Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty review for PlayStation, Xbox, PC

Platform: PS5
Also On: PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PC
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Developer: Team Ninja
Medium: Digital/Disc
Players: 1
Online: No

I went into Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty with some expectations. Try as I might, it was impossible to have an entirely open mind with this title. Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty was developed by Team Ninja, the folks who created the Nioh franchise which stands as the finest ?Souls-like? series made by anyone other than From Software. Where Nioh stands as their take on Dark Souls, Wo Long looked to be their take on Sekiro. This holds (mostly) true, and ends up being the biggest stumbling block on the road to making Wo Long a memorable experience of its own.

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty follows the same general format that Nioh does, shying away from the open-world style of gameplay in favor of linear levels, completed at the end of each boss fight. While this is in no way a bad thing, it isn?t necessarily good. I personally prefer the open-world system for these games, with exploration making up a very large chunk of my playtime. I love the chance to wander into an enemy you aren?t yet supposed to be facing, the thrill of a boss encounter that comes out of order, and the reward that comes with tackling that challenge. Wo Long doesn?t allow for this, and it leaves the experience feeling very ?By the numbers?.

Combat in Wo Long is an absolute highlight, once you accept that this is NOT Sekiro and this is NOT Nioh. While the core feeling of movement and combat is very reminiscent of Nioh, Wo Long adjusts things in some major ways. Primarily in the combat mechanics themselves, which here rely on a magic system and a series of martial arts abilities. On top of that, there is the spirit system, which is a sort of ?tug-of-war? that you play with the bar beneath your health. This fills as you land blows on your opponent and depletes when you use your abilities or get hit. If the bar depletes completely, you become stunned for a moment and open yourself up to instant death most of the time. Management of the spirit bar is the absolute key to combat, and the best way to manage it is through learning how to properly deflect.

Deflection is where the similarities between Wo Long and Sekiro start (and end). The premise is similar, time your deflection right to prevent damage to yourself and do big damage to the opponent’s spirit bar, not unlike the posture break mechanic in Sekiro. Where Wo Long ends up lacking, however, is in the fact that your deflect does very little to interrupt your opponent. In Sekiro, it is a dance back and forth between strikes and deflects. In Wo Long, it is simply trying to deflect as many times as possible to bait out a spirit bar break which allows for a massive blow to their health. While the idea remains the same, the precision and mastery that comes with the Sekiro system just aren?t there. Wo Long feels like a cheap imitation, and that definitely drags down the overall experience.

Another new addition to the combat here is one that I found welcome and very interesting. It introduces five different elements, and each move and armor set corresponds with one of those elements. You upgrade your combat skills both magical and martial along upgrade trees that correspond with their respective elements. The leveling system also falls into the elements, weaving all of your upgrade and combat mechanics together. These elements exist in a circle, with each element being strong against another, while weak against yet another. This allows you to approach combat in a unique way, and the ability to save loadouts and builds at the battle flags allows you to switch between builds on the fly to adapt to different enemy groups or bosses.

The story in Wo Long is? there. There is no real reason to attach to the protagonist, as you have very little interaction with the other characters in the game during the plentiful cutscenes and that leaves the relationships feeling extremely hollow. It feels more like a Marvel movie, trying to fit in as many cameos as possible. ?Look at this guy! Remember him?? is the prevailing feeling in every cutscene.

Wo Long exists at an intersection between Nioh and Sekiro, and unfortunately falls short of both and fails to establish an identity of its own. While I enjoyed my time with Wo Long, and had a fine experience, it passed from my mind almost as soon as I was done with it. I still sit and wait patiently for the day that From Software announces a follow-up to the perfection that was Sekiro, and an opportunity to try out Nioh 3 is something I would not pass up. Wo Long simply fails to impress in the ways those games do, and ends up planting itself firmly in the ?Good but forgettable? category.

Note: EA provided us with a PlayStation code for review purposes.

Grade: B-