Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty - Might & Magic In The Three Kingdoms
PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC
It is 184 AD and turmoil engulfs the Later Han Dynasty. On the verge of collapse, war has broken out in the Three Kingdoms. Armies clash and demonic forces rise. As the nameless warrior, a seemingly ordinary militia fighter swept up in the fighting, you are on the front line of this conflict, fighting side by side with the legendary historical warriors of the period as you make your way through the forests, mountains and the ruined cities of the Three Kingdoms on your quest to stop the spread of demonic Qi and take down the mastermind behind the chaos.
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is the latest action RPG souls-like game from Team Ninja, developers of the highly acclaimed Nioh series. Integrating traditional Chinese martial arts weaponry and spiritual magic, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is a story that spans twenty years and takes you through the war-torn yet gorgeous lands of ancient China, through a mix of levels that can be completely linear or have you trying to find your way through a maze-like cityscape.
Changing tack from the combat systems in Nioh, Wo Long utilises fast-paced martial art combat that at first glance can be a bit confusing. Your strength in missions is guided by your morale and fortitude rank. The morale rank works like a level guide concerning your enemies. The higher your morale rank the more powerful your strikes are while lowering the amount of damage you take from enemy attacks. Those closer to you or below your morale rank are easier to defeat, while those that are over five levels higher will be a significant challenge and can hit like a tonne of bricks. Unlocking battle flags around the map will allow you to increase your fortitude rank, the minimum that your morale rank can drop to when you inevitably slip up and die.
Your magic spells are locked to both your different elemental attributes and your morale rank, locking out their use until you have earned the minimum morale rank. It was because of this that I tended to keep lower-level spells equipped, allowing me to use them a lot sooner. You can change your spells at the battle flags you unlock, but I had more fun brutalising enemies with my staff and didn’t bother changing them much unless I needed a specific elemental type for a boss fight.
With your inevitable death, which in this genre of game is guaranteed to happen many times, whenever a non-boss character defeats you they will reap the rewards with a boost in their morale level and half of your Qi. Should you manage to exact your revenge on the one that felled you, not only will you regain the lost Qi, but you will regain your morale points as well. In your travels, you will also encounter the markers of fallen warriors and enemies with a purple tinge to their morale rank. Defeating these enemies will confer extra bonuses that can be turned in for gear and tiger seals, a consumable that will allow you to call for help when the game is getting a bit too tough. The biggest part of the morale rank is that it works independently of your overall level, essentially levelling the playing field to ensure you do not just go through and one-shot every enemy you come across. I will admit that with the greatly increased amount of health I had by the later parts of the game, it was much easier to make it through the early part of missions than in the first half of the game.
The reason why is because of one specific boss fight. I won’t ruin anything by giving away who you are fighting, but halfway through the main story, you have to take on a boss fight that gave me a lot of trouble, so much so that I went back and replayed earlier missions just to grind for the Qi to level up. By the time I managed to scrape through the battle successfully, I was twenty-four levels above the recommendation for that particular mission, and I discovered as I continued to play through the following story missions that I was now able to beat end-mission bosses on the first try. This only changed when I once again found myself facing the same foe in a later mission and had to repeat the grinding process. Once again I found myself cruising through what should have been challenging boss fights as I had increased another thirty levels above the recommended. It was only when I had to take on the final boss fight of the game that I found myself challenged once again and having to fight for my life. I am not sure if the difficulty of the two fights with that one specific boss is intentional and if the difficulty will remain the same post-release, the small bonus is if you do have to leave your current story mission to do some grinding, upon your return you will automatically be back at the last battle flag you unlocked with your minimum fortitude rank, saving you the hassle of restarting the whole mission from scratch again.
When it comes to your weapon of choice you have a plethora of options to cut down your enemies. Straight swords, curved scimitars, spears, mallets and cudgels. No matter your fighting style, all of the traditional Chinese weapons are there to find and upgrade. Each weapon is graded from one to four stars, with four-star weapons having the most bonus perks to aid in your quest, along with multiple armour options to complement your playstyle. The only complaint I have about the way upgrading your gear works is that early in the game the blacksmith stops appearing in the story missions and takes up residence in a village that you will need to travel to if you want to get your gear upgraded. When you complete a story mission you are automatically moved into the next one, so having to then travel to the village to upgrade breaks the stride in the narrative. The start of every mission is near an already unlocked battle flag, so even being able to access the upgrade menu from there would be something that makes life a little bit smoother. You can buy supplies like arrows and certain useable items through the flags so it would not be game-breaking by any measure. It is by no means a deal-breaker, it would just be a quality-of-life thing that would save players from having to exit the mission just to visit the blacksmith and jump back in.
Team Ninja has also done a good job to make the game more open and accessible for players that may not be into the ultra-hardcore souls experience, the aforementioned boss excluded. Most of the levels will see you working with an NPC warrior that can help you get out of a tight spot and give you a chance to heal yourself and if you are still having a bit of trouble you can always summon another one of the warriors you have fought with before to provide some extra help. You can also recruit other players or join their games to go through whole missions co-operatively to make the journey a bit easier if you don’t want to use the NPCs. As one would expect, there is also the option to invade another player’s world and try to strike them down if that is your kind of thing.
While there was the issue with that one boss fight, which only time will tell if that is intentional or not, I had a great time playing Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty. With gorgeous settings and a beautiful rousing score that fit the epicness of the battles I faced and a satisfying combat style, I highly recommend it if you are a fan of the genre or just a fan of traditional martial arts.
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty was reviewed on PS5 with code kindly provided by Koei-Tecmo.