Wo Long Fallen Dynasty review: Nioh successor unnecessarily ramps up difficulty

Sam Smith
Wo Long fallen kingdom gameplat

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is the spiritual successor to Team Ninja’s Nioh series but does this adventure through ancient China replicate the same slick RPG action?

Developed by Team Ninja and published by Koei Tecmo, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is Nioh meets Dynasty Warriors. It loosely retells the events of the novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, only reimagined with demons and wizardry added to the mix. This is a device Team Ninja has used before, much in the way Nioh added Yokai to real historical events from sixteenth-century Japan. 

Wo Long is Koei Tecmo’s continued answer to Dark Souls, featuring rock-solid gameplay that will delight those looking for their next dose of masochistic fun. However, Wo Long pushes the envelope further than Nioh did, and its desire to up the ante when it comes to difficulty may only prove popular with a small contingent of gamers. 

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty key details

  • Price: £59.99/$59.99
  • Developer: Team Ninja
  • Release Date: March 3, 2023
  • Platforms: PS5, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC,

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty trailer

Prepare to cry

If you’re someone who couldn’t finish Nioh, or any of FromSoftware’s games, Wo Long is only going to offer more pain and frustration. Wo Long often demands exceptional reflexes to the point of issue, with boss fights often feeling like one long challenge to press a certain button at the right time, rather than a duel with multiple paths to victory.

Of course, the compulsion of games like this is in overcoming adversity and learning how to take down every boss, before basking in your triumph. Although, Wo Long’s mechanics can often be a hindrance when it comes to attaining that glory. It’s all about timing, and once you’ve mastered this, you’ve mastered Wo Long – only the path doesn’t feel as rewarding as Nioh or other games in this sub-genre.

Like other Soulslikes, there’s going to be a group of players who initially enjoy Wo Long, but never get passed the punishing first boss – a two-phase battle that has been changed from the demo. Even Dexerto’s most experienced Elden Lords struggled to overcome this challenge, and we fear that not everyone will have the patience.

wo long boss
Bosses in Wo Long are not playing around.

Engage with Wo Long’s mechanics or die trying

Grinding levels or hoping for a lucky break will seldom make these challenges easier. You have no choice but to engage with the game’s deflection mechanic if you’re to triumph. Once you do, you’ll be in good stead – but not everyone will find this wrinkle enjoyable. This is not just a case of “get good”. It’s getting good at one thing, hoping you find it fun. The game often mirrors Sekiro in this way, although even that offered multiple paths to victory.

Of course, if you’re the sort of player who can perform backstabs in Dark Souls with surgical precision, you will get a kick out of Wo Long. Its deflection mechanic is the same principle. You parry an attack, it staggers your opponent, and you move in for a critical hit. Repeat. It’s addictive, but Wo Long over-relies on this mechanic and sometimes feels like it devalues nearly every other offensive move at your disposal. If you can’t master certain mechanics when the game tells you to – your journey ends.

There are magical spells that offer variety, as you can use fire, rock, poison, wind, and more to batter your enemies. We experimented with these, but found it awkward, especially during boss fights. Spells that cause status effects were helpful, but in a difficult battle, it usually just made more sense to deflect and counter in order to win.

Wo Long gameplay
Wo Long channels themes from Dynasty Warriors as both are based on the Romance of the Three Kingdoms novel.

Spirit and morale

There are other cool attacks such as the Divine Beast, allowing you to summon dragon-themed monsters to help you out in a pinch. The game also uses a Spirit and Morale system in place of stamina. This controls the flow of battle, dictating when and how you (and enemies) can utilize critical attacks and who has momentum on their side. The combatant with the highest morale is at an advantage, but this can change in a heartbeat.

It’s a novel and creative spin on the formula and Team Ninja should be commended for trying something new. Although, it’s confusing at first and some Soulslike purists are likely going to be alienated by it. It’s worth keeping in mind though, this game is not trying to be the next Nioh, it’s trying to be the first Wo Long. This mechanic helps the game forge its own identity in this well-defined genre, and lay a foundation for a potential future.

Just like Nioh, the game features a co-op system where other players can summon their friends into their world to take out tough bosses or guide them through certain areas. It’s largely the same system, but this time, you can also summon NPCs the same way. This helps make the game easier as NPCs make for a helpful distraction, but don’t expect them to win the fight for you. In fact, they can be a hindrance We often found that boss enemies were so busy fighting our allies that landing a parry on them became tough. 

Nioh co-op
Co-op will be fun, just don’t expect to rely on it.

Verdict 3/5

While it features some interesting new ideas and a stunning new setting, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty fails to live up to the brilliance of Nioh and Nioh 2. A lot of effort has gone into developing the game’s spirit and deflection systems, but it leaves a feeling that Team Ninja has lost what makes titles in this genre fun – even difficult and punishing ones. 

While Elden Ring expanded the appeal of this style of game, it feels like Wo Long does the opposite and is only for the most committed. If you enjoy the Soulslike formula, especially the Nioh series, then there’s a lot to like in Wo Long if you’re willing to put in the time, but this really is a game for hardcore fans of the genre only.

Reviewed on PS5

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