Title – Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty
Platforms – PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One and PC
Release Date – March 3rd, 2023
Developer – Team Ninja
Publisher – Koei Tecmo
MSRP – $59.99
ESRB – M for Mature
Disclaimer – This product is being reviewed on the PlayStation 5. A review copy was provided by Koei Tecmo for the purpose of this review. This review may also contain spoilers for certain gameplay and story elements. Watch at your own risk, you have been warned. Gaming Instincts is an Amazon Affiliate and does gain financial benefits if you choose to purchase this product on this page.
Hello Dynasty Warriors, please meet your long-lost brother Nioh and your long-forgotten cousin Dark Souls. This is Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty in a nutshell. Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is the latest game from Team Ninja – the same folks responsible for the recently successful franchise – Nioh. Nioh is described as the modern version of Ninja Gaiden with a mix of Dark Souls. This time around, the developer has decided to take the Dynasty Warriors universe, add the formula of Nioh and Dark Souls, and voila! So what can fans expect from Team Ninja’s latest title? Is it a complete mess? Or an actual solid attempt at creating yet another Nioh-like game that feels both fresh and old at the same time? Let’s find out. Welcome to our review of Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty.
The Combat, Pacing, and Feel
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty manages to take different elements from a variety of games and tunes them up to fit its own style and to my surprise, the game is doing it quite well. You see, describing exactly how the game plays is a bit difficult, but it would be a lot easier to understand once you play it. The game is broken up into levels that are classified as “Battlefields” which is a term that comes from Dynasty Warriors titles. The game is also set in the Three Kingdoms era. The levels are linear and are not very big. If you’re looking for something like Elden Ring in terms of massive dungeon designs, then you won’t find it here. Instead, what you will find are some hidden areas that may contain an extra enemy that’s guarding a big treasure chest, a hidden item, or an area that allows you to plant a flag throughout the battlefield. Overall, the level design is a lot more similar to the Nioh games and if you do not mind how those are laid out then you’ll be completely fine.
Now let’s talk about the core mechanics of the game such as the flag system and the morale. Planting a flag gives you a checkpoint that acts as a resting spot. The flags are Wo Long Fallen Dynasty’s version of bonfires. The player can also use the flag to heal, level up, switch up their spells, and travel to other battlefields. Once you’ve completed a battlefield you can always travel back to them and collect whatever you missed and even refight the bosses and enemies for more loot and experience. It’s the game’s way of giving you chapter selection and replaying previous areas.
As you keep progressing through the game, you will also gain access to “Sub-Battlefields” these are optional levels that have extra rewards and act as challenge arenas. They are a lot shorter and they do have more flags to plant. If you want to obtain all of the trophies, spells, and other rewards that the game has to offer, then you’ll have to finish these Sub-Battlefields. So if you’re looking for some replay value, then there is plenty of it here.
Now, I will explain how the morale system works. As you assault enemy camps and fight against a variety of enemies your morale levels can increase. Also, the better you play and the less you get hit during combat the higher your morale can get. The higher the morale, the more damage you will do to enemies and the less damage you will take. Enemies also have morale and you can see it over their heads (think of it as their level). Even if an enemy is 5 or 6 morales higher than you, they are still killable with skilled parries and dodging. Killing such enemies will boost your morale greatly. That is the morale system in a nutshell.
As you play through the levels, you will also be accompanied by famous figures from the Dynasty Warriors franchise such as Dong Zhuo and Cao Cao. They are NPC companions that distract the enemy, including bosses, and help you out. They do have their own health bar, and if they are not revived by the player, they will flee the battlefield. The “retreat” mechanic is essentially a nod to Dynasty Warriors. When an officer loses strength, they tend to leave the battlefield. It’s nice to see similarities between the franchises.
I do not like the companions, because when they distract the enemy right before I parry a big attack, the AI decides to jump on them instead of me. This completely throws off my rhythm and gets me killed on occasion. However, sometimes they do tend to help me out in tough situations, especially when there is a mob of 3 or more enemies at once. If I am being honest though, 90 percent of the time the AI was more helpful rather than hindering, so I guess it isn’t that problematic.
My favorite part of Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is the combat system. It’s quick, reactive, and fun. The game is all about perfectly parrying enemies and then shattering their spirit meter to land a critical hit. Hitting mobs increases the negative side of the spirit meter. Once the bar is full, they get stunned and are open to a critical hit. If any of you’ve played Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, then you’ll know what I am talking about. Also, parrying an upcoming red flashing attack from the enemy will result in a massive increase on the negative side of the enemy’s spirit meter.
