Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty Review
- Story And Setting
- Visuals And Performance
Some performance issues shouldn’t distract you from Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty’s otherwise great ancient Chinese setting and fantastic gameplay.
- Developers: Team Ninja and Koei Tecmo
- Publishers: Koei Tecmo, CE-Asia, KOEI TECMO AMERICA Corporation
- Release Date: March 3, 2023
- Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X & Series S, Xbox Cloud Gaming, and PC
- Engaging Combat System.
- Build Variety
- The Music
- Ancient Chinese Setting
- Bland Narrative
- Boss Fights Are Not Challenging
- Performance Issue
The Nioh games have earned developer Team Ninja a lot of goodwill over the past couple of years, and fans of these titles were really hyped about the developer’s latest release Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, which we will cover in this review.
It’s a bit of a departure from what they’ve been doing with Nioh in terms of the setting, but the overall tone and gameplay are still the exact same. And the studio definitely managed to deliver an overall great experience here, but there are a few shortcomings as well. So let’s discuss all of that and more in much more detail below.
Story And Setting
Without spoiling anything, the game is set in ancient China during the fall of the Imperial Han Dynasty. You, the player, have a really simple goal in the game, and that is to fight the evil forces that threaten the land. The story is as basic as it gets, and not something that you should expect to leave you in awe at the end of the journey.
It is the gameplay that is the key highlight of Team Ninja’s games, and following that logic, the story is just barely serviceable in Wo Long as well. However, the Chinese setting of the game does result in some extremely beautiful levels in terms of Art Direction and the overall Atmosphere, which is something I’ve personally been looking for in a game for a long time.
The game even gives you AI companions that resemble various famous historical figures and help you clear out the enemies and bosses in particular levels. These NPC companions also have their own tales to tell, but their overall story is not just as interesting or impactful, which further solidifies our point that the story is just not the strong suit of Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty.
Things will now get really interesting as we explain the best part of the experience, which is the combat and just the overall gameplay. It is actually really different from something like Nioh 2, and feels more akin to a game like Sekiro, sing Wo Long heavily depends on parrying and frame-perfect deflects.
Before we dive deep into the details of combat, you should know that the game also features an amazing character creator with sliders for almost every single feature that you can think of. The presets provided are also pretty great, and the level of customization that you can achieve here is just outstanding.
So make sure to spend your time with the Character Creation menu before jumping into the game.
Instead of Souls, Runes, or Blood Echos, you can level up in the game using Qi that you obtain from killing enemies and bosses. There are five basic stats that you can level up, and most of these will buff up your physical attributes, including total health and the amount of weight that you can carry.
The variety of weapons is also well worth appreciating, and the list is huge, from Katanas to Halbreds and even Hammers. Each weapon has a Light Attack and a Spirit Attack that deals more damage but needs more time to execute. Additionally, there are Martial Art techniques for each weapon as well, which will deal more damage to the health and the posture of foes.
However, using Martial Arts techniques will also fill up your posture bar as well, so use them wisely during combat. You can also unlock Magic Spells, and there is a whole tree where you can invest points to unlock new spells. Your character also has a healing potion that replenishes every time you rest or place a flag in the game. Additionally, you can increase the uses of the healing potion as well.
The depth of combat doesn’t just stop here. You also have weapons for ranged combat and throwables as well. There are items for stealth, and you can go backstab enemies as well, but stealth gameplay isn’t as polished or fun as head-to-head combat.
In terms of damage mitigation, you can either block attacks or dodge them completely, but both of these methods are not as guaranteed to save your life as the parry mechanic, which plays a crucial role in combat. Basically, everything in Wo Long is based on parrying, and as long as you execute those perfect deflects in the game, you’ll easily beat any challenge presented to you.
Bosses and enemies also have these charged attacks with a red-colored animation, and parrying those attacks will either stun them or massively fill their posture bar. The basic goal during combat additionally is to fill up the posture bar of bosses so that you can execute a special attack that deals an incredible amount of damage.
As for the boss variety, the style is all here, but the challenge is now. Apart from maybe one or two of them in the entire game, the rest of the bosses are just a cakewalk, and players can steamroll through them with no issues. None of them provide a decent enough challenge.
The combat does feel really polished though, and while fighting them you can even learn patterns, and as a result, fights become more like a dance, with you parrying every attack in a rhythm. But again, the problem is that things get a little too tame and predictable.
There is another aspect of the combat system where you can equip and summon Divine Beasts during fights. These creatures are especially useful in dealing with some tough bosses, as they eat away at their health bar, However, you’ll need to charge a meter first before you can do that, and that requires you to either deal or receive a bunch of damage. So this ensures that you cannot spam the ability to rinse through bosses.
And as great as it feels fighting bosses and minibosses in Wo Long, we really can’t say the same for exploration. Level design is subpar in most cases, and the incentive for exploration just isn’t present in the game. Yes, there are shortcuts that you can unlock in each level, but the game still feels like a linear experience with you clearing out enemies and fighting a boss at the end. The game also reuses most areas, and there are just not enough locations to explore or get lost in.
Visuals And Performance
The graphics are great, but not something we would call “Next-Gen,” but that’s not a bad thing since the art direction compensates for that. You will definitely not be disappointed with the visuals, and the same can be said for the designs of the NPCs and enemies as well.
With a setting that looks like it was ripped straight out of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, but with a fantasy twist, the developers are able to introduce a lot of style and flair to the game.
As for the music, it is another key highlight of the game, which becomes evident from the very start at the main menu screen. Even the dynamic music that plays throughout the levels and the score of some of the boss fights is also really good, and I just love the uniquely Chinese twist to the sound design.
As for the performance, the game runs smoothly on consoles for the most part. Unfortunately, the PC version is currently riddled with performance issues which include frequent stutters while playing. PC players have been getting a lot of bad ports of Triple-A games recently and sadly Wo Long is one of them. Additionally, the Keyboard and Mouse controls are also broken and it is recommended that you use a controller while playing on PC.
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty takes players back to ancient China, and gives us a glimpse at a setting that few big-budget games are willing to explore. It features an incredible combat system that is so rewarding to learn, and downright euphoric to master. The boss variety is also great visually, but mechanically, most of them fail to put up and sort of challenge.
If you’re looking for incredible gameplay, then this is the game for you. But players who look for a deep narrative in their games, won’t find anything worthwhile here. Wherever it lacks, the game makes up for it with its impressive combat system, featuring some of the best battle music in a while.
Unfortunately, though, I would not recommend picking the game up on PC right now due to the numerous performance issues. But if you have a console at your disposal, then by all means go ahead.
This has been our Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty review. While you’re here, consider checking out some of our other articles.
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