In this Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty Review we’ll be taking a look at Team Ninja and Koei Tecmo’s latest Action Role Playing title, and tell you how it measures up against other Action RPGs like Sekiro and the Nioh franchise. How long is Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty? How is the story? How is the Build variety? In this Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty Review, we’ll answer all those questions and more!
Wo Long Review – Better Than Nioh?
- Genre: Action, Action Role Playing
- Developed by: Team Ninja, Koei Tecmo
- Published by: Koei Tecmo
- Release date: March 3, 2023
- Platforms: PC (reviewed), Playstation 5 (reviewed), Playstation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One
- Price at the time of review: USD 59.99
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty Review – Story & Setting
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty takes place just before the Three Kingdoms period, which is regarded as on of the bloodiest in Chinese history. The imminent fall of the Han Dynasty leaves a power vacuum resulting in struggle between warring states. The main antagonist of the game is a “Taoist in Black” who summons demonic forces to assist him in his quest for dominance of China as he seeks the means to live forever.
The Three Kingdoms is an extremely popular period of Chinese history, and no one should be surprised that Koei Tecmo chose this time and setting for Wo Long, since they are well known for their Dynasty Warriors games that also take place during this same time frame, and indeed many of the characters from those games will be found here. However, as I played I felt that the story itself became convoluted and the sheer volume of characters introduced left me confused about their motivations and actions. Those who are extremely familiar with the Three Kingdoms may have an easier time, but for me several hours of confusion turned me off the story and left me not really caring for it whatsoever.
Not only is the story told in an uninteresting manner, with frequent long cutscenes that interrupt the flow of the game, but it failed to give credible motivation to characters or weave their storylines nicely. Admittedly, storytelling is not the strong suit of Koei Tecmo, and I don’t think anyone is going into Wo Long expecting some masterpiece of a tale, but I felt it was bad even with low expectations.
The setting itself is much better than the story telling, thankfully, and you will see more varied environments than in Nioh, which I think is a plus to be sure. You definitely get the sense that this is a war-torn China, and Koei’s experience in this department is brought forward as you would expect.
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty Review – Gameplay
The gameplay and combat of Team Ninja and Koei Tecmo games have always been their strong suit, and they have once again nailed that here as well. Not only is the combat engaging, fast paced, and skill based, but it’s also extremely fun! I simply could not wait to get back into it over and over, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty retains many of the same systems of Nioh, but it also has some changes and additions to spice things up. A notable mechanic is the inclusion of the Morale system, which makes enemies more or less difficult on any given Mission. Not only does this reward players for exploring, since this will increase their Morale, but it also makes them stronger as most Spells can only be used once you are a certain Morale Rank. This makes achieving higher Morale an imperative for players, and really changes the way you play the game. If you’re struggling to defeat a Boss, go increase your Morale first and you’ll have a much easier time.
Additionally, loot and spell casting have been simplified, allowing most players to make an easier sense of how things work. That isn’t to say there isn’t complexity, it’s just that it’s not quite as overwhelming as before. Even the addition of Martial Arts to the game, which act sort of like Weapon Skills from Elden Ring, shouldn’t overwhelm new players as much, and also provides another layer of depth to each weapon you use.
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty also features Companions, not unlike Code Vein, which not only help you in combat in various ways, but also provide passive buffs and can even give you their gear if you use them long enough. Since you can use two at any given time, this allows those who are having a tough time playing solo some help, but I will say that Companions seem to have terrible AI and die nearly instantly in just about every Boss fight I take them into. In short they will help you out a bit, but don’t expect them to carry you through the game. There’s multiplayer for that!
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty Combat
The combat in Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is sort of like a mash up of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and Nioh. There is more of a focus on agility and speed, as well as deflecting enemy attacks and retaliating, much like in Sekiro, but the game still maintains an itemization and stat system, that will remind players of Nioh almost immediately. And while the spell system has been altered a bit, I think it’s by and large an improvement over Nioh, and its simplification is much easier to understand once you get a hang of the controls and tempo.
The entire premise of combat in Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty revolves around Spirit which all enemies (and the player) have and use. This is more or less a combination of Stamina and Mana, and is used to perform various tasks such as deflecting, dodging, casting spells, using martial arts and is represented by a Spirit Gauge just below the player or the enemy’s health bar.
Since taking damage and using abilities decreases your Spirit, and striking enemies with normal attacks or successfully deflecting theirs increases your Spirit, there is a fine balance between playing defensive, attacking normally and using abilities and Spells. I like this approach a bit more than Nioh’s, since this prevents the sheer abuse of spell casting in many cases, and eliminates some “cheese” strategies from the game.
If a player or enemy reaches the lower limit of their Spirit Gauge in combat, they will be vulnerable to a powerful attack which deals tons of damage. This means you’re not only trying to deal damage to your target, but you’re also trying to deplete their Spirit Gauge in order to trigger one of these attacks. It is very similar to Sekiro’s combat mechanic “Posture“, just with a few added elements. There are even special red glowing attacks that if deflected at the right time will deplete tons of Spirit that players must look out for in order to not only stay alive but hasten the demise of their opponent by countering it.
