From a viewer’s perspective, it’s tough to understand the joy one receives from challenging action games. It almost makes casual gamers reluctant to test their skills and play themselves. My approach has always been to put as much pressure on the enemy as possible, but I quickly learned that this doesn’t fly in the Souls-like genre.
Still, I never quite got a grasp on high-level play and would certainly always take damage. After spending a considerable amount of time with Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, it’s easy to see what elements of the challenging genre Team Ninja borrowed from this genre and where they inserted their unique understanding of action to make it a largely addictive experience for anyone playing.
Watching someone play Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty feels like watching a choreographed fight scene. Each attack has weight, and the combination of abilities and magic adds flashiness to the events. However, one element that will stand out to onlookers is that you can face off against a group of enemies and even a boss without taking any damage.
During previous play sessions, I marveled at this and thought I could never be this skilled. However, during my time with this final preview, it was like a light switch flipped in my head, and I felt like a powerhouse running through the expansive environments. That is until I underestimated an enemy and died. Regardless, blocking, deflecting, and countering in Wo Long provide some of the most satisfying feedback I have received in an action game since Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.
It’s true; you are always at a disadvantage for most of the experience. The challenge doesn’t falter in that department. However, there are plenty more accessible options leaning toward the player’s favor, which makes this feel like a Souls-like for those who enjoy action games similar to Ninja Gaiden. There’s still the need for a slow approach to enemies and an understanding of the combat mechanics, but when you find that rhythm, there’s nothing more satisfying.
The removal of a Stamina bar could be seen as bold in this genre. However, the risk-reward of it all stems from just how good your reflexes are. Pushing an enemy to a breaking point could seem easy, but reading their attacks and responding is where the fun of each encounter comes in. Fights get even more intense when you’re fighting an enemy, and off to the side, you see another enemy charging a special. In these moments, you can break your combo and respond to counter the special, even if you aren’t locked onto that other enemy.
These encounters keep the momentum of the fights going and seem to mainly be a product of that signature Team Ninja action. Your eyes open up to the entire battlefield, but this is even more apparent when you see how verticle the environments can be. The game allows you to jump onto roofs, go into caves, and explore at leisure. You might encounter a powerful enemy, but rewards are always provided. I have yet to see this freedom highlighted in a boss encounter, which has mostly been arena-based fights. This is typical for the genre, but I would like to see if Team Ninja can freshen up this aspect of the experience.
As we approach the release of Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, it’s nice to see that this isn’t the same song and dance Souls-like action we’ve seen before. Instead, Team Ninja is bringing their understanding of challenging action adventures to deliver an addictive experience that relies heavily on player skill and rhythm. You’re encouraged to keep your momentum and cut through countless enemies. This sense of speed has been missing from the genre, and I’m here for it.
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty Final is coming to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC on March 3, 2023.
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