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Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty Game review

Game review 03 March 2023, 16:10

Wo Long Fallen Dynasty Review: A Spirited Soulslike

Much like Nioh, Wo Long is beautiful and intricate and offers a punishing combat system to satisfy your masochistic desires if you have a thing for Souslike games.

The review is based on the PS5 version. It's also relevant to PC, XSX, XONE, PS4 version(s).

Most games start you off with introductory battles that slowly get you used to their combat style and even give you a chance to make mistakes until you feel good enough to do it on your own without tutorial prompts or hand-holding. Oh, but not Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty.

  1. Satisfyingly brutal combat system that rewards patience and timing;
  2. Plenty of ways to customize your attacks and build;
  3. Detailed and impressive visuals and enemy designs.
  1. High learning curve early in the game;
  2. Characters aren’t often memorable despite being historical figures.

No, this game decides to have you face against a heavy-hitting boss right at the beginning. And just when you thought you finally defeated him—surprise—there is another phase for you to beat. It’s this initial fight that may deter certain players from finding out the highs and lows of playing Wo Long, Team Ninja’s new entry into the Soulslike genre. It’s a punishing game to say the least, but it offers satisfying moments that test your patience and a combat system that is fluid, fun, and a beast to master.

A World in Peril

Wo Long takes place in 184 AD and is set against the tumultuous age of China’s Three Kingdoms. It’s not all history, however, as the game also throws in some dark magic and supernatural elements to give you a story that has you meeting up with historical figures but fighting off against possessed monkeys, too. Each area you visit will let you encounter some notable allies who will fight alongside you against an ever-growing threat so you will learn a little bit about them until the next area where you will meet a few others.

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, published by Koei Tecmo (2023)

Some of these characters don’t make much of an impact on your story considering how quickly the game shuffles through them sometimes. Your character is also a nameless warrior who is destined to stop this evil threatening the world, but they are also a silent protagonist meaning some of the more pivotal scenes will be met with just a cold stare and a nod depending on how you angled your eyebrows in the character creator. Your options are generous to make the warrior you want, but lacking a personality makes Wo Long feel like an epic tale you follow and not one you make for yourself.


Its morale rankings, experience you get from fighting enemies, and generous way to customize your favorite pieces of armor give you the tools you need to take on some tough foes that will kill you, yes, but will also provide you with over 30 hours of satisfying punishment. There is no denying Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty has a high learning curve, but as many Chinese proverbs will tell you, patience, practice, and some great parrying skills will get you far.

Despite this, the game does offer some beautiful settings and plenty of realistic cutscenes that show off the struggles, betrayals, and lightheartedness of the Three Kingdoms. I didn’t notice any issues while playing, but the English dub doesn’t always match with lip movements so it got some getting used to. Its bosses and their intricate designs with armor that falls off during fights also showcases the little details combat has to offer.

While the game may be beautiful, you’re at war after all so your character will often encounter enemies in each area during main missions. These are often human soldiers, magical animals, or demons for you to fight until you get to the boss at the end of a checkpoint. While linear, the game does offer sub missions you can do to learn more about certain characters or to simply level up before continuing the story. It’s a format that works without feeling too repetitive as combat always spices things up.

A Dance of Swords

Akin to that of Nioh, Wo Long’s combat system is more about understanding your enemy, deflecting their attacks, and waiting for an opening to attack. Even common soldiers can put an end to your journey if you are not careful as their blows can sometimes overwhelm you if you missed the timing of their attacks.

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, published by Koei Tecmo (2023)

That first boss fight I mentioned earlier? Well, it can also prove as a test for anyone starting out in the game. Zhang Liang is relentless and will pummel you with blow after blow, but if you time your attacks, unleash a martial arts skill, and parry enough of his hits, you can stagger him, causing him to be vulnerable for a few seconds for you to perform a devastating fatal strike. Patience is key in this game as button mashing will get you killed in a flash, but so is mastering the many skills you have at your disposal and reading the enemy’s attack patterns.

