A PC review copy of Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty was provided to IGN India by Koei Tecmo.
As someone who has never played a Soulslike game before, I was both excited and hesitant to try out Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty. I had heard so much about how challenging these games are, and I wasn’t sure if I was ready for the tough task of playing, let alone reviewing one. But after finally taking the plunge, I can say with confidence that I understand the appeal of these games and why they have such a dedicated fan base.
I had to really step out of my comfort zone with Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty. But once I started playing, I realised that there was something special about this genre of games. The feeling of finally beating a boss after hours of attempts is incredibly satisfying, and it’s a feeling that I had never experienced so strongly before in a video game.
One of the most memorable moments in my playthrough of Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty was facing an incredibly difficult enemy monster (at least at the time) early in the game. It was clear that this monster was too strong for me to defeat head-on, and I was at a loss for what to do. After exploring the area and trying different tactics, I finally discovered that the best way to defeat it was to go the other way around and drop inside a nearby house through the roof.
The feeling of finally beating a boss after hours of attempts is incredibly satisfying, and it’s a feeling that I had never experienced so strongly before in a video game.
Once inside, I lured the monster into the cramped space and used the walls to my advantage, preventing it from moving too much and doing any damage to me. This strategy turned out to be effective in defeating the monster. But it also added a sense of realism to the game. It made me think about how a real-life encounter with a monster would play out, and how I would need to use the environment to my advantage to survive.
However, when I tried to emulate this scenario again, the monster in question wouldn’t go inside the house anymore, and I had to defeat it outside. That being said, the encounter was a good example of how Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty rewards players for exploring and being creative. It’s not always about brute force and power, but about strategy.
Story falls short, but gameplay prevails
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is full of action that transports you to ancient China, immersing you in the world of its martial arts, legendary historical figures, and mythological creatures. Team Ninja has experience in this genre, and they know what they are doing. But, despite the interesting setting and potential to do something with the narrative, the storytelling leaves much to be desired.
Coming to specifics, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is a mythological adventure that plunges players into the tumultuous, waning years of the Han Dynasty. You play as a nameless warrior and find yourself thrust into a dangerous power struggle between rival kingdoms. All the rivals are obsessed with obtaining the elusive elixir that grants immortality. In the entire game, we embark on a perilous journey through the ancient East Asian nation, teaming up with legendary warriors to fight our way through levels filled with treacherous enemies and obstacles.
The character customisation in Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is very in-depth. You can customise nearly every aspect of your character. I mean, what part of the human eye is a tear troughs bulge? Whatever it is, you can set it according to your preference and more.
But, despite the interesting setting and potential to do something with the narrative, the storytelling leaves much to be desired.
As you progress through the game, you’ll encounter a variety of historically significant warriors, both good and evil, who will test your combat skills and strategic abilities. The levels themselves are fine, but are not particularly interesting. Some of them can be really dull and are forgettable. But they do the job and don’t get in the way of your gameplay.
Satisfying combat and in-depth mechanics
The combat in Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty feels extremely satisfying. The sword feels swift, while the pole arm swings hit hard. The way the character attacks feels so smooth and hard-hitting that I wanted to keep defeating enemies over and over again. It is hard to get tired slicing up your enemies. However, the enemy types are not very varied and can get boring to look at and engage in after a while.
Wo Long’s combat system is a true work of art as it is a fast-paced action that requires strategic thinking. Every enemy encounter feels like a unique challenge that needs to be solved quickly to progress. Once you crack the code, however, the satisfaction of taking down bosses is immeasurable.
There is also a Spirit meter mechanic in the game. Consider it the most valuable “resource” that you collect by attacking your enemies. I had to carefully balance the use of my Spirit, as it can be used for powerful Spirit attacks, or it can be spent on spells and martial arts abilities. It’s a unique gameplay element that adds an extra layer of strategy to the game’s already complex combat system.
The game also includes the innovative Morale Rank system, which adds an entirely new dimension to gameplay. By defeating enemies and utilising special attacks, players can increase their Morale Ranks and gain an advantage in combat. Additionally, the system provides a natural difficulty curve and encourages players to thoroughly explore each level to maximise their Morale Rank. In Soulslike fashion, you lose all your accumulated Morale when you die. However, you can increase your fortitude level by planting your Battle Flag in flag posts throughout the level, and this gives you a base Morale level to work with.
It is hard to get tired slicing up your enemies. However, the enemy types are not very varied and can get boring to look at and engage in after a while.
Defence first, attack later
The first boss you encounter in the game after a while of travelling through the first level is Zhang Liang, General of Man. Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is brutal and unforgiving, as the very first boss itself is incredibly challenging. I found myself stuck on defeating him for hours.
Despite the frustration of dying and starting over repeatedly, it felt incredibly satisfying when I finally defeated him. Beating Zhang Liang felt like a real achievement, and I could feel my skills improving as I played. Imagine my shock when I found out that there is an even stronger second phase to him. The fight was not over, but hey, I guess that’s why you play these games. To git gud.
One thing I quickly learned while playing Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is that defence is crucial. It’s not just about mashing buttons to attack, but rather knowing when to defend and when to strike. Learning to deflect against enemy attacks at the right time is key to surviving in this game. It’s a steep learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, the game becomes much more manageable.
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty – Worth the price?
On Steam, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is priced at Rs. 3,700 for the base game and the Digital Deluxe Edition is priced at Rs. 5,240 at the time of launch. The base game is worth the asking price for the amount of content it offers. Here is what’s included in the Digital Deluxe Edition:
- Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty (full game)
- Digital Art Book
- Digital Mini Soundtrack
- Season Pass (Includes additional DLCs Battle of Zhongyuan, Conqueror of Jiangdong, Upheaval in Jingxiang, and Season Pass Bonus Qinglong Armor)
Note that the DLCs will release in June, September, and December 2023, respectively. I, personally, can’t recommend spending Rs. 5,000+ on a game just for some bonus content, but if you really like the game, then it might be worth considering. It would ultimately depend on your personal budget and preference.
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is a hard game, but it comes with a rewarding experience. While the game’s narrative falls short in several areas, the gameplay more than makes up for it. Its intricate combat system and challenging boss battles will make you want to put in the time and effort to elevate your skill. Loot drops are rare, and the feeling of “I can’t do this” was a constant throughout the game. But it’s this feeling that kept me coming back for more. Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty doesn’t hold your hand, and it’s up to you to invest the time and get better at it.