I've dabbled in Dark Souls III. I've tried my damndest to make some headway in Bloodborne. I took a stab (no pun intended) at Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. And I even impressed myself by investing 10 hours into Elden Ring. But the end result for each of those "Soulsbourne" titles has all been the same - complete and utter defeat. But clearly, I'm a glutton for punishment. And I realized that sad fact about myself when I saw the Demon's/Dark Souls-inspired gameplay of Wo Long: Fallen Dyntasy and STILL wanted to take it for a spin. I'm so pleased with myself for progressing a whole hell of a lot further in that new melee combat-heavy release from Team Ninja in comparison to the short amount of play time I squeezed out of other "Soulslike" games. Now with all that being said, let's delve deep into my Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty review.
'Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty' Review: Approachable Souls
'Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty' Review
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty feels like the world of Dynasty Warriors got thrown into an all-new Nioh game. And to be honest, that random combination works a lot better than I figured it would. The war and mythical warriors lifted from the ancient Chinese Three Kingdoms time period are given a dark fantasy spin on its traditional lore. Dynasty Warriors fans who dive into this game will love reuniting with iconic characters such as Guan Yu and Zheng Fei, plus they'll most likely take a liking to all the mythical demons that now appear alongside them. I really love the manner in which the game's plot is presented - unlike most Soulslike games, Wo Long doesn't drip-feed you details about what's truly going on and force you to dive into documents in order to piece everything together. Traditional cutscenes go a long way towards explaining the real evil behind what's transpiring, who are the good guys/gals that fight by your side, and even showcasing some exciting cinematic clashes from time to time. Wo Long's linear approach to storytelling gets a passing grade from me.
Now let's get this out of the way first before I move on - Wo Long is indeed hard. But here's the thing - Soulslike fans and even gamers who don't really care for that style of game's focus on high difficulty will both enjoy this game equally. Three main factors come into play here that eases the usual high barrier of entry Souls games have implemented since their inception - deflecting, reinforcements, and the morale system. Like Sekiro, your customized combatant can throw their foes off balance and line them up for devastating counterattacks by successfully deflecting their light and heavy blows.
Once you finally wrap your head around that mechanic and become a pro at timing it just right against numerous enemies, the fun back-and-forth rhythm of combat will endear itself to you as it did for me. At certain intervals (like the beginning of a new explorable area, for instance), you'll get to align yourself with one or two AI-controlled partners. And for the most part, they handle themselves quite well and always get you out of a pinch against seemingly overwhelming odds. Also having the chance to call on a live co-op partner and summon a different AI companion to even the odds is another great Wo Long feature that makes playing it a less trying task.
The standout element that helps Wo Long differentiate itself from other Soulslike games is its morale mechanic. Within each area, you'll get to increase your overall morale by defeating enemies and sticking your flag into any of the flag posts you come across (which pretty much act as Dark Souls' bonfires). Players can make the game as easy or hard as they'd like due to this feature - you're free to take on standard enemy troops and massive bosses at a higher morale rank if you want that traditional Soulslike challenge. Or you can go out of your way to discover as many flag posts as possible to even the playing field and raise your morale rank to the point where you're powerful enough to take on anyone in the surrounding area. The risk/reward feel of it all that comes from the morale system is well implemented and helps ease non-Souls players into the game from the jump.
Participating in Wo Long's fast-paced combat should feel and look recognizable to players of Nioh and Sekiro. And that's honestly a good thing! Your warrior (which can be created via an excellent character creation system that allowed me to make a black warrior with a fitting hairstyle) can use a nice selection of weapons to stay in the fight. Dual swords, scimitars, wooden hammers, javelins, and more are at your disposal and offer varied combat styles to simultaneously master as you can equip two weapons at a time. The combat is undoubtedly Wo Long's finest feature - you'll always look forward to running into a new group of adversaries and wiping them out with weak/strong attacks, special moves, stealthy executions, AI assists, "Wizardy Spells," "Divine Beast" assists, and more. And thanks to its exemplary graphical performance, Wo Long's combat looks sublime as you exchange all sorts of attacks and deflections with human and demonic opponents.
There's so much to love about this game...except for its sometimes spotty technical performance. As I was making my way through the game to prepare for this Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty review, I was caught off guard by several moments where bugs and glitches popped up more often than I would have liked. Sometimes the camera would wig out when my character got pushed into a corner, which made it hard to track who was assaulting me. It definitely felt weird to approach the door signaling a boss encounter and having to deal with a sudden split-second freeze on every occasion. Along with those disappointing moments, there were other random instances of Wo Long freezing for a few seconds and being bogged down by way-too-long load times every time the game boots up your save file. I've uttered this statement during some recent game reviews of mine and I sadly have to mention it here once again - Wo Long's technical mishaps point to another situation where it needed a few more months of polish to iron out all those annoying issues.
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