Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty - Big Trouble in Digital China
Wo Long may not have so many new tricks up its sleeve but it's a well-polished Souls pastiche. In China!
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Once upon a time in China

Dark Souls has left such a footprint on the world of videogames but now it has made its most cerebral crossover yet: Chinese history. Set in 184 CE during the Yellow Turban Rebellion, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty provides a truly unique sense of place and time. However, does this Souls-like find a soul of its own?

Wo Long is truly merciless. At first, enemies are relentlessly aggressive, slicing through your health bar before you even realise you’re in a combat encounter. The parrying mechanic is incredibly satisfying but unbelievably finicky. The slightest movement of the analogue stick can ruin a perfectly timed riposte, leading to total decimation. Boss battles especially have no patience for newcomers. The first boss you encounter is a total nightmare, players will be sweating all the way through multiple attempts to annihilate their health bar. Then the SECOND health bar appears. Cripes!

At least veterans of the Nioh series will find themselves in a comfortable position. Well, as comfortable as you can be in a world where EVERYTHING wants you dead. Unlike the Souls series, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is a linear experience. No interconnected intricate world but a series of smaller zones and levels, each with plenty to discover to assist with the brutal end-of-area boss battles.

The big innovation here however is the “morale” system, where your morale level versus your enemies will reward you with better rewards if you can defeat them, and increase your health and damage given and taken. As this starts at zero every mission there’s a great sensation of becoming more powerful constantly, a consistently rewarding feedback loop. Less satisfying is the glut of loot constantly rewarded, developers must realise at some point that comparing numbers and percentages in menus is unbelievably tedious. Right?

So long, Wo Long

Though punishing, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is a beautifully realised game. A great historical setting combined with a deeply unhistorical plot makes more of a great time. Though more could have been done to help new players acclimatise to this world (this edition does include better starting equipment) and the addition of helpful Divine Beasts and online co-op can be useful, it would be no surprise for new players to really bounce off. Despite streamlining some of Nioh’s more obtuse complexities, this is far from dumbed down. As it stands, this game doesn’t feel like a fallen dynasty but rather a dynasty beginning a powerful new reign.

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About The Author

Niall Glynn has been playing video games since he first realised that Mario could go INSIDE a pyramid on the N64. In-between his day job and sleeping you can find him watching poorly dubbed kung-fu movies and/or playing weird games on his Switch. Thinks Return of the Jedi is the best Star Wars and is colour-blind.

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