Unfortunately, the special attack mechanic makes many of the boss fights in Wo Long extraordinarily easy, since deflecting them and countering them is more often than not the fastest path to victory regardless of your build, and players can literally just avoid attacks until these appear, counter them 3 or 4 times, and that’s a wrap on just about any boss fight.
Compounding this as well, is the fact that the difficulty of the game is all over the place. The first boss in the tutorial level took me nearly an hour to beat (until I found a “trick” for a quick win) and the next 6 to 7 bosses I beat first or second try each. Most of the levels felt very easy, with the exception of spots that are borderline cruel to the player, often putting them in a situation where it is near impossible to win. This balancing issue can break the tempo of the game, and it feels as if there is simply no steady difficulty in Wo Long Fallen dynasty. Players will find themselves rolling along wishing for more difficulty, until they are screaming bloodly murder for 30 minutes, only to wish for more difficulty once more immediately after.
Outside of combat the game will remind players mostly of Nioh, just more simplified. Gear upgrades are straightforward, you don’t make weapons and armor any longer, and you can change the bonuses on your gear rather easily, making for a more streamlined experience. You’ll still be able to travel around to the game’s missions and submissions, but again everything has been simplified and streamlined, making the game much more friendly to players new to Action RPGs or to Koei Tecmo games like Nioh. In some ways it’s best to think of Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty as “Nioh Lite”, though that’s probably an oversimplification and of course the combat is a bit different and very engaging.
You can still co op and pvp, with the game featuring invasions for those who want to make the game just a bit more challenging for others, so these things are still present as well. We were not able to engage in multiplayer during the review period, but from what we can see it works similarly to Nioh 2, so it’s likely those looking for a jolly coop experience will get their fill.
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty Review – Audio, Visuals, & Design
This is an important breakpoint for this review, as PC and Console platforms offered significantly different experiences. I played through the entire game on PC, and then did a few shorter test play sessions on Playstation 5. The difference is score-changing, so please be mindful when making your decision.
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty stumbles a lot on the audio/visual front. The graphics of the game look worse than Nioh to me, and I struggled to keep a steady 60 FPS framerate when playing on my Corsair One Pro PC at 4k on low settings, so I played most of the game at 1440P on medium and that was much better, though there were occasional “hitches” or “grabs” as things loaded that seemed to tank the FPS for a second before recovering. I do worry about players playing on mid range PCs, and what sort of performance they will get with this game, which seems to be an issue for Koei Tecmo, as Wild Hearts had similar performance problems at launch just last month.
Unfortunately, the build I played was not stable and I had many many crashes of the game. Mostly when trying to boot it up or close it, but sometimes in the middle of cutscenes as well, which was quite frustrating because these are generally after Boss fights. This resulted in me having to complete said boss fights again since the game didn’t save immediately after the fight, and was waiting for the cutscene to finish.
The graphics are similar or on par with Nioh 2, but the framerate is steady when playing on 4k, even with effects enabled. I did not play the full game on this platform, but I did not experience any crashes during my playtime, and it felt responsive and smooth.
Audio wise the Japanese and Chinese voice overs were good, the English was not, so I recommend changing the game dialogue to one of these. The sound effects are fantastic, and add to the overall fast pacef and fluid combat of the game, but the music other than the menu screen was forgettable though not terrible.
Replayability, Multiplayer, & Pricepoint
The replayability of Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is solid in my opinion as there are not only various builds you can make, but you can also play cooperatively and competitively to further extend your game time hours. It takes about 30 hours or so to complete the whole game, so it’s not that long of experience compared with Nioh. However, New Game Plus does feature new gear and a higher difficulty, which was a huge part of the Nioh games, so there is that as well if you wish to keep playing. Additionally, you can respec and save builds easily and as much as you want, so you can go into New Game Plus trying out a new style of play without having to make a new character.
All of this is enhanced by multiplayer options, so if you are looking for coop or pvp experiences the replayability of the game likely goes up on that aspect alone.
59.99 is the current asking price of this game on Steam, which would be about right if not slightly high, if not for the performance and stability issues for the game. Those performance issues really hold it back though, and make it hard to recommend until some patches have come through or until the price drops 10 to 20 USD, or both. Please note that the PS5 version of the game does not seem to have these issues, so those looking to play on this platform don’t have to wait for a patch.
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is a game we’ve been following for quite some time, and in that time I’ve had modest expectations for the game, simply because the story and setting didn’t feel quite as compelling to me as the Nioh franchise. And while I feel I was right in this regard after playing through, everything else about the game met or exceeded my expectations, barring PC performance.
Team Ninja seems to have gotten most of the parts right that they got in Nioh, but they also got most of the parts wrong that they did in Nioh as well. And while many mechanisms are simplified like Spells and Upgrades, which I think is a step in the right direction, pretty much everything that was a pain point for me in Nioh is still there. I would have liked to see improvements to level design, color schemes and storytelling. Though it’s disappointing that the game didn’t improve the studio’s record, they did deliver on the most important aspects for their audience: gameplay and combat.
I don’t recommend picking up this game day one on PC because of the performance & stability issues, but those looking to play on PS5 and other consoles may have a much smoother experience.
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Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is sure to satisfy Team Ninja and Nioh fans in the combat department, but some aspects are not quite as good as the Nioh franchise. Recommended for console players itching for satisfying action, but a wait for patches for PC players due to performance issues.