Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is the next game from Team Ninja, here are our early impressions after spending several hours playing it.
The first thing we noticed about Wo Long is its similarity to Team Ninja’s other Soulslike series, Nioh. Anyone who’s played either Nioh 1 or 2 will be instantly at home with the game. Indeed, so will anyone who’s spent significant time playing any Soulslike game, meaning Elden Ring fans will also find a lot to love here.
Unlike Nioh, which is set in early 17th century Japan, Wo Long is set in China during the era of the Three Kingdoms from 220 to 280 AD. The game is based on Luo Guanzhong’s 14th-century historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. However, judging from the zombies and dragon spirits we’ve seen in the game, we imagine it’s going to be a very loose adaptation of that historical novel.
The combat is addictive, although it feels a bit frantic at first. However, once you’re used to the controls, you’ll soon find yourself dancing around the screen while you dodge and cut-down foes. Gameplay has a more arcade-like feel (just as Nioh did), so those used to the more methodical duals of Dark Souls or Elden Ring will need to take note.
The big difference for us when playing on PS5 was that the main attack buttons are square and triangle instead of R1 or R2. This reminded us of the hack and slash games from the PS1 and PS2 eras and is an interesting decision. We felt a little bit thrown by it and were unable to change it in the controls menu.
Of course, the shoulder buttons have other functions, but we imagine we won’t be alone in feeling slightly perplexed by this change. That’s if it makes it into the final build, and if it does, we’re sure there’s a good reason behind it.
Our character felt much more acrobatic than they did in Nioh. Not only was combat faster, but our warrior could backflip and cartwheel out of danger easily, making things much more fast-paced. We could also double-jump and sprint into combat, making our character among the most agile we’ve seen in a Soulslike game. The moves reminded us of Steelrising, where Aegis could also bounce around the screen avoiding enemies.
There’s also a stealth mechanic that we didn’t fully get to grips with in our playthrough, but this can be leveled to make the player harder to detect. This allows you to sneak up on enemies Tenchu style, but we were unable to pull off anything like a stealth kill, so we’re not sure how far the stealth system goes. It may just be a way to control aggro.
On top of the various weapons at your disposal, there’s also elemental magic called ‘wizardry’ in Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty. This lets you spew flames and various other spells at your opponents before slashing at them while they recover. You can also combo these spells with other attacks, which can flatten even elite-level enemies when done right.
It also looks like you can create some builds centered around these magical skills. We discovered a special move called Summon Divine Beast. This, as you can imagine, summons a Divine Beast like a dragon for a short time who will then lay waste to nearby enemies.
Calling in the troops
The setting will also feel familiar to Dynasty Warriors fans as the game takes place during the same period of history and conflict. The demo we played saw us battling members of the Yellow Turban army in a mountainside camp, although none of these guys were cannon fodder for a Musou attack.
As with any Soulslike, any enemy can cut you down if you’re reckless, should a second enemy join the fray, then you’re in for a tough time. The game also features a coop mode, allowing you to summon others into your game to help you get from A to B or take down a tough boss. The system works a lot like Nioh, so fans of jolly cooperation can rejoice.
While Wo Long doesn’t feature an easy mode, you can summon AI partners too to take the edge off. We summoned a level 20 badass who helped us get to the nearest boss, however, he was unsummoned when we got knocked off a ledge to our death.
This summoning mechanic is bound to be used most by those who struggle with the difficulty of Soulslike games and is likely going to be controversial among purists. Although, like Elden Ring’s spirit summons, an AI partner is entirely optional.
Wo Long gameplay mechanics
Flagpoles replace Nioh’s shrines, which serve as checkpoints, a lot like bonfires or Sites of Grace in the Souls series. Here players can rest, level up, and tweak their skills and gear. Be warned though, using one also resets the area, resurrecting all previously fallen enemies.
Loot is also plentiful and you’ll find yourself switching out to better (or cooler-looking) gear frequently. In our playthrough, we replaced our starting clothing with the Yellow Turban set, and again with some more powerful armor that made us tough enough to take down the demo’s boss.
The boss was incredibly tough and even once we had reached level 20 it could still kill us in about 2-3 hits. However, our AI partner was a big help and we eventually felled this large beast. If this one boss was any indicator of Wo Long’s difficulty, then Soulslike veterans should be satisfied.
We’re looking forward to seeing the final build of Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty when it releases in 2023. The game should be considered the spiritual successor to the Nioh series, a fantasy Soulslike that uses a historical setting as a backdrop. The two IPs also share many similarities when it comes to gameplay.