LifeIsXbox’s Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty review | Getting Wo Long day one on Xbox Game Pass was a very nice surprise and something that has undoubtedly helped its popularity, but I think a lot of players didn’t expect it to be this good. It’s a challenging soulslike where death comes easily, but the chapter-based approach and ease of leveling always makes you feel like you stand a chance. I was amazed to see the achievement rarity for beating some of the end-game bosses was above 10%, meaning most players kept on pushing and weren’t scared away. Neither was I.
I haven’t played the Nioh games by Team Ninja, so don’t expect any comparisons in this review, I’ll mostly be basing my feedback on experience with Dark Souls or Elden Ring, but Wo Long has plenty of things going for it that will make you want to play.
It takes place in China, during the later Han dynasty (hence the subtitle) and you’ll be facing plenty of demon-like creatures as an evil Taoist is going through the provinces trying to corrupt all its leaders and influence them to do his bidding. There are dozens of characters introduced that you may know if you’ve played other games in this setting, like the Dynasty Warriors titles, but most of it was new to me. To be honest, the story wasn’t the main pull and likely won’t be the reason you’re picking this over similar games in the genre. That gameplay, though, now there is something satisfying to write home about.
ℹ️ Reviewed on Xbox Series X | Review code provided by Plaion Benelux, this review is the personal opinion of the writer. Got unanswered questions about this game? Get in touch on Twitter!
What We Liked!
- Amazingly fun gameplay | I’m not the biggest soulslike player, and I’m usually terrible at games like Bayonetta or Devil May Cry, playing them in the easiest setting. And after a VERY challenging tutorial boss at the start of the game (that took me nearly 25 attempts or more to take down) I finally started vibing with the challenging reaction-based combat that Wo Long has to offer. You can easily block most attacks, or deflect them to end up behind your opponent ready to strike back, but what really stands out is deflecting a fatal strike, an unblockable attack where the enemy will flash red, and being able to perform a counterstrike of your own to deal critical damage. It looks amazing and feels even better when you pull it off.
- Boss Fights | There is a great amount of enemy variety in Wo Long, though not nearly as many as in a game like Elden Ring, but learning their attack patterns is a lot of fun. This goes double for any of the boss fights which REQUIRE you to know their attacks by heart, because even getting hit once or twice will spell doom. Given enough attempts though, you’ll start to see the openings in their strategy and come up with the perfect counters, and when you do, it’s oooooh so satisfying.
- Morale | When you defeat enemies or deflect their attacks, you’ll slowly build up morale, but another key method of achieving this is by capturing enemy flags. There are a few Battle flags that will act as checkpoints and smaller ones that will mostly be used to up your morale and keep it from dropping to zero, and they’ll be vital for your chances at beating the tougher enemies: With enough morale, you’ll do more damage and you’ll be able to soak up more yourself. Getting hit decreases it though, and dying resets it based on how many flags you’ve captured. It’s in your best interest to always scout every area before taking on the next boss fight.
- Gear & leveling up | When a fight is too difficult though, you may want to consider upgrading your gear at the weapon smith or going back to a few of the previous fights and gaining a few levels. You can divide your stats between 5 different elements that each have an impact in a specific set: Wood will increase your health, Earth will allow you to equip heavier armour, Water gives you more stealth and so on. You can spend Genuine Qi at Battle Flags to level up and you’ll see which stats increase. Your weapons also scale alongside specific elements and your defences have a rock, paper, scissors type of synergy with them as well. The good news is: you’ll be able to respec for free in the main hub of the game so you’re free to try out different approaches and you can even set some loadouts as favourites to revert back if you change your mind.
- Summons and comrades | To assist you in battle, you can bring up to two other warriors that you can pick from a list of historical figures you’ve already encountered. Or, if you need some help from a more skilled fighter, you can call in assistance from an online player and ask them to take down a challenging boss with you. You can also set 1 summon that you can call upon when your spirit gauge is up, with varying useful effects like them joining you as a fighter, or enchanting your weapon with one of the elements. Getting the right load-out, summon and back-up can mean the difference between life and death.
- Visually appealing | Wo Long looks great, especially in action. The set piece bosses show up in eye-catching arenas like a wooden temple on fire and snow falling in through the cracks, and their attack animations look so cool, you might even consider getting hit on purpose just to see them maul you to pieces. All this visual splendour and it never seemed to drop a frame.
