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News Opinions 30 January 2023, 16:19

author: Zbigniew Woznicki

Soulslike Runner-ups Have Something New. And It Could be a Huge Success

The beta version of Wo Longa: Fallen Dynasty didn't thrill me, but it already has the makings of a great game. It clearly has the potential and hopefully it can still spread its wings even more. The developers have a great idea for it.

It will soon be four years since the release of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, but the game is prevalent in the minds of people, including developers. This is confirmed by the Koei Tecmo team, whose Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty also prioritizes parrying and countering enemy attacks. Regular blocks or dodges still appear, but they are of little importance. Efficient parrying of the enemy's blows will allow for a quick victory. Especially in the case of bosses – dodging their attacks is just a waste of time.

The action of the shared gameplay fragment of Wo Longa: Fallen Dynasty takes place in 184 AD, when the Yellow Turban Uprising began – for a moment, the rebel troops are our opponents. They're just ordinary mobs, however, they don't unleash the full potential of the combat system. You may need to parry an attack occasionally, but we can easily defeat similar enemies by just spamming main attack. However, I didn't expect anything special from one of the earliest stages of the game.

Wo Long enjoys a simple, yet addictive combat system

An interesting break from such routine are the generals who guard the banner spots (rough equivalents of Dark Souls'bonfires). They are definitely stronger and faster. Here we can put our skills and reactions to test. They're like a quiz to see what we have learned. If we die, it's okay. We only lose some of the resources and we can quickly make up for them, for example, by defeating a boss.

Still, it's a shame the combat system only had a few places to shine. In theory, it's simple, but it provides a lot of satisfaction in difficult clashes. The "soul" is used here as the stamina bar. Taking a hit, blocking an attack or launching it all affect it, and depleting it completely leads to a temporary stun leaving us vulnerable to enemy attacks. On top of that, there is a second bar – also related to the soul. Landing the correct counters and dealing damage to enemies fills it up, which increases the power of our attacks.

Soulslike Runner-ups Have Something New. And It Could be a Huge Success - picture #1
Monkey didn't have many attacks, but made up for it with its jumping power.

The thing is: it works both ways. Both we and our adversaries are subject to the same mechanics. And the satisfaction of parrying multiple attacks in a row and then performing a powerful counter that stuns a boss is truly immense. And we can parry literally every attack. The only challenge is having the right dexterity and pressing the parrying button at the right moments.

We literally humiliate our enemy in terms of gameplay. Wo Long has a built-in system evaluating the morale of fighters. We have it and our enemies do too. With it, we can assess the level of difficulty and what awaits us. Killing everyone increases our rank, but if we are defeated, the winner takes a part of it over.

However, we can lose or take away the morale rank if we just stun the enemy and perform a critical hit. After all, this is how we show fighting superiority. But what's the use, anyway? Well, casting spells – the more powerful they are, the higher the level they require. For example, it may turn out that while fighting a boss, we will not be able to use the best spells because our morale has wavered. There are ways to curb it, but I won't reveal all of that just now.

Wo Long is challenging, but rewards with character development

I definitely see a major problem with Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty. The specific combat system means that people who have trouble mastering it will quickly quit. I just like challenges, learning new mechanics, feeling the thrill of finally completing a more difficult stage. At least a few deaths are guaranteed right from the start, but you probably couldn't expect anything else from the creators of Nioh! This, of course, applies to bosses, because – as I mentioned earlier – regular opponents in the early stages don't pose a problem.

Soulslike Runner-ups Have Something New. And It Could be a Huge Success - picture #2
Just a little bit of fire and you can get started.

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty may have borrowed the combat system from Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, but the character development is something completely different. People who like to create varied builds and play around with their characters will be very pleased. Our stats are broken down into five elemental forces, each with an emphasis on completely different gameplay. The acquired weapons are also based on the elements, therefore we have five different schools of spells as well.

This gives many options for experimenting with the direction in which we want to develop the hero. Personally, I prefer a very aggressive melee build based on element of fire with a pinch of earth. For the time being, it worked fine and I came out victorious from subsequent battles. After all, apart from parrying, the use of some weapons is more like what we know from classic soulslikes.

The game didn't blow me away with a "wow effect," but I see some potential in it. I'm dying of curiosity about what's coming next, and I'd love to come back to Wo Long for many more sessions. I want to explore more of this world, see more locations, get powerful equipment and find out what enemies the developers have prepared for us.

Soulslike Runner-ups Have Something New. And It Could be a Huge Success - picture #3
What a cozy place.

The game has elements of Nioh and Sekiro and when it comes to mechanics, the developers definitely managed to come out on top. It probably won't be a GOTY contender, but if someone can't look at soulslikes in the same way after Sekiro, they will have to go for Wo Long.

Of course, you can't count on the same kind of experience, but at the moment I don't really see another game so close to FromSoftware's formula coming anytime soon. In my opinion, however, it's worth trusting people from Koei Tecmo. After all, the two parts of Nioh were excellent and very successful. I think we should be satisfied this time as well.

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty

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