Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty raises the bar for Soulslike combat to such an extent it deserves to break free from that descriptor entirely in favour of something new. It provides deeply intricate combat and an exhilarating arcade alternative to FromSoftware's more contemplative formula.
A game like Elden Ring seeks to draw you into the mystery of its broken world, letting the player piece together how it all fell apart as they tip-toe around sleeping giants. This approach was and remains a revelatory breath of fresh air in RPG design. Wo Long is the dark side of that moon, choosing instead to loosely retell one of the most classic tales in all of world literature, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, adding in some demonic possession for extra spice. Expect to crush the Yellow Turban Rebellion and clash with Dong Zhuo amidst the flames of a burning Luoyang, just like you did in Dynasty Warriors, and face the legendary Lu Bu in some truly epic encounters.
It tells a story, but outside of bookending each major mission with some melodrama, it's really just the vehicle through which epic combat scenarios are delivered to you. The player character, a silent protagonist, is crudely shoehorned into overly dramatised moments from Three Kingdoms-era Chinese history.
Each environment (called battlefields) in Wo Long seems straightforward at first, but quickly you find they're riddled with complex encounters, traps, shortcuts, valuable treasure, NPCs to chat with, and secrets to uncover. Exploration is made not only rewarding but essential due to the implementation of the Battle Flag system, which is kind of genius but also somewhat overwhelming.
As you explore a battlefield (of which there are around 40, both major and minor), you encounter recesses that function like bonfires or checkpoints in similar games. When you raise a flag in one, it replenishes your stock of reusable Estus stand-in potions (called Dragon's Cure Pots), but without respawning any of the enemies you've defeated. In addition, this will raise your Fortitude level which, along with Morale, makes you more powerful in various ways, but crucially, only within that specific battlefield.
Morale is effectively your power level, and it actively makes you stronger. You raise it by defeating enemies, using certain items, and raising Battle Flags (which are hidden all over the place). Every enemy has their own Morale level, and you can lower it map-wide by defeating specific foes. Your own will decrease when you die, but never lower than your current Fortitude level.
While complex, this all feeds into the combat system, which is uniformly excellent from front to back. The moment when it clicks, and you understand how to deflect attacks and dodge effectively, to parry a Critical Blow and strike back even harder, the experience kicks into high gear and becomes its own beast entirely.
Wo Long rewards excellence and perfection, and if you're a gameplay-first kind of gamer, it's going to blow your mind. You start playing it like any other Soulslike — with your guard up, creeping around more powerful foes — and finish playing it like the kind of Wuxia legend Romance of the Three Kingdoms immortalised. You'll be flipping around the place and engaging dozens of foes with ease, and even the most mundane encounters can end up looking like a scene out of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Developer Team Ninja has foregone the stance system of predecessors Nioh and Nioh 2 for something more weapon focused. There are more than a dozen varieties, and purists of the period will appreciate the plethora of polearms available. Each has its own move set and associated special abilities, almost to an absurd degree. For example, wielding a spear is quite different to a slashing spear which, in turn, is different to both a halberd and a glaive, despite them all being long sticks with sharp ends.
Gear is randomised, and while this isn't our favourite aspect of the game (being somehow even more granular than everything else), it suits the system in which it exists. There's an undeniable thrill to getting the perfect drop after a particularly tough encounter.
Plenty of build variety is possible within Wo Long's progression system, with each attribute tied to one of the classical Chinese virtues and elements of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. Further, the magic that is available to you is tied to each.
We played with a heavy focus on Wood, which increases your health as a baseline (the secret cheat code to beating most Soulslike games) and the damage you inflict with an appropriately aligned weapon. In addition, it opens up its associated magic tree, which revolves around buffing, inflicting lightning damage, and even allows for some limited healing of yourself and any nearby allies.
In another unique twist on the tried and true formula, magic is tied to your Spirit, which also functions as your stamina. So, rather than watching an MP pool or having a set number of casts of a spell, you instead must decide whether you can afford to cast anything, as you may not have enough Spirit left to dodge as well. Further, spells have a Morale requirement, meaning that until you raise it on a given battlefield, you can't use your best abilities right out of the gate.
As you progress through the game, you'll encounter legendary figures like Liu Bei, Cao Cao, Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei (to name just a few), and two such individuals can join you on the battlefield at a time. The AI is surprisingly competent, and as you defeat enemies together, you deepen your relationship, eventually being rewarded with replicas of their iconic weapons and armour, which are some of the best in the game.
