Team Ninja’s eagerly anticipated Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty has arrived – here’s our review of the PlayStation 5 version of the game, which is also available for PC and last-gen consoles.
When you think of Team Ninja, you quickly think of their work on the Dead or Alive and Nioh games, or Ninja Gaiden if you go back a little further. Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty channels their expertise in the action genre, but is much more of a Soulslike experience than their previous games, pushing the level of difficulty well beyond what we saw in the Nioh games.
In terms of its setting, Wo Lang is a dark fantasy game in which you battle fierce creatures from a dark dimension, but it’s also a game with historical influences stemming from the Three Kingdoms period. Rather than a predetermined protagonist, you get to create your own character from scratch, and the included editor is fantastic – if you enjoy tinkering with and personalizing your hero, Wo Long has you covered with extensive options to make your hero truly your own.
Wo Long – Fallen Dynasty isn’t an open world game, but features large hubs/levels for you to explore and battle in, and while both elements are important the standout aspect of Wo Long is its combat. Team Ninja has introduced a morale system to the fighting, which provides an interesting mechanic – the higher your morale, the quicker you’ll plough through enemies. And while that sounds simple, the morale system applies to your enemies as well – turning the ones with a high morale into foes you might want to avoid for now.
As you defeat enemies, your morale rises and you progressively get stronger, letting you tackle stronger foes and eventually the bigger (boss) fights as well. This is where exploration comes in, because although you’re free to approach stronger enemies early on it makes more sense to search out weaker ones rather than taking your chances and possibly dying an early death.
Related to that is the fortitude system, which is optional in nature but only a true glutton for punishment would ignore. Essentially, it boils down to finding flags to raise in the environment, and doing so boosts your minimum amount of morale – which means you’ll deal much better with adversity in combat and will be able to bounce back and progress a lot quicker. Since boosting your fortitude is more about exploring than about combat, it’s a smart tactic to follow for those less skilled in combat – especially because exploring is a good way to find less powerful enemies along the way.
These may seem like simple mechanics on paper, but it’s a great way to allow people to keep going rather than constantly running into the same wall – despite this being an insanely difficult game. A lot of that is that the combat is fast and frenetic here, rather than the slower and more methodical approach of Dark Souls and Elden Ring. As someone who generally gravitates more towards faster and action-rich games, I welcome the change of pace and not having to constantly worry about the stamina meter – though Wo Long isn’t the type of game you can button mash your way through. To successfully parry or string an impressive combo together, you need to be hyper-focused here, and it’ll take quite a bit of time to hone your skills to a point where you feel ready to dish out some pain towards the stronger adversaries in the game rather than feel at their mercy. Part of that is learning about the fighting styles that enemies use, and ultimately that makes for a rewarding experience.
What certainly helps is that the visual and art direction for Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is gorgeous. Team Ninja’s expertise in combat-driven games shines through, and the dark fantasy take on the Three Kingdoms era is a novel one that made us want to push through despite the steep learning curve. Perhaps not groundbreaking as other games in the genre, but very good nonetheless, with a few new and interesting mechanics up its sleeve.