The developers are marketing Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty all wrong. I’m sure the fact that it’s a Soulsborne-like released in the midst of the Great Elden Ring DLC winter is no doubt appealing. As is the fact that Team Ninja, the game’s developers, got Masaaki Yamagiwa — a producer on Bloodborne and the Demon’s Souls remake — to work on the game. The combat is also enticing, familiar enough for Soulsborne fans to get a handle on but just different enough to be interesting and exciting. All are excellent points with which to attract players to the game.
But what they should have done was lead with this simple fact:
Zhao Yun — one of the Five Tiger Generals, my absolute No. 1 favorite character from every Dynasty Warriors game, and my brother from another mother — comes to your rescue by Akira sliding on a horse.
You heard me: Akira sliding on a horse.
I was already digging Wo Long in the short time I’d been playing. As a huge wuxia / Chinese historical drama fan, the mythology sucked me in in the first moments. With Chinese audio on, it felt like I was a character in Three Kingdoms — a Romance of the Three Kingdoms drama I would watch over and over again because it is just so good. But when Zhao Yun showed up, baby I was in. And he accompanies you to aid you in battle? And the game’s character creator is extremely robust with lots of great options that allowed me to create a total badass-looking Black woman with dreadlocks, an eyepatch, and a huge polearm that gets to run around Yellow Turban Rebellion China? Say. Less.
I look like a total badass!
Image: Team Ninja
I’m three or so hours into the game. It’s a Soulsborne-like, which means progression is touch-and-go as you learn enemy placements and attack patterns. But I do feel that, while the game isn’t easy, it feels less punishing than its FromSoftware cousins. More often than not, I can get away spamming my primary attack against regular mobs — something that will get you straight-up killed in Elden Ring, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, or Bloodborne. They just don’t seem to have the combat complexity or damage output to warrant greater caution.
Boss fights, however, are exactly what you’d expect from a Soulsborne. Bosses are tough, beefy, and require a thorough understanding of attack patterns and timing to defeat. I really dig the game’s deflect system that, when timed correctly, lets you punish an enemy’s critical attack. It feels like I’m playing a martial arts movie (the developer’s intent, no doubt). A huge corrupted monkey is barreling toward me with an unblockable attack. I timed my deflect just right to sidestep the monster as it crashes to the ground, allowing me to wail on it while it struggles to get back on its feet. It looks and feels great.
I’m hoping Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty can maintain the energy that it started with. With an entrance like Zhao Yun’s, it’d be very easy for the game to peak there and go nowhere else. I am, however, excited to find out where else it can go.
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is out today on Xbox, Xbox Game Pass, PlayStation, and PC.