- Sub battlefields | Sometimes when you beat one of the main chapters, a sub-battlefield will unlock. It’s either a small slice of the larger level you just played, or an arena fight against some of the games’ most challenging enemies. These are great and I love the way they are divided in chapters, but I had a really hard time navigating through the menu and seeing which ones I could challenge and how. So let me help: go to one of the battle flags in your hub town or in any battlefield and pick the Travel option, then use the bumper buttons to navigate between chapters, and the up/down arrows to pick a battlefield. The blue ones are the ones you haven’t played yet. I think the weirdest thing was getting the tutorial for this, or rather the notification that they exist, at a point in the game where only the hub town unlocking is one of the available options.
- Visual cues can be deceiving | Deflecting a fatal strike is vital to surviving a boss encounter, and even some of the bigger demon enemies you’ll face on the battlefields, but you can’t always rely on the visual red flare as each attack has its own timing and often you’ll have to train yourself to wait half a second before pressing the button. This trial and error to breed muscle memory lead to a lot of frustrations on my part.
- Voice acting & sound | The English voice acting was OK, but often felt like watching an old dubbed movie, though the exaggerated movements of characters probably also contributed to that. Wo Long also supports Japanese or Chinese audio, but I haven’t tested them out yet, I can imagine that delivers better immersion though. As for the soundtrack, it was OK and felt appropriate for the setting, with typical Asian string instruments and drums playing to amplify the action, but it never really stole the show or drew the attention in any meaningful manner.
- Photomode | It’s always nice when a game includes a photomode, but it’s hidden behind a menu tab in a game that doesn’t pause when you enter the menu. you’ll need to be quick about getting into the photomode settings and even when you’re there, you’ll find that the camera is tied to your character and there isn’t enough freedom to create some nice creative shots. Too bad, and I do hope they improve upon it in one of the updates.
What we Disliked
- Difficulty curve | I don’t mind a tough battle, but it’s the first time I encounter one so early on in the game. The first boss, which is still part of the tutorial, kicked my ass so hard, I almost gave up on the game then and there. I couldn’t figure out his attack patterns and it felt like I was dealing no damage at all. I understand the reasoning behind it, as learning how to deflect those fatal strikes is critical to progressing through the game, but seeing many of my friends drop the title because of it clearly means that some balancing is still in order. The second big roadblock for me was Lu Bu, and again I was really to call it quits after about 30 failed attempts. It required a total respec of my character and the aid of an online player to get past it.
- Crafting & upgrading | I love being able to improve my loadout and I have nothing against the +1 system of finding materials and getting better stats on my weapons. But there is no way to tell how the +1 will affect your weapon in the future (only the next stage) and no way to accurately compare your new gear to your old, because the latter will always appear better because of their upgrades. I needed to have some kind of “base stat comparison” but even that would have given me massive FOMO because I couldn’t compare their max upgraded versions. With a lot of equipment and upgrading costing money and materials, there wasn’t a lot of room to experiment, especially early on. The biggest downside of this was that I didn’t really check any of the full-armour sets, even though they are probably among the best. I just played through the entire game with 3-star gear upgraded to the maximum level. Also: you can remove embedded effects on weapons and re-attach them to other gear, which again is lovely, but feels like an impossible task to min/max yourself without the help of the internet.
How long to beat the story | It took me 40 hours to see the credits roll, but a better player can do it in ~25 hours
How long to achieve 1000G | Wo Long can be completed in a single run, it can take you between 30-50 hours
You’ll love this game if you like these | Nioh, Wild Hearts, Elden Ring
Here’s some gameplay I captured to better show how tough the boss fights can be, but make sure to quit the video before the cinematic if you want to avoid any spoilers
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty delivers one of this year’s biggest surprises with its engaging combat. Deflecting a fatal strike from a boss charging at you and countering with one of your own is among the best feelings around.
It has some issues with balancing, but despite the uneven difficulty curve, it’s worth sharpening your blade and powering through.
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Robby lives and breathes video games. When he’s not playing them, he’s talking about them on social media or convincing other people to pick up a controller themselves. He’s online so often, he could practically list the internet as his legal domicile. Belgian games-industry know-it-all.