Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty (Review)

Howdy hidey ho!  Some of you might know I reviewed The Nioh Collection awhile back and got a taste for the more action-focused Souls-like formula from Team Ninja.  But as I had mentioned in that review, Nioh 2 in particular had bosses that were practically cheese level where calling in help was more than likely the intention.  But I still liked both Nioh games, so when I got wind of Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty and that it would launch on Game Pass, there was no reason not to find out if this is spiritually Nioh 3.


…beating the tutorial boss sets you up to know everything you need to know…

You find out pretty quickly what the game expects of you: the tutorial boss might be one of the best done tutorials ever. That’s right: beating the tutorial boss sets you up to know everything you need to know to beat the rest of the game, and I respect that.  But there IS also a bit of a problem with the rest of the game: lack of modernization.  You’ll find the exploration to be rather cookie cutter coming off of Nioh and managing your equipment/build to be overly clerical.  They DO try a few different core bits: one of them is that thorough exploration and massacring of mobs raises your morale.  This raises your base damage, and that means your first shot at a new boss gives you some breathing room to learn their moves.  That leads to what’s really the highlight of the game: bosses.  I have good news, too: since the game provides plenty of AI helpers, the difficulty felt “just right”.  It’s just hard enough that any sort of arrogance will see you die.  Take the boss fights seriously (and by that I mean their different focus on parry mechanics), and you’ll even stand a chance at beating it on the first try.  And of course, you can always just call in some human help.  I personally see no issue with this: it’s easier in the right way and encourages more aggressive play as opposed to the more evasive/defensive play seen in most Souls games.  And that’s the entirety of gameplay: explore, strengthen, and take on a boss.


It’s no Elden Ring, I’ll admit that…

Depending on your experience in this subgenre and how much help you call in, you’ll get somewhere between 25-30 hours to the credits.  The thing is, there are some side quests, and there are plenty of sub battlefields that pretty much let you over-grind your character if you end up needing to.  I admit that I found I did not need a single sub battlefield, though: thorough exploration always led me to being leveled up enough.  Of course, there’s also apparently some endgame battlefields for enthusiasts, but you’re overall treated to a healthy helping of content.  It’s no Elden Ring, I’ll admit that, but it’s also not over in a weekend.


It’s readily apparent that this is still a very old engine…

Here we run into some serious issues, ones that seem to plague this entire subgenre except the Demon’s Souls remake: brute-forcing old engines.  It’s readily apparent this is still a very old engine they keep using and pushing, likely from the PS3-era, and it shows in core things like the lighting engine and an unstable, stuttering framerate despite not really pushing graphics that hard.  Use performance mode anyway, as the game requires some level of quick parry reflexes.  On the flipside, the artstyle deserves a little credit: they take the war-torn period of the Three Kingdoms and place a fictional, supernatural story within its events.  And while the graphics don’t entirely do it justice, play the game in Chinese voices and you might be surprised how well it all fits together.  As mentioned, the story itself is fictional, involving demonic Qi (“chi”), and while it often feels like the story jumps between its plot points thanks to the lack of overall cinematic developments, it does a good enough job of keeping you informed of what it is you’re after.  I mean, pretty much any outlined story is a step up from the ambiguity of Souls games, so maybe the bar is currently still a bit low…


…enjoyed my time learning to parry or be a dishonor to my whole family.

Truth is, this really is Nioh 3, except world-swapped for a historical period in China.  The fights focus heavily on encouraging aggressive, action-focused moves, and this really matters when it comes to bosses.  It feels different in just the right way from the usual Souls formula, and the difficulty is also just right thanks to an excellent tutorial boss.  The exploration is a bit stale, though, especially with how similar it is to its predecessors, but they do a good job of fitting you into China’s darkest era through a combination of artstyle and decent Chinese voice actors… albeit, in an aged, stuttering engine.  And while it’s a far cry from the size of Elden Ring, I still enjoyed my time learning to parry or be a dishonor to my whole family.

I give Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty

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