you all know this does not effect my review.
Wo Long Fallen Dynasty is Team Ninja’s fourth venture into the Soulsclone genre and after 100%ing the game, side missions and all I feel it is safe to say it falls a bit short of what they have delivered in the past. That isn’t saying Wo Long is a bad game, because it most certainly is not and is absolutely worth playing for anyone looking for another tight combat souls game. The leaps and strides made from Nioh to Nioh 2 were massive and sent that IP in an incredible direction with me hoping for a 3rd installment. However, for me it felt as though Wo Long took 1 very large leap forward in combat then a bunch of small steps back everywhere else. So let’s get into it.
Wo Long Fallen Dynasty takes the combat style they perfected in Nioh 2 and adds a Sekiro like parrying system that is at the forefront of all combat interactions. It is such a massive component to the game that the first boss grabs you by the throat and thrashes you around the arena until you are forced to learn the parrying mechanic. I saw some people complaining on the internet (yeah who would of thought) that the first boss was too hard and agreeably, it is one of the most difficult in the entire game. However, if you don’t learn the parry mechanics and get a basic understanding of combat flow from this boss, then you might as well put the game down because you aren’t playing Dark Soul 3, shielding and rolling are not going to save you. All that being said, the combat was easily the most enjoyable part of Wo Long for me. It felt crisp and fast paced, making every clash of weapons feel like a cinematic endeavor. Team Ninja also has finally done what no other developer has attempted and added verticality to a Soulslike that actually feels warranted and impactful to both combat and exploration. Although the environments are nothing to write home about, they did a great job of implementing that verticality and incentivizing exploration with the newly added Morale and Fortitude systems. These act as a temporary, in mission, leveling system where you start at rank 1 and gain more, up to 25, by killing enemies, landing final blows, and finding markers to plant your banner. It doesn’t necessarily force the player to explore, but you are rewarded for it and making your way to the final boss of the area with a low morale level means you are basically 2 hit KO. It doesn’t feel forced or shoehorned in. Also worth noting, some of the scores during boss battles were incredible Zhang Bao, being the stand out for me. The character creator is also one of the better ones I have seen in the past few years.
Wo Long fallen dynasty improves on a bit from Nioh 2, but ultimately takes several steps back in key areas and honestly shares a decent amount of the mistakes. One being a lack of enemy variety. As I have stated in past episodes of the podcast reviewing Nioh 2, you tend to fight the same enemies at the end levels of the game as you did in the very first. I get there is more contextual backing in Wo Long since it is based off Romance of the Three Kingdoms and there are just soldiers and generals at war, but there are only so many Yellow Turban soldiers I can slaughter in a 20 hour playthrough. The demons were cool and varied, there just were not enough of them. Many of the environments share a too samey quality, going back and forth into villages, castles and mines. The English dubbing is really bad. Maybe it was intentional and the game is meant to be played with subtitles, but the dub is not the play. One of my biggest gripes is, although the combat is great, it really does not mesh well with having to fight multiple enemies at a time. This is exemplified in the 1 mandatory story boss fight with Yan Liang and Wen Chou but even more so in the optional gank fights for side missions. My second biggest gripe with Wo Long is how unimportant weapon and armor feels. Once you find a 4 star set that fits your playstyle and skill leveling, you can just keep upgrading them throughout the entire campaign making every new piece of loot feel lackluster. I got about a third of the way into the game, found a light armor set and wooden staff I liked and used that the rest of the game, selling or breaking down everything else I picked up besides loyalty rewards. On the topic of things feeling lackluster, magic was dialed way back from Nioh 2 to Wo Long. I appreciate the incorporation of the spirit gauge being the individual resource for just about every combat ability including magic, but it really made it feel like a secondary afterthought in a combat system from a team that mastered it in Nioh 2. One final thing worth noting, the story is all over the fucking place. I’m sure 99% of players are here for the enthralling combat and boss fights, but the story really is just diluted and confusing.
Like many souls clones, Wo Long does a lot right, does some wrong, and a decent amount of content leaving the players and reviewers asking, “was it necessary?”. To start, the elemental stat system is a decent take on the previous traditional DnD+ stat array. It adds to the world of Wo Long but without really digging into the explanations of each, players can get lost in how they want to define their playstyle. Speaking of playstyle, it is all relatively the same. Dodge, parry, hit where to can and stack up poise break until you land a finisher for extreme damage. Magic has taken a massive back seat, which is totally fine when you are trying to replicate the type of game Sekiro is. My only problem is, Nioh 2 felt as though it hit an incredible balance of making each playstyle fun and effective, Wo Long kind of just has a singular playstyle. You will get very accustomed to the gameplay loop pretty quickly. Many of the zones allow for stealth kills with enemy AI being predominantly blind to your actions right in front of them. So you slow walk, stealth kill an enemy, 90% of the time nearby enemies don’t see and you keep doing that until something sees you then you fight. It ALMSOT works with the added verticality, but not every location allows for multiple approaches.
I want to start shying away from a numerical scale for rating games as every gamer is unique and numbers only dilute what fun a game can truly be even if it isn’t the next Elden Ring. From here on out I will be using a BUY / SALE / PASS system. BUY can be defined as, this game is absolutely worth playing for anyone. SALE is defined as, this game is definitely worth playing for those who enjoy this genre, or you don’t but are interested it is worth waiting for the game to come down in price then trying it out. PASS is pretty self explanatory, the game is either broken or not worth your time and money.
Now that the new review system is in place, let me throw it completely out the window by mixing BUY and SALE for Wo Long Fallen Dynasty. If you are looking for a soulslike to fill a void until Elden Ring’s Shadow of the Erdtrere DLC releases, Wo Long is a BUY in my books. The combat is perfectly executed from the best Soulslike team that isn’t FromSoft. If you aren’t a massive souls person but are interested, guess what, Wo Long is on GamePass and absolutly worth playing if you own GP. Otherwise feel free to wait for the many upcoming Steam and Humble sales.