Team Ninja is one such developer that doesn’t need any proof in terms of action games. They have created some of the most popular games in the genre like Ninja Gaiden. The team has felt the need to show that they can create other types of games with the Nioh series. This is one of few Soulslike franchises that can stand alone without too much relying on From Software’s formula.
The Japanese studio released Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin. This unique take on the Soulslike formula was enhanced by mechanics from the Final Fantasy series. Now, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is another action game. It combines Team Ninja’s expertise in action games with a setting that is synonymous to publisher Koei Tecmo: The Three Kingdoms era. It remains to be seen how the two will merge, but the recently released demo showed how the game would be different from previous games by the studio. However, their trademark mechanics will still be a part of the Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty experience.
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty appears very simplified on the surface. This is especially true when compared to Nioh games. The unique stance system and the traditional Stamina bar are gone. Leveling up is easier with fewer stats to improve and the loot system has been simplified with gear granting far fewer bonuses. These changes feel very disappointing at first. They make the game feel slower, especially compared to the Nioh games. But, after the first few encounters with enemies, it becomes obvious that the whole experience isn’t so much about the RPG elements, but the actual action.
It is easy to notice similarities between the demo of Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice while exploring the mountainous region. The player-created character isn’t as agile and agile as Wolf but they have the ability to use the enhanced movement options, including a double leap, to explore further stages. The demo stage was quite vertical, making exploration very enjoyable. Exploring thoroughly can lead to many additional areas and items. This extends the game’s playtime. The new Morale system has made exploration seem a bit more mandatory. This affects how powerful the player and their enemies.
Each enemy in the game has two bars: Health and Spirit. A numerical value indicates its Fortitude level. The enemy’s Fortitude level is higher than the player’s. Players will have a harder time inflicting significant Spirit and Health damage. Raising Fortitude is basically about defeating enemies. However, if the player dies, their level will drop by one. Exploring stages will bring you additional benefits, as many of them are off the beaten path.
While combat is simplified in Wo Long Fallen Dynasty, that doesn’t make it any less challenging than the Nioh titles. It can be more difficult for some players because of the emphasis on parrying in the combat system. Although dodge is still possible, it is not very effective due to the low invincibility frames. Parrying is always the best option as it depletes the enemy’s Spirit. However, the parry window is very strict. To use it effectively, players must learn the enemy’s movesets. This will take a lot of time and effort as movesets can vary and have different timings. If the parry windows are not shortened in the final game, I can imagine it being one of the mechanics that will cause Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty to be divisive among fans.
Although the total removal of the Stamina mechanics may seem like an incentive to unleash weapon Arts or wizardry Spells and go on the offensive, it is not. Players will need to manage their Spirit to defeat enemies in Wo Long, Fallen Dynasty. If the Spirit value drops to zero, the player will feel shaky and vulnerable to attacks. However, if the Spirit value rises, the heavy Spirit attack will be stronger and can deplete the enemy’s Spirit in one hit. Arts and Spells require Spirit to use. Parrying and dodging are also required. This introduces a risk-reward element that is very engaging once the player has a good understanding of the combat flow and the mechanics involved. Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is a mixture of Stranger of Paradise Origin and Sekiro : Shadows Die Twice because of the importance of Spirit management.
Although Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty looks challenging, Team Ninja has created some systems that will allow even non-action game enthusiasts to enjoy the title. You can summon an NPC ally or other human players by using Tiger Seals. They can be found in the demo. Even though the AI isn’t particularly smart, it does a decent job at drawing the enemy’s attention. So having the option of summoning them is definitely a welcome feature. It is possible to eliminate enemies unseen in order to reduce their numbers and fight a more powerful enemy head-on. Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty’s combat seems more geared towards duels. This can make it very difficult to fight multiple enemies simultaneously.
While multiple playthroughs of the demo convinced me to buy Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty’s game, some of the gameplay mechanics (such as streamlining combat that doesn’t allow for much expression even with multiple Arts and Spells) and the emphasis on parrying may put off some players. Team Ninja is currently gathering feedback about the demo. I expect some changes to the final release but even if they don’t, I believe Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty won’t be far behind the best action games of 2023, despite the lack of wider appeal. The game will be released on PC early next year (Steam, Microsoft Store), PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series S|X.
Demo available on 5.