However, if the player keeps getting hit, the enemy’s negative spirit meter decreases and all their diligent work will fall to waste. While that may sound rather daunting, it isn’t that bad. The game is 100 percent challenging, but I feel that it’s well-balanced. Maybe I am an exception to the rule, but I enjoy titles with a steep difficulty curve. Constantly hitting enemies will also increase the blue positive side of the spirit meter. Increasing the blue side to full will allow you to land much stronger heavy attacks and when you do that the enemy’s negative side gets filled a lot faster, which means they are about to get critically hit.
Parrying in the game feels extremely satisfying, and the bosses work the same way. There are no weird gimmicks with the bosses, just straight-up raw skill and learning their patterns and animation frames. During your first few hours of the game, you are most likely going to be a bit frustrated, but once you learn it and understand how to parry you’ll be having a blast. You can also block, but it’s not that effective. The game rewards both offensive and defensive plays. You never want to sit there and not hit anyone, and at the same time, you always want to be ready to deflect an attack. Throughout the game, you will fight both regular human soldiers that act as grunts as well as mythological creatures like massive tigers and gorillas. They are very fun to fight against, especially when you have mastered their attack patterns and know how to deal with them.
The game does have a leveling system and there are five different phases you can spec your character with. Phases in this game are divided into five distinct elements which are wood, fire, earth, water, and metal. Putting a point into each of those elements gives you different stats. For example, the wood element increases your health and your melee weapon attack damage. Meanwhile, if you are going for earth, you get more health increases than normal and are also able to carry heavier armor. If you spec high enough for earth, you’ll be able to wear the heaviest armor sets and dodge at the same time. If your weight limit is too low, then you won’t be in a position to parry. I was happy to know that I was able to create a build where I could still parry while wearing the heaviest armor and weapons in the game.
You can also become a magician by speccing into a variety of wizard spells. The game has a whole dedicated Wizardry Tree from a variety of elements including the ones mentioned above. There are earthen spells, water/ice spells, fire spells, and so on. Both defensive and offensive. You do not need to carry any special weapon in your hand either to cast them. You can make a cool build as a thunderous battle mage if you wish. I, unfortunately, did not have the time to play around with the magic system as much as I wanted to. However, I am quite confident that players will find ways to create cool wizard builds.
As for melee weapons, there are quite a few, including giant hammers, dual sabers, straight sabers, swords, and so on. Each of these has unique attack moves and different animations that you’ll have to learn if you want to maximize your DPS potential. During the review playtime, I decided to go for the Sabre. It’s super quick, does damage, and is fun to use. Yes, you can also upgrade both your weapons and armor via the Blacksmith NPC that you will meet early on in the game. Crafting is simple and requires different levels of steel for the weapons and leather for the armor.
Last but not least, the game also has a mechanic called “Divine Beasts” that can either be summoned or resonated. The divine beasts are straight from Chinese mythology and you can summon them to aid you in battle during a tough situation. Resonating them will instead buff your weapon with the beast’s trait, and as you can imagine each beast has a distinct trait that it can offer you. For example, the first Devine Beast is Quilin. This beast pulls out pillars from the ground that push enemies away while also damaging them. It’s best used in a situation where you are overrun or need a quick escape to heal. This is also true if you are low on health and just want to finish someone off without risking death.
In a nutshell, there is a lot of engaging gameplay here to be had. The combat system is rewarding, enemies are fun to fight against and the boss fights are well-balanced. The addition of the Dynasty Warriors characters and time period is also rather interesting. It’s nice to see developers try something new with a familiar universe.
The Visuals And Audio
Graphically the game is not a looker. If you’ve played Nioh 2, then you know what to expect. Some would argue that Nioh 2 looks visually better, but in all honesty, it doesn’t matter if it does or doesn’t because the gameplay is enjoyable in both titles. The game feels quite polished and complete, free of any weird graphical bugs. If you are looking for Demon’s Souls remake quality visuals, you won’t find them here. Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is simply a cross-gen game that runs well on PS5 without any hitches and is just fun to play. It’s by no means ugly either, but it’s quite simplistic when it comes to the overall world and the polycount of its geometry.
As for the audio, everything is great except the English voice acting. It is better if you play this game in Japanese unless you want to hurt your ears. The sound of weapons clashing, and enemies getting hit is all quite gratifying. The mythological creatures also sound cool and the soundtrack is quite a treat. For the most part, the audio and visuals are more than serviceable. It’s not next-gen by any means, but that’s fine in this game’s case.
In conclusion, the gameplay of Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty creates a cool and innovative spin on the Souls-like genre that fans will appreciate. If you like games like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Nioh, and Elden Ring, then you will be a happy camper. There is a lot to do in the game. Plenty of weapons and builds to try out alongside a whole dedicated magic system. I enjoyed my time and I am hoping that there will be a sequel or at least another title in the franchise. Despite the not-so-next-gen visuals and lackluster voice acting Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is still a game I believe any souls fan should buy, because not only is the game challenging but it also feels rewarding and fresh. Wo Long Final Dynasty will receive a final verdict of 9 out of 10.
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