Compared to this first battle, Wo Long’s overall combat system is punishing but fair. The more you attack an enemy, the more you increase your Spirit Gauge, the game’s version of a stamina bar that also lets you power up your offenses. Once you have enough of it filled, you can use some of it to unleash weapon-specific martial arts moves or magic spells. These attacks let you continue comboing your enemy and will sometimes prevent them from attacking if you time it right. Get hit too much, however, and your gauge will decrease and you will get staggered instead.

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, published by Koei Tecmo (2023)

This tug of war with your spirit gauge causes combat to be more precise than at first you may think. Sure, you want to mash the attack button when you can, but mastering when to parry will win you the battle. This move is vital to your survival as enemies have unblockable attacks that can only be parried. Not only does it feel amazing to actually hit the parry button at just the right time to see a cool animation play out, but doing tons of damage and getting closer to defeating them feels even better.

The Spoils of War

Of course, mastering how a boss fights also means fighting them a few times until you get their moves and timing down. If you die—and you will a lot—your morale rank decreases and you respawn at your last checkpoint. Your morale cannot fall under your fortitude rank, which you increase as you activate battle flags, checkpoints, but comes at the cost repopulating all the enemies you just fought. This is actually a good thing as you can use these checkpoints as safe markers for you to heal, grind a bit, and increase your morale ranking higher than an upcoming boss’s to give you an advantage in the fight.

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, published by Koei Tecmo (2023)

Grinding is not all bad as it may sound as you only lose half of your experience points when you fall. These can be used to raise one of five attributes that coincide with different stats of your character such as fire for spirit attack strength or earth for increased health. These attributes let you customize your build how you like as there are advantages to focusing on individual skills. Additionally, you can also unlock spells depending on the your attribute level. These are overshadowed by the more quick-hitting aspect of combat and also deplete your spirit gauge, but using spells defensively proved to be more beneficial for me in the long run.

All the loot you gain from fighting enemies has its benefits, but I was surprised you can get far in the game with old pieces of armor as long as you simply enhance it with the various items you’ll pick up. Cosmetically, this is great if you want to look a certain way, but armor weighs differently and can impact your dodging and parrying abilities so you will need to wear what you can depending on your stats or items. The game also offers you various weapon types that feel distinctly different and change the attack style of your martial arts attack to your liking. It’s great when you want to shift from focusing on enemies in front of you with your hammer, for instance, to doing area damage with your pole arm.

Final Thoughts

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, published by Koei Tecmo (2023)

Once you get past the brutal first battle, you will realize Wo Long is surprisingly approachable if you give it time. Most battles you play through bring with them one or two companions who don’t do much damage, but do their best to distract your foes. Playing with others online will also increase the overall difficulty levels of your enemies, but it brings a different feel to going into battle on your own with fighters who actually know what they are doing—not to mention, it’s great to get help when you are at your wit’s end over a tricky boss fight.

Wo Long Fallen Dynasty Review: A Spirited Soulslike - picture #6

Our reviews are featured on Metacritic.

Its morale rankings, experience you get from fighting enemies, and generous way to customize your favorite pieces of armor give you the tools you need to take on some tough foes that will kill you, yes, but will also provide you with over 30 hours of satisfying punishment. There is no denying Wo Long; Fallen Dynasty has a high learning curve, but as many Chinese proverbs will tell you, patience, practice, and some great parrying skills will get you far.

Giancarlo Saldana | Gamepressure.com

Giancarlo Saldana

Giancarlo Saldana

Giancarlo grew up playing video games and finally started writing about them on a blog after college. He soon began to write for small gaming websites as a hobby and then as a freelance writer for sites like 1UP, GamesRadar, MacLife, and TechRadar. Giancarlo also was an editor for Blast Magazine, an online gaming magazine based in Boston where he covered various video game topics from the city's indie scene to E3 and PAX. Now he writes reviews and occasional previews for Gamepressure covering a broad range of genres from puzzle games to JRPGs to open-world adventures. His favorite series include Pokémon, Assassin's Creed, and The Legend of Zelda, but he also has a soft spot for fighting and music games like Super Smash Bros and Rock Band. When not playing Overwatch after a long day at work, he enjoys spending time working out, meal prepping, and discovering new international films and TV shows.


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