Of course, you can replace these NPCs with real players, which was unfortunately not something we had much success with pre-release. Suffice it to say, though, that environments in Wo Long are designed for large-scale and exciting encounters. Provided the system can handle it, slicing through Wo Long's various battlefields would be an absolute blast with some trusted blades to watch your back.
Boss encounters are incredibly intricate, and Wo Long opens with a doozy of a boss encounter which we struggled with right out of the gate. Definitely not for the faint of heart, the level of difficulty remains high throughout the game, as does the complexity of many of its basic systems. Again, whereas Elden Ring might be able to entice a more casual player with its air of mystery and open-world design, Wo Long knows exactly who its target audience is, and they're going to love every minute of it. If the thought of an Easy difficulty in a Soulslike game causes an involuntary and irrational pang of fear inside a deep and sacred recess of your heart, then Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty might not just be your Game of the Year — it's probably your spirit animal, too.
Unforgiving, intricate, and, at times, almost impenetrable, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty offers a unique take on the increasingly familiar Soulsike formula, carving out a place to call its own with its complex and deeply satisfying combat system. It doesn't pull any punches, and many will likely bounce off it after only a few hours. However, for those willing to achieve the level of mastery it demands, it might be just the thing you've been looking for.
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is an excellent action RPG that offers an even more hardcore take on the increasingly popular Soulslike formula. It's fast, frenetic, and hits like a truck, with one of the most mesmeric combat systems we've ever had the pleasure to master. It might scare off more casual players, but those looking for a challenge, well — you can stop looking.
Got digital deluxe preordered. Can’t wait for tomorrow!
This is the first third party AAA day 1 game that comes into a service and it's good!
I was skeptical.
I'm buying it!!
Sounds awesome! Really want to play this game but I must ask... does it have a "I have 9 month old and absolutely no time to master combat techniques or any difficulty and just want to beat awesome boss fights" easy mode? I guess is called Twitch or YouTube
"Of course, you can replace these NPCs with real players, which was unfortunately not something we had much success with pre-release."
I had noticed this during the demo in September too, but wasn't sure if the feature was available or not at the time.
Other than that it sounds epic.
I was going to cancel it because there's too much to play atm, but after reading this Koei Tecmo and Team Ninja owe you one sale.
"Wo Long rewards excellence and perfection, and if you're a gameplay-first kind of gamer, it's going to blow your mind."
This is exactly what I wanted and describes me perfectly. Been hyped for this since it was announced. Day 1 gamepass is just the cherry on top. Preinstalled ready to go
@Gilvin This game is a bit easier than their other offerings. The made it pretty easy to parry. No need to beat it quickly. If you have a kid just sneak in an hour when he/she is sleeping every now and then and you'll beat it in a month or so. I never gave up difficult games for my kid.
Game looks awesome but I'm a bit burnt out on the Soulsborne/brutally hard genre. I'm sure I'll love it when I finally get round to it, however right now I'm in a very rare "let's just put this on easy mode" phase 😆
I didn't care for the demo myself so I'm probably going to pass for now but maybe I'll give it another shot down the road after seeing reviews like this.
This is a bit unexpected, given the not so impressive demo.
Can't wait to try it out tomorrow!
For those that don't have the money for the full price and can play it on a PC, it's avaliable day one on Game Pass, just get 1 month of access and enjoy!
>Story not great despite being a classic
>Doesn't do a great job explaining itself
Yeah. That's basically what I got from the demo lol. That didn't leave a good impression and seem like its the same for full release. Oh well.
Still great review and good to see its still a good game over all though! Probably gonna pick it up cheap, and when all the DLC is out in a full package.
@Korgon, Same, will grab a physical copy when cheap. I still haven't started the Nioh Collection, which is pretty similar to this.
Definitely one to play down the road. The demo was solid fun. Nothing like getting crushed by an enemy/boss 10 times in a row only to absolutely slaughter it after studying its moveset and practicing. Highly recommended for anyone looking for a tough action-RPG
Buzzing about this! Was a little concerned having heard reports about bad performance etc. but all seems to be good. Loved Nioh and looking forward to playing Wo Long…
Never played a Souls-like but given it's on Gamepass I'll try it there without having to drop cash on it. Looks cool.
