Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty Review – Three Kingdoms Has Never Looked This Good

    Title: Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty
    Developer: Team NINJA
    Release Date: March 3, 2023
    Reviewed On: PS5
    Publisher: Koei Tecmo
    Genre: Action RPG

The Soulslike genre can be exhausting. Although some might relish the challenge, others may prefer a more straightforward action experience. Between your Elden Rings, Sekiros, and Niohs, I believe Team Ninja has found that in Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty. Although brutally challenging, there are more than approachable ways to manage the difficulty that awaits across each environment. Still, there’s also an excellent balance of systems that manage that challenge to be more accessible to those who wish for a crash course in this brutal genre.

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty has a thrilling narrative that retells the Three Kingdoms story. Fans of other Koei Tecmo IPs, including Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Dynasty Warriors, will be well acquainted with the cast of characters met through each campaign mission. This high fantasy tale doesn’t overstay its welcome, but its delivery establishes a core antagonist early on with the threat of war looming across China. I enjoyed the character interactions and their designs for this release. The English voice acting is decent, but I enjoyed playing with Chinese or Japanese audio for immersion.

As the protagonist, your backstory isn’t explicitly detailed, but the adventure opens with you facing the invading army known as the Yellow Turbans. It’s here that you meet your end but are resurrected by a strange man. Across the adventure, you begin to understand your place in the world and why you have access to a secret power, but your main driving force is simply beating the crap out of anything that stands in your way.


I enjoyed the story for what it was, but its most epic moments come to a head during the conclusion. It’s a slow build-up, but the game definitely delivers memorable encounters through its notable cast of characters. That said, this is an action game, and that’s what many are here to see. Thankfully, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty has so much to offer in that category.

So when it comes to the basics, Wo Long has a light and strong attack that can be comboed together to channel Spirit. Unlike other titles in this genre, there’s no traditional stamina meter, which allows players to put continuous pressure on enemies with the risk of being stunned for a short period if not managed correctly. Instead, the flow of attacks depends on your response to actions made by the enemies. So while carelessly dodging and using martial arts burns up Spirit, perfect dodges, deflecting, and attacking keeps it balanced.


This also affects the enemy’s Spirit. Proper defensive moves decrease their Spirit to allow for a fatal strike while they’re staggered. Larger enemy types will generally require you to get them to this point to take them out easier. There is a nice pool of enemy types across each area, which are exceptionally large maps with branching paths and secrets.

While your first encounter with an enemy might leave you dead, it doesn’t take too many tries to become a deflecting champion. And let me tell you, nothing is more satisfying than deflecting in this game. The pure sense of power and accomplishment that comes from timing a deflect perfectly after the enemy charges at you with their special, leaving them staggered on the ground, has to be experienced.


Each region features a handful of new enemy types, but I feel like their placement becomes messy in the later chapters. For example, the final fights leading up to the boss is just an endurance round against all the game’s toughest enemies. Further, some areas seem to have a group of large enemies roaming around for the sake of it. It comes off as a way to pad the runtime compared to the opening chapters that feature what seem like well-placed enemies.

As challenging as these fights are, Wo Long has plenty of systems to make each encounter feel unique, depending on how much you take advantage of the various battle options. For example, using experience from downed enemies will allow you to level up your character. However, this isn’t a traditional stat increase system. Instead, players level up across elements that directly affect their access to Wizardry spells.

Boss battles are a spectacle. They can be frustrating, but they are entertaining to overcome. If you’re good enough at deflecting and dodging, you could get through many of these encounters without taking any damage. However, they don’t make that easy, each having several attack patterns and unique gimmicks that make the fight memorable and terrifying.


Aside from the deep character customization system for the character, players can refine their playstyle with spells. Honestly, there are too many spells to go over in this review alone, but you can equip four spells to a character, which range from defensive to offensive across different elements. Although this is not traditionally a mechanic in this genre, combining Attacks, Martial Arts, and Wizardry spells makes the game a hell of a lot easier.

Divine Beasts are also an extension of the abilities players have access to, with a new beast introduced after each chapter. The gauge for this is built steadily, so saving them for a boss is unnecessary. Further, if you die, the gauge doesn’t reset, making it possible to use as you seek revenge.


I mentioned that this game is more approachable than its action contemporaries, and that’s because Team Ninja has laid out several features to make progression easier. Sure, you can farm levels and increase your stats, but there’s also a Morale Rank, which depends on the number of Battle Flags you’ve found in each region. Doing well in combat further increases Morale to level 25, which boosts your stats.

Death is inevitable, but you don’t lose everything. While some of your soul points are taken, your Morale also drops and is added to the enemy that killed you, increasing their power for your next encounter with them. It’s honestly not a brutal system and encourages you to keep trying without totally wrecking your ego. Further, players who aren’t as skilled can simply explore to find all the battle flags to create a base Morale to keep them stronger.


Now, gear in Wo Long is an entirely different beast. Enemies will constantly drop gear to the point where you might be annoyed at seeing it. However, regardless of the base stats, special abilities are tied to weapons and unique buffs attached to the armor. At first glance, it doesn’t seem very clear, but once you figure out the type of character you want, it becomes a bit more straightforward.

Further, gear can be fused, altered, and broken down to upgrade and craft to fit your playstyle. I found myself spending a lot of time perfecting my loadout. You can also change the armor visibly to something you find more attractive. Finally, I liked how the game encourages you to not just look at the attack or defense stat but also investigate the unique traits of each weapon to fine-tune your character.


Outside of campaign missions, players can take on submissions that often show a different side of the level while changing the enemy placement. This is where you’ll likely see some previous mini-boss encounters become normal enemies, but the rewards for completing these missions are so sweet that you have to do them. I will say that the enemy’s line of sight is a hit or miss. The stealth systems allow you to sneak up and deal massive damage, but it’s something that I took advantage of far too often. I used this system for every large enemy I encountered because it’s a great way to knock out a massive chunk of their HP.

The multiplayer options only make this experience more enjoyable. Joining up with two friends allows for tactical strategies against bosses, and the game allows you to divide and conquer stages. It’s not advised to go off alone, but tackling some of these large areas and looking for hidden loot together was worth it. If you ever find yourself stuck, I say jump online for some help. The most fun I had with this game was playing with friends. While the challenge is still there, it’s good to know that you aren’t alone. Other online options allow you to invade another player’s game for added rewards if you survive.


Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is unlike any other action game. Its unique battle system encourages high-level character customization to make the action approachable no matter your history with the genre. It’s terrifyingly brilliant as it tests your understanding of enemy attacks through a rhythm-based deflect feature making each encounter as enjoyable as it is difficult, especially in its online modes. Although messy enemy placement and cheesy maneuvers can slow the pacing, the Three Kingdoms story has never looked better.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Azario Lopez

Hanging out max, relaxing all cool.