Free The Qi

Team Ninja is no stranger to the Souls genre thanks to their wildly successful Nioh franchise – and although Wo Long doesn’t match the incredible highs that Nioh 2 left behind back in 2020, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty manages to shake things up by mixing the best elements of Dark Souls, while maintaining a fast combat system that closely matches Sekiro. Although the overarching story falls flat in telling a supernatural take of the Han Dynasty, I found myself interested in the world building and overall gameplay loop.

The Flow of Parry

I’ve played my share of Dynasty Warriors to know that during the three kingdoms era, you should avoid Lu Bu at all cost – as I was gently reminded during my playthrough. To those familiar with the stories, you may find more enjoyment out of Wo Long than I did, as Team Ninja seem to struggle even more here than their previous games. We take control of an unnamed warrior during a battle between warring kingdoms in a power struggle for the Elixer of Immortality – an element that is left vaguely open for the players to uncover over time, something I think Team Ninja tries to replicate from the Souls series. What is done exceptionally different though are the insurmountable cutscenes it provides, which I happen to enjoy quite a bit. However, the jarring voice acting removed me from immersing myself into the story in the way I wanted too. Something about having C-listed voice actor trying to pronounce Qi really throws me off. It’s a shame though, because the world building is rich enough to enthrall players, Team Ninja just executed the process so poorly.

“once figured out, it is one of the more satisfying games to play in the genre.”

Fortunately, the story is supported by a wide range of vistas to traverse and backtrack in, as the scenery is wildly spread across from mountain sides to open forest. All accompanied by demonic presence that needs to be vanquished by whatever build you desire – all thanks to the presence of the entities seeking the Elixer of Immortality. You will be facing swarms of foot soldiers that will help you hone your countering skills before challenging large demons – it’s a nice element because it gives a sense that the foot soldiers are caught in the middle of supernatural war without being able to flee, scattering them within zones properly. Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty has a special story to tell, Team Ninja just needs to hone their storytelling before it’s realized.

Counter the Qi

Wo Long’s combat is something that needs to be solved as soon as possible if you want to survive through the tutorial – but once figured out, it is one of the more satisfying games to play in the genre. Thankfully, it is the bulk of your experience and an utterly fantastic one. Much of what makes the Souls games excellent is here; the twitch response battles, high risk, high reward gameplay loop that is accompanied by an amazing countering system akin to Sekiro. You will be equipping yourself with a variety of armor pieces, polearms, several types of swords, bows and magic at will – but the key element is countering as it’ll serve as a means to generate your Spirit meter; your meter is reliant on your ability to counter even unblockables, while also gaining them through attacks. Essentially, it’s a mixture of Sekiro’s poise mechanic, stamina and mana. It’s an attrition between preventing fatigue while trying to gain enough Spirit for devastating attacks such as Spells, Martial Arts moves for strength builds, Spirit attacks and even summons. You can also enchant your weapons to attack enemies enough to stagger them, leaving them open for continuous damage.

“but the key element is countering as it’ll serve as a means to generate your Spirit meter”

Wo Long’s combat is layered and fun with great potential on executing some fantastic moves. Although this system can really benefit players with leniency, the enemies will not hold back – you will find demons with excellent combat flow, higher than usual combo attacks that would shift mid-way to throw off your countering anticipation. It’s a great balance to this mechanic that I found to make the experience a bit richer. The ability to stealth attacks from above and below is there, yet all facets of countering animations is limited to about 1-2 animations, which unfortunately wears itself out very quickly; it would have been nice if the developers spent more time on it, given that you will be countering very often. There’s online in Wo Long, up to 2 additional players – you can also be invaded by players, which I mean, it’s mandatory to have this feature. I was surprised by the overall connection process, and it seemed stable for the most part, but improvements can be done to further the experience. The Spirit meter and counter systems works exceptionally well for PvP which was my biggest fear. I haven’t found if the community has a set level cap top prevent power creep, but I’m sure there is one. I was shocked to find that the players that invaded me dropped loot when I finished them.

Much like Nioh, you will create your hero to battle against the evils of the world; Wo Long features a rich enough character creation tool, but nothing at the level of say, Demon’s Souls remake. It doesn’t take long to earn your way through battle and gathering a generous amount of loot that for the most part, serves as filler. What I mean by this is, you will be getting ranked gear, 1-5 stars, dropped by fallen enemies or chest found in the world – some items will look exotic but 1 star, and that cannot be enhanced. They can get leveled to be more efficient, but it will never match 5-star gear. So, although the illusion of gathering gear is there, most of it isn’t quality, and although you can junk undesirable gears, extract their perks and add them to ones you want, the sorting aspect is too obstructive for the most part. Those that are hyper-spreadsheet enthusiast that loves to min-max gear will find a lot here, but I’m just not that kind of player. All of this can be fashioned with the transmog system, so you’ll be able to keep your gear while also looking fresh. Although there’s loot that’s thrown at you, it’s not the same level of mobile games of uselessness – it works for the most part and I found that some lesser rare gear had some decent build potential.

Increasing Moral

One of my favorite new additions is the Moral system, which is a natural difficulty system ramped up through battle. You can increase your moral by simply defeating enemies, but you’ll gain more by defeating them with your devastating attacks, but you can lose moral upon death. You can increase your baseline moral level by planting set rally banners. I like this system because it naturally increases the difficulty while also giving me an incentive to explore deeper for potential rewards – it also gives a deeper sense of danger to foot soldiers. Those that have defeated you will also gain Moral levels, which you will have to defeat if you want your Qi back.

Traversing in Wo Long is much simpler than the Souls games – actually, downright arcade in design. Unlike Dark Souls or Elden Ring, the game is not connected seamlessly. All zones are levels that you choose from in a hub system. Each zone rewards you with loot, materials and even Qi, the Souls equivalent in this game. This sort of disconnect really soften the overall experience as it removes the sense of dispair – even if the Bonfire mechanic in the form of Battle Flags is there for your safety net, traveling continuously deep into unknown territory is one of the finer elements of the genre. This also brings another point where enemy variety is very limited here; I have encountered all there is to offer in about my 5hr mark – through my 20hr playthrough, I found that I was battling each enemy with relative ease. Sure, it’s still challenging, but it would have been much better to test my mettle with more variety.


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