@Ear_wiG I hate to try boss battles 10 times or so. Some players are just masochists
N.i.c.e. i knew wo long fallen dynasty is going to be a amazing game.nioh games are amazing.im definitely getting this game.word up son
Had this on pre-order then cancelled it and primarily because still complete Nioh2 (playing in between other games, especially GT7).
Great to see positive reception. It’s going to be difficult but I am goi by to do my best to wait, at least until I have completed Nioh2 and Octopath Traveller 2. So not before summer!
So its hard? Sweet ill dl on gamepass
Excellent. Bring it on, baby! I was going to play it regardless but happy to see it’s getting positive reviews as well.
no it must be rubbish its day one on gamepass
Wow, this sounds impressive! It’s probably too hardcore for me though. I’ve loved most of the Souls-likes I’ve played, but I did so by grinding, farming, over-leveling, and using some build advice from guides. With some tactical build strategizing, the From games I’ve played can become quite manageable, difficulty-wise. The complexity of this sounds like it prevents that.
So am I the only one actually paying for this? GamePass has to be cannibalizing PlayStation sales too at this point.
"It doesn't pull any punches, and many will likely bounce off it after only a few hours."
That's the Gamepass crowd in general, no direct financial investment so will probably dabble and get put off by difficulty.
However if you've actually paid real money full price day one (or even pre-ordered), much more likely to keep at it.
Adding to my buy later list. Still only 2/3 through Hogwarts.
My verdict is still out based on the demo.
I am liking it, but I also foresee it falling into the same trap as Nioh where it starts to feel like a chore.
Mainly, I hate the "looter" systems in place. It's not nearly as perverse as Nioh, but I still don't like it.
Plus, I Nioh side missions and stuff just felt overwhelming and repetitive. Worse is, they felt like a necessary evil to unlock certain things in order to make progressing the main story more manageable.
This review doesn't mention those kinds of issues with level progression, which makes me hopeful.
I confess to sleeping on this one until now.
It'll be put on the list to buy later this year, as I've wanted to try more action heavy games recently to balance out my penchant for RPGs.
So it’s an rpg souls like with extra steps and limits. I’m gonna pass on this for now.
I can’t wait to give this a go, but right now Octopath Traveler 2 is taking up all my free time. It’s so good.
Of course Game Pass day one for me.
Just glad the game seems really good after the slightly questionable atomic heart.
Team Ninja must have alot of employees. I feel like they always have something new out. Happy to see they hit the mark with this one. I will definitely check this out.
+1 for the title alone Khayl
I'm interested, but I must finish Nioh 1st.
I recently went on a spending spree thinking this was gonna release at the end of March cause of the demo's end date lol. So I can't buy this rn unfortunately but it's absolutely next on my list
I'm not good at parrying at all. But there was something very addicting about it here
So glad I just started Dark Souls 3.
@Shinnok789 I can now play Game Pass through my 2021 Samsung TV and there's a £1 first month of Ultimate offer... it may finally be the time.
@Gilvin I second what @KaijuKaiser said. I have a two year old and a 10 month old, and I've managed to beat multiple soulslikes having them. I made it through the demo as well, it just took me several days as opposed to an evening because of my children. However, since you can pause this, you can also find those quiet moments, put the PS5 in rest mode, and suspend a level until later. It might take awhile but you will there! I am planning on it while my son sleeps on my chest with the backbone controller!
@KaijuKaiser I'll play on PS, I will be buying it despite having Gamepass. I'm too much of the mind of needing to support devs I like so we can get games like this in the future.
@ErrantRob Good for you man. I did it for the trophies.
I’m right there with you. I’ve looked forward to this game for years based off its visuals and art direction and the pedigree of the team. With Hogwarts and PSVR 2 at the moment and RE4 Remake coming in the pipeline, I may not get it right off the bat, but certainly going to buy and support. Would feel grimy to consume it as meaningless junk food on GamePass, if I even bothered to buy a Series X to begin with. There’s some games to certain people that are no brainers to buy and for me, this is one of them.
The Demo did not grab me like Nioh did. So moved it to PC GamePass - less of a risk (especially when I already blew-up my gaming budget)
Also on PC there is the potential of using WeMod to bring the game down a notch like with Returnal. If it gets codes
I'll give it a try this weekend.
Yeah, even if at the regular $10 for PC Gamepass it is worth it to try it out.
Especially if not 100% convinced on it and already blew the budget on PSVR2.
