Game review: Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty (PS5)
Developer FromSoftware invented the Souls genre when it released Demon’s Souls for the PS3 back in 2009. Due to the popularity of Souls-like games, many other developers have tried to mimic this success. Team Ninja is one studio that has seen success with Souls-like games, releasing two Nioh games and last year’s Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin.
Instead of predictably releasing Nioh 3 in 2023, Team Ninja decided to develop a brand-new game called Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty. Although it is essentially another Souls-like clone, the game does include some controversial new features to make it feel more difficult than the Nioh games.
One of the main differences between Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty and Nioh is that the former focuses on ancient Chinese culture instead of Japanese. Many of the weapons and armour that you will use in the game will suit the era of ancient Chinese warfare which is a nice breath of fresh air.
Graphically, this game is a step up from the Nioh games, especially if you are playing the PS5 version as I did. The visuals are much sharper, and the game loads really fast. Sadly, the game will load extremely slowly if you are playing on a PS4 console, though. If you have the money, play this on a next-gen console if you can.
Unlike Elden Ring, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty isn’t a huge open-world video game. The game is like the Nioh series where you have to go through separate levels. The game also lacks a helpful map, as you are only guided by a red compass that gives you a general direction on where you need to go next.
In terms of gameplay, Team Ninja has somewhat streamlined the combat system compared to the Nioh games. Your basic attacks are when you press the Square button, and you sadly cannot execute different combos. If you press Triangle, this is a stronger attack called a spirit attack.
The game revolves around a spirit gauge mechanic, and if you spam magic or dodge, the orange spirit gauge will fill up. The annoying thing about this gimmick is that if it’s filled up, you cannot use magic or dodge until it cools down.
On the flip side of this, there is another blue gauge on the screen too. If you successfully deflect or attack enemies, the spirit attack will use up the blue gauge making your attacks stronger than normal. When you are fighting bosses and/or enemies, they also have a spirit gauge, and your goal is to reduce it.
If you are able to reduce it, you can perform a great fatal blow and deal a ton of damage. When you see a glowing red attack, this is called a critical blow. If you deflect this attack perfectly, this will greatly reduce their spirit gauge, which will allow you to attack enemies with greater force.
Similar to Nioh, the game also had special attacks called Martial Arts. These are helpful attacks, although they are tied to a specific weapon that you have to wield. They can be useful during some boss battles you may face.
Aside from attacking enemies and bosses physically, you can also cast magic in this game called Wizardry spells. There are different spells based on the five elements of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. I mainly used Wood for healing and Fire to chuck fireballs.
While most of the combat is competent, there is one annoying new feature in this game that makes it a frustrating experience. This game includes a controversial new system called the ‘Morale Rank’. The higher the rank, the stronger you and the enemies are.
The annoying part of this feature is that if you die, your morale rank decreases while the enemy’s rank increases. Basically, they get stronger while you get weaker when you die. You also need to have a certain rank before you can execute certain spells, which is a dumb limitation.
However, you can try to retain your morale rank by capturing battle flags hidden across all of the levels. When you die and have enough flags risen, your morale rank will, thankfully, not drop. It is frustrating, though, trying to find all the flags in each level because some are hidden really well.
Another thing worth mentioning is that this game is not suitable for casual gamers. If you are familiar with Elden Ring or Nioh, then you might find some enjoyment in Wo Long. However, if you hate Souls-games, you’re more than likely going to hate this game too.
Overall, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is my least favourite Souls-like game from Team Ninja. The game’s morale rank is annoying, and it’s just not as fun as Nioh or even Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin. That being said, you might still want to give this game a try if you have Xbox Game Pass.