Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, a new offering from Team Ninja, attempts to inject fresh elements into the familiar formula of their previous games. Set in Ancient China during the Three Kingdoms period, the game bears a resemblance to Nioh. The narrative takes a back seat, with characters making brief appearances and exits, but the game compensates for this with its enjoyable combat mechanics. Progression in the game is structured through levels, and the Morale system determines the relative strength of both the player and their enemies. Killing enemies increases Morale, but to maintain it, the player must locate flags scattered throughout the level. While this concept is intriguing, in practice, it amplifies the linear structure of the levels, making them feel even more limiting.
The game’s combat is where Wo Long shines. The stamina system from typical Soulslikes has been replaced with Spirit. You build Spirit by landing attacks, parrying incoming blows, and staying aggressive, and then spend it on powerful attacks and buffs. Parrying is an important aspect of the game’s combat, and it allows you to deflect every single attack in the game, including projectiles and magic. This is incredibly satisfying, and timing windows are not overly punishing. Enemies follow the same Spirit system that you do, and fully reducing their spirit allows you to perform finishing blows on them for big damage. Combat involves a lot of risk versus reward, deciding whether to spend Spirit to buff or attack and leaving yourself at risk of being staggered by a single enemy attack.
The main quirk with the Spirit system is that, since it’s the only resource you use in combat, magic also has to be balanced around it. Wo Long’s magic comes in the form of Wizardry Spells, learned via a series of skill trees, while melee skills are instead tied directly to weapons. Most spells often put you in the red, and buffs last for a very short time by default, meaning a pure magic build is not possible. This is not surprising, considering other Team Ninja titles, but it sometimes feels like the spells don’t mesh well with the parry-focused gameplay.
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The bosses are the area where the game truly fails. There are some standout bosses, but many have a limited moveset that is easy to figure out even during your first attempt. Some of the early bosses even return as regular enemies later on, if you want an idea of how simple they are. This is mitigated somewhat by the harder difficulty levels, though you only have access to these after beating Wo Long for the first time.
Gear feels a little annoying to sort through, though the problem is much less present here. You’ll still be getting lots of new weapons and armor, each with different percentage-based bonuses and effects. But item levels are completely irrelevant in Wo Long, so you don’t have to worry about constantly upgrading your gear to stay relevant.
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty tries to add new elements to the familiar formula of Team Ninja’s previous games, but the changes don’t always work. The Morale system is an interesting idea, but it makes the linear levels feel even more restrictive. However, the game’s combat is where Wo Long truly shines. The Spirit system is a fun and satisfying way to engage with enemies, and parrying is an important aspect of the game’s combat. Unfortunately, the bosses are the game’s weakest aspect, with many having a limited moveset that is easy to figure out. Overall, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is a fun game with some flaws that are outweighed by its satisfying combat.