Game of the Month – Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty

PLATFORMS Xbox Series X/S, PS5, Xbox One, PS4, PC
RELEASE DATE 03.03.2023

It’s easy to get a few glimpses of Koei Tecmo’s new Soulslike Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty and expect it to be Nioh in a new setting—China instead of Japan. To be fair, the game does share more than a few similarities with its older sibling. After customizing your main character, you set off to tackle a wide variety of main campaign and side missions, each of which features war-torn landscapes packed full of horrific demons needing to be felled. You’ll need to hone your skills and choose wisely from all of the gear you’ll gain in order to take on not only the standard-yet-deadly foes that stand in your way, but also the terrifying end bosses that await at the conclusion of each mission.

Wo Long is definitely not the same warrior simply donning different armor, however. As opposed to the Nioh series, which bases combat more around a balance between offense and defense, fights here are flashy, faster-paced, and more rewarding for those who lean into aggression. This is in part due to Wo Long’s stamina system, where instead of just having a set amount of stamina—called Spirit here—you can use, your character will swap between having positive or negative Spirit depending on your actions. The more you damage your opponent or deflect their attacks, the more Spirit you’ll have to work with. The more you take damage or swing wildly without hitting, the further into the negative you’ll go, meaning you can’t unleash spells or heavier attacks until your Spirit regenerates to its baseline.

Another interesting element to Wo Long is its morale rankings. The higher your morale, the more damage you’ll do, and some special abilities can only be used when your rank is at a certain level. Your morale can be raised by defeating demons or hitting specialty attacks, but can also be lowered by taking excessive damage or dying. Thankfully, battle flags are hidden throughout every mission, and claiming them increases your minimum moral rank, no matter how bad things get.

While Team Ninja has put some notable effort into making Wo Long stand apart from the Nioh series, it unfortunately never quite reaches its predecessor’s same level of quality. Although there’s plenty of loot to find throughout the game, the weapon and armor options aren’t as interesting or varied as what we’ve seen in the studio’s previous games. As well, Wo Long’s difficulty can be quite unbalanced at times. The game’s very first boss is so difficult that some players may completely give up at that point, while there were a few bosses we conquered later in the game on our very first tries.

For both good and a bit of bad, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is definitely not Nioh 3. What it is is an interesting new twist on Team Ninja’s take on the Souls genre that brings some thrilling new gameplay mechanics, a fresh flavor of Koei Tecmo’s long love for Chinese history, and a handful of rough edges that will hopefully be smoothed out should the game get a sequel.

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