There’s Prolific, and then there’s Team Ninja. As soon as I finished one night with the demo of Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, a demo that just went live for everyone on PlayStation 5, came the news of another in their long line of action games with Rise of the Ronin. And all this before I’ve had a chance to finish the team’s version of Final Fantasy, Strangers of Paradise, or even fully understand what exactly Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is.
However, there is much that is familiar to Wo Long, both from the Nioh games on which it is based (themselves a couple of harsh and deeply enjoyable twists on the action-RPG template presented by FromSoft’s Souls games) and the larger history of Koei Tecmo with the Three Periods of kingdoms. Because, in the simplest possible terms, Wo Long is Nioh transposed into the mythology and legends of 3rd century China.
It’s more than that though, with a whole new approach to combat and a completely different style. feel All of Nioh was a game of studied composure and one that rewarded thoughtfulness in your attacks. Wo Long, on the other hand, flows like water and invites you to lose yourself in his combat, carrying you through his stages with a very different momentum than you would associate with your typical Soulslike. It’s not exactly a musou, that kind of crowd-clearing action that Koei Tecmo has made a trade of for the last 20 years, but it weaves a few ideas into its morale system that has you conquering the map for more power. The end result is something that feels surprisingly novel.
“We wanted a new flavor for the next Team Ninja game,” Wo Long producer Fumihiko Yasuda told me earlier in the week as the studio made its final preparations ahead of the Tokyo Game Show. “We were thinking about what we would do for this new action RPG, and we really wanted to make a title with the core themes and setting of the Three Kingdoms – that Chinese setting brings a new country to explore, and the main focus because the combat and the game itself is Chinese martial arts, so it’s about bringing it to life.”
That’s what impressed me the most after an evening with Wo Long, and it’s definitely what sets it apart from Nioh. There was a complexity to the combat in both Nioh games that has been channeled into something more immediate in Wo Long, with systems in place that reward a more aggressive play style.
“With Nioh we were looking for samurai action, that was our big focus. And so we had the stamina bar, and each specific attack had a lot of weight,” explains Yasuda. In Wo Long, the stamina bar is effectively flipped and in its place is a spirit gauge that fills up as you attack, but is also used when you dodge or perform specials, putting an emphasis on attack. “What we’re going for here is fluid action, fluid combat, and we’ve added jump to give you a lot more options. What you actually do when you control your character makes the game that much more instinctive.”
In hand it feels fantastic, the rapid fluidity of your move set makes it a different take on action RPG. It will be interesting to see how Wo Long’s pronounced flavor impacts build variety and viability, as while the initial class I went with tended towards stealth, it seemed like the only way to get through enemies is relentless attack, which suggests that there will be a more defined path. in front of you. However, there is breadth there and a movement set that extends outward in other ways; there’s a deflection in your arsenal that lets you soak up attacks, while that spirit gauge encourages some back and forth in combat. It’s similar to Sekiro in that it puts an emphasis on the timing of combat, but Wo Long also has a lot of quirks.
Perhaps the most distinctive thing is its morale system, something that is a bit confusing because they explained it to me and played with it in the demo that I still haven’t fully understood, although since there are similarities with the world trend of Demon’s Souls, a system Neither never fully understood, that might not be surprising.
“The initial inspiration was to take the level design of these types of games and combine it with the Three Kingdoms approach and strategic elements of those games,” says producer Masaaki Yamagiwa, a producer who brings the Bloodborne experience from his experience. previous. role at Sony’s Japan Studios. “There’s a rank and number value for your character and enemies. You can defeat enemies to get stronger, and it shows you how strong they are and how strong you are, and you can get stronger as you raise it by ensuring the map. That’s kind of a blanket explanation.”
From what I can tell from the demo, it’s a world leveling system, essentially, as opposed to how you level up your character in traditional RPG fashion (something you do in Wo Long by allocating your points skill to one of five affinities, each granting you different attributes). It all adds up to a game that feels very malleable, with multiple ways to overcome the challenges inherent in the Soulslike genre.
“This is another option to adjust the difficulty level in their favor,” says Yamagiwa, “because the game itself could potentially be seen as very difficult. If players are struggling, the morale system is something they can focus on.” and try to keep increasing their rank, to try to help them decide how they want to progress through the game and get stronger. We also want to add that we want all players to start on the same footing – they’re all on the same level, but they have all these different options on how you want to adjust it.
It’s an interesting take on the perennial question of difficulty in this gaming district, and I’m fascinated to see how it works, and how the broader audience adapts and makes sense of a system that helps set Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty apart. . . Like the two Nioh games before it, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty feels like a more than worthwhile twist on the ever-popular action-RPG template. The demo itself has just gone live on PS5 and Xbox Series X, where it will be available until September 26.