You’ve got to hand it to Team Ninja: with Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, the company could have just served up Nioh but with a Chinese theme. Instead, it’s tried something a little different.
We’ve given up trying to understand the nitty-gritty details of Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty‘s story, but it ultimately boils down to this: demonic forces are wreaking havoc across the Three Kingdoms, and it’s up to you, as a powerful but unknown warrior, to overcome them. Cue an adventure in which you’ll make numerous allies, travel with them, and do battle against fearsome foes.
As you’d expect from the developer of Nioh, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is indeed a Soulslike. But it’s one that’s faster paced, and for many, possibly a hell of a lot easier that most other entries in the genre. Key here is the ability to parry, or deflect, blows: master this, and you’ll run rings around your adversaries. Pretty much all incoming attacks can be deflected, negating damage and putting your enemy off balance. And while you can also block or dodge most attacks, powerful enemy attacks that flash red are designed to be deflected, giving you a huge advantage if you manage to do so.
Rather than stamina, spirit is the important resource here. Hit enemies with normal melee attacks and your spirit meter will grow, putting you at an advantage. With a positive spirit meter, you can then employ powerful spirit attacks and more. It will also grow if you successfully deflect attacks, while also draining your enemy’s spirit. In fact, depleting your enemy’s spirit is your main goal here, especially when it comes to bosses, as it opens them up for a devastating fatal attack. But be careful, as your spirit meter can be depleted too if you use spirit attacks or attempt to deflect recklessly.
If you’re the type of player that doesn’t get on well with deflecting or parrying attacks in Soulslikes, then, you might have a very bad time with Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty. You might not even make it past the first boss, which feels at though it’s designed to test your deflecting abilities more than many other bosses after it. It has to be said that the window for deflecting attacks is a little more generous than in other examples of the genre, though. And so with a little practice, most players should be able to make to make some serious progress.
In any case, there’s another mechanic at play that can seriously affect how much trouble you have when encountering tough enemies: morale. You earn morale as you play in Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, and the higher your morale level, the more powerful your character becomes. Morale levels can be lost in various ways though, and so to keep it topped up, you need to find places where you can set down battle flags. Set down a battle flag and not only can you use it to perform actions you’d typically perform at a resting point in these types of games, but it also raises your fortitude level. This is basically the lowest level your morale can go to no matter how many times you die, etc.
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It really can’t be understated how important your morale level can be: one boss, for example, was absolutely wiping the floor with us time and time again. After giving the area before him another sweep, however, we found some more places to lay down battle flags, boosting our morale by a few levels. Facing off against the boss again, we found it much more manageable. Though being accompanied by up to two AI-controlled warriors also helps. You can even command them to use special abilities.
What’s important to note, though, is that Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is stage-based, and your morale level drops back to zero every time you start a new stage. It’s particularly troublesome for magic users, as spells learned via the game’s wizardry system require a minimum morale level to be reached before they can be used. The magic system in Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is perhaps a little complicated for its own good, really, as it’s quite inessential. In addition to needing morale to make use of spells, you also need to have invested enough points in the phase, or element, the spell belongs to. You can very easily have spells unlocked that you simply cannot use if you’re not careful.
Playing Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty on PS5 for review, we’ve been sticking with the game’s performance mode, which offers a mostly solid 60fps experience alongside rather crisp visuals. Despite some bland environments, it’s actually a rather nice-looking game on the whole, with strong character and enemy designs. Voice acting is not a strong point, though, but it’s offset somewhat by a wonderful soundtrack. And in terms of making use of the DualSense’s unique features, there’s nothing to shout about.
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty shares some elements with Team Ninja’s Nioh games, such as randomised loot and challenging combat, but ultimately it feels very much like its own game. It’s faster-paced, has a unique morale system, and pushes players to deflect enemy attacks in order to succeed. What lets it down ever so slightly is that some of these new features often feel poorly explained and a little underdeveloped. Otherwise, this is fresh take on the Soulslike formula.