PC Gaming

Wo Long Fallen Dynasty Is Far More Than "Chinese Nioh"

Wo Long Fallen Dynasty First Look - Windows PC

Wo Long Fallen Dynasty

Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Release Date: March 3, 2023

Wo Long Fallen Dynasty is the latest game from Team Ninja and Koei Tecmo, released a few days ago at the time of this writing. Based on the events of the Romance Of The Three Kingdoms, it is a tale that has been retold as much as the Water Margin. for example. Notable figures including Zhao Yun, Guan Yu, Cao Cao, Zhang Liang, and of course Lu Bu himself all make their appearance. However, it wouldn’t be a Team Ninja game if there weren’t any inclusions of demons and other spiritual beasts relevant to the location and time period of Wo Long.

While not connected to the series, Wo Long Fallen Dynasty is a spin-off of the Nioh series, keeping much of its structured gameplay elements. Checkpoints are spread out through each level, with side missions available to complete after the main level of a specific location is cleared. There are epic boss fights meant to test the player’s knowledge and enemies that jump at unsuspecting players greedy for loot. Almost everything a player can expect from previous titles is featured in some way in Wo Long Fallen Dynasty, however, even Nioh veterans will want to pay attention. The gameplay for Wo Long is by no means Nioh’s.

The story begins with a nameless militia soldier, which is the player’s created character in Wo Long Fallen Dynasty. If there’s a decision I will always support, starting with Nioh 2, it’s the inclusion of a robust character creation mode. This was one of the largest praises I could give that game as it allowed players to express themselves through their own avatars. Nothing against William as he’s a great character, but like Elden Ring, I’d much prefer my own toon than if I were to play as Varre or someone else. An Elden Ring spinoff with Varre now sounds like a great idea…

Zhao Yun is the first of many heroes from WOT3K who will cross paths with the protagonist.

Eventually, the protagonist meets with a mysterious soldier known simply as the “Blindfolded Boy” who accompanies them to ward off the Yellow Turban invasion. While the scenarios and the characters are similar, this is not Dynasty Warriors despite the publishers being the same. The player doesn’t fight hoards of enemies by default and is in fact encouraged not to do so. Wo Long isn’t what I’d call a “Soulslike” or even one similar to Nioh

If I were to make a comparison, this game would be the closest to Bloodborne in the sense that the player is rewarded for highly aggressive combat. In Bloodborne, the one way to ensure the player maintained the advantage in combat, even while sustaining damage, is by attacking the enemies and healing through them. In Wo Long, there are no “mana” or “magic potions” to worry about as everything revolves around Spirit Energy. Every character has access to Spirit and follows the same rules, beginning with a neutral spirit gauge.

As the fighters attack, whether it's a friend or foe, their spirit energy will shift to the positive the more attacks they land on the defender. Even if the defender blocks, they will lose spirit as well as take a portion of health damage as block damage. Once the fighter is in the blue, they can use some of their spiritual energy as a cost to amplify their Spirit attack, which is triangle or Y by default depending on the player’s controller. This deals excess damage to the defender’s spirit gauge, shifting it to the left and into the orange.

Crispy pork shoulder is now on the menu for today's lunch! The corruption adds flavor.

If anyone’s spirit gauge reaches the negative, identified by a flashing warning bar, the fighter becomes exhausted and unable to defend themselves, leaving them open for a Fatal Strike. The gauge resets back to neutral following this and the cycle continues. Spirit can also be used to cast Martial Arts, which are unique weapon abilities tied to their type as well as their class. A hammer martial art would look and appear different than one with two swords for example. Wizardry spells, tied to each of the five phases, Metal, Wood, Fire, Earth, and Water, can also be used for their spirit cost. Unlike talismans in Nioh, these can be used infinitely so long as the player has enough spirit as well as the pre-requisite Morale rank.

Morale and Fortitude ranks are also entirely unique to Wo Long and are arguably the game’s most fair mechanics compared to others in its genre. While the starting rank depends on the mission, by default the player will begin at 0 Morale. Defeating enemies close to or of a higher rank than the player will raise their morale ranks. Another way to temporarily raise morale ranks is by using dragon cups as offerings to other players’ tombstones. Much like Nioh, players can avenge players by defeating the mob that defeated the hapless victim. This earns them accolades that can be redeemed for exclusive content.

With Fortitude ranks, these increase as the player “raises their flags,” which are effectively the “bonfires” and “shrines” of Wo Long. Placing flags in other areas will also raise their Fortitude rank. This is important as the more flags are raised, the higher the player’s base morale rank will be. The player will never go below their Fortitude rank regardless of death, which loses a player’s Morale points as well as half of their Genuine Qi (this game’s version of Souls).

Sometimes, fighting with your allies will increase your pact levels, as well as their trust.

After every five or so levels, the player can learn one skill from each of the five phases, even if they don’t meet the level requirement for the skill quite yet. Amplify Damage is a Wizardry spell that requires eight levels of the fire element, but the player can still learn the spell as it’s separate from the level requirement. There are some spells that require the player to be at a certain morale rank before they are able to use it, meaning that the more powerful spells can only be used once the player defeats enough foes or raises enough flags.

It’s sort of a callback to other Musou-style games as high morality will increase how well the player captain and their units perform in battle. As the player is usually a three-man army at best, the player’s morale represents how much the player believes not only in themselves but how much their allies perceive them. It keeps most things fair as seeing an enemy with 15 levels of morale will be a tougher foe than an enemy that’s only three. Couple that with the lack of a stamina bar and the player’s main form of strategy is to “attack, attack, attack,” then wait for an opening to deflect, and attack some more.

I’ve had greater luck with fast weapons like the dual swords because of this, which don’t deal massive damage but rapidly deal on-hit effects without worrying about running out of attack stamina. Early skills like Inner Breath are useful as this rapidly builds your Divine Beast meter. It just so happens that the first Divine Beast the player has access to increases their attack and lessens the damage they take, making it a win-win.

Zhang Liang is the first fight that tells the player to "keep attacking" as playing passive leads to unnecessary deaths.

While the extreme offense may be a turn-off for some patient players, I enjoy the fast pace frantic action of Wo Long as it’s different from the other “Slow and methodical dance-like” battles from other similar titles. It’s all about controlled aggression—never mashing to the point of blindly swinging, but not being passive to leave your opponent with a huge opening. While the player most certainly can play a methodical long game, it also encourages a laser-focused offense.

It's not all positive for Wo Long, unfortunately, especially for PC owners, as there have been mixed results across the board for players. Personally, I hadn't run into any issues and I've been playing this on a 3050 with the FPS capped at 60. There have been some minor graphical glitches, including an annoying white flickering effect that makes itself apparent in daytime stages. This can be fixed by turning ambient occlusion off, but there's hope for Koei Tecmo to release a patch addressing this sooner rather than later.

This is becoming a bit wordy for a first impression, but so far Wo Long Fallen Dynasty has exceeded my expectations, especially c considering how high of praise I’ve given Nioh 2 in the past. Whether you’re a Nioh fan or it’s your first time playing a game from the series, this is a title that all action-adventure fans should try, especially Game Pass owners.

Wo Long Fallen Dynasty is available on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5.

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