Have a similar opinion to the minority here, played the demo didn't grab me whatsoever, despite that I love these sorts of games.
Completed the soulsbornes and niohs multiple times.
Ah well, maybe a-ways down the line.
@Agramonte Wemod helped me enjoy both elden ring and returnal on PC and will do so with this game and sekiro whenever I get the time to play that. Need a GameShark branded app like that on PS5 that interfaces with games so we can edit cheats and difficulty with it perhaps disabling trophies to balance it out.
Funny how some are just giving free advertising to Xbox on here lol
@Greifchen Or to put it another way, some players enjoy the satisfaction of overcoming a challenge 🤷🏻♂️
Definitely check out other reviews from major outlets and credible content creators. They are all over the place in terms of nearly every aspect of the game. Most importantly, this idea of its difficulty. For some reason everyone is hyping up the term masochist and it's extremely difficult, however if you read the full reviews and look at the majority consensus: its that this is the easiest soulsborne game to come along in some time. So, die hard souls game lovers and those hesitant just note that if you are adept at these games, the runtime and mileage on this one beyond it being something new will be shorter, and newbies, this has elements in it that make it a decent entry point if you can stomache a terrible UI and loot system.
Also, in terms of level design, fun factor, bad storytelling, repetition, technical problems, and much more the team have not improved that needed which appear to absolutely be a consensus that is out there but not mentioned in many of the glowing reviews for some reason. Definitely a solid play for game pass, just as atomic heart is. Two killer day and date releases I am envious of for sure. For I am not paying full price for this or anything for that other game.
I must admit I am more and more considering adopting the other console just to have for the games that run better on it and for gamepass. It's also important to note for those that say they will buy the game to support the developers; that it is the developers and publishers that agreed and inked the instant payout to make the game available on gamepass. They got a paycheck for that already, and honestly more people will try this title because of its existence on that service than would have otherwise which will likely lead to purchases of the Nioh games in the longer run, meaning even more revenue especially for a title that clearly had a lesser budget and level of polish. Beware of terrible performance and some game breaking bugs that need to be ironed out if you adopt day one.
Here's hoping for a sale before I fully convince myself to buy an xbox console for the first time ever. For regardless of the completely unaddressed issues with games from this developer, I love me a souls borne game, and cant help but play them all.
Yeah. I had SaveWizard on my PS4. It worked great. They still active there - just released Octopath 2 codes on PS4
But they have not released a SaveWizard for PS5 yet.
@KundaliniRising333 You realise its 50/50 if a game runs better on Series X or not right? Hogwarts for instance runs far better on PS5. In fact you will find Series X usually has better resolution then PS5 but the PS5 has better framerates. Finally from what i've heard Wo Long performs better on PS5.
@WallyWest yah totally. many of the games realsing as of late run better on PS5 for sure. Which means that the green box would likely be used solely for the bethesda games we no longer get, gamepass day ones like wo long, and the very few titles that may run better on it.
Trust me I am a die hard PS fan since PS1. However I cannot argue that the Bethesda buyout and game pass dont make at least owning the other one not alluring. It is great to see many titles running better on PS5 for sure though.
@KundaliniRising333 Fair enough. I myself bought a Series S when i got a PS5 so i can play games like Starfield and the MS 1st party output, its also nice having access to 360 and OG Xbox games i haven't played in years as well.
Looks like a ps3 game.
I read the whole review, but found nothing about downgraded graphics.
Could you add a few words about visuals?
I played demo a little and it shows to me Wo long has graphics quality similar to Nioh2.
@Dloki what intro escape?
@KundaliniRising333 The thing is, Souls-like games have never been ultra hard or masochist. They're all just challenging games but nowhere near ultra difficult. Those content creators need to play Ninja Gaiden Black or Razor's Edge to understand what a hard game is and that's not mentioning the Master Ninja difficulties for pure masochism...
I am no masochist at all, but love this game.
@rawzeku Same thoughts here sadly. I play games for their deep rich storytelling, not the intense combat/gameplay.
I'll pick this up in a few years when the game is $20 New, or free with PS+ in some form.
I've got to admit, this game is pretty awesome. My first PS5 game for 2023.
Been playing this since yesterday and im making faster progress than i have in any of the souls games to date. Checkpoints (banners) always leave you closer th where you died than the bonfires in the souls games. Im really enjoying it so far although i have died a fair bit.
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