Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty Review | A Strong Fighting Spirit

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is an exhilarating game that rewards you for the investment you put into its numerous gameplay systems.

ONE Store Beta Now Available

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is the latest soulslike from Team Ninja, who has proven multiple times by now that they’re the best at what they do when it comes to taking inspiration from FromSoftware titles. At this point, almost everyone has tried to copy something from the Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Elden Ring games. And rightfully so, they’re all absolutely fantastic.

In recent years, Team Ninja has continued to hone their craft in the action RPG genre. The Nioh games have built on the foundation laid by Ninja Gaiden, offering players an immersive and intense action experience. The games feature a deep combat system that requires strategy and skill, with a steep learning curve that rewards players who master it. All that and more can be found in Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty.

The game takes on the daunting task of trying to follow in the footsteps of FromSoftware’s more unique and mechanically demanding Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. In its attempt to try and build upon already excellent game systems, Wo Long tries to mix in a couple more extra RPG elements that have a tendency to feel like maybe the developers were flying a bit too close to the sun. 

Because of that, the game does stumble quite a bit under the weight of all the mechanics it’s trying to juggle but overall, it’s still an extremely fun and satisfying experience worth having. 

Humble beginnings

Wo Long has a fairly extensive character creation system with lots of options to tinker with. Usually, with these types of games, I don’t normally spend a lot of time customizing since it’ll all be covered by armor anyways but it’s there for those who want it.

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty takes place in a fictional reimagining of the Three Kingdoms era of China. Those who know the material will be able to appreciate the different references and historical figures that will pop up in the story but other than that, the narrative isn’t exactly worth highlighting. It’s here, it serves its purpose of bringing you from one level to another, but it never really reached a point wherein I was invested in what it was telling. The writing is definitely one of the game’s weakest points. However, the gameplay aspect more than makes up for it. 

The first level does a good enough job of introducing the different gameplay mechanics. All throughout, you’ll be setting down flags that act as Wo Long’s version of bonfires. These are where you will respawn, level up, manage equipment, etc. 

Everything is all well and good up until you reach the first boss fight. This is probably one of the game’s biggest difficulty spikes as up until this point, you’ve only been dealing with normal enemies that only take a few hits to fight. Zhang Liang as a boss is ruthless with his moveset and it acts as a lesson to the player that the typical dodging strat from the Dark Souls games just won’t work here anymore. 

Don’t worry, we made a guide to help players get through it. I’ll go as far as to say that the first boss fight is one of the hardest fights in the game. That’s how big of a jump it is in terms of difficulty. This might turn some of you off, but I urge you to power through because underneath what looks like an unforgiving sequence is a game that feels great to play. 

Charge into battle

If there was one thing I’d use to sell Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, it would definitely be its combat system. It’s clear that the game takes inspiration from Sekiro, with a focus on faster, more aggressive combat that rewards players for taking risks and having a more proactive approach. While it can be difficult to master at first, you’ll soon find out just how satisfying it can be once you gain momentum and enter an almost zen-like state of mechanical harmony.

The game’s emphasis on deflecting attacks rather than passive dodging is a refreshing change of pace, and it requires players to be constantly on their toes, analyzing enemy movements and making split-second decisions about when to strike and when to wait for an opening. Enemies are able to do powerful unblockable attacks which if successfully deflected, will not only trigger a cool animation but a powerful counterattack as well. 

Instead of a stamina bar, Wo Long features a “Spirit gauge” wherein it will be filled up when you successfully land light attacks. You can then use this to initiate spirit attacks. Getting hit or dodging too much will deplete the Spirit gauge to negative levels and once it’s completely gone, your character will be staggered for a couple of seconds which is basically free real estate for enemies to bring the pain. 

Alternatively, if you manage to completely deplete the enemy’s Spirit gauge, you will be then allowed to perform a powerful special attack that deals massive damage. These are equal parts satisfying as they are a visual spectacle as well. 

The morale system in Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is a key element that can greatly impact your effectiveness in battle. As your morale increases, you’ll take less damage and dish out more to your enemies, giving you a significant advantage. Facing an enemy with 20 morale while you only have 9 is possible but don’t expect an easy fight. 

The game’s fortitude system is another interesting mechanic that ties into morale. Fortitude represents the minimum level of morale that you can have and planting flags gradually increase your fortitude. This means that once you’ve raised your fortitude, you won’t have to worry about your morale dropping below that minimum level.

At a certain point, I found myself to be a bit overwhelmed with everything going on. But at the same time, I started to appreciate the amount of depth and complexity present in Wo Long’s systems. I see it as Team Ninja throwing a lot of darts at the board and so far, quite a number of them have stuck. If this game is lucky enough to get a sequel, I can see how these extra combat mechanics can be further tightened up for a smoother and more focused experience. 

Tools of the trade

Speaking of abundance, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty has loot. A whole lot of it. Both combat and exploration will reward you with some peace of gear whether it be armor, weapons, accessories, or consumables at any given moment.

Weapons will have unique sets of martial arts or special attacks, their effectiveness depends on their rarity. The higher the rarity, the more powerful the weapon’s effects will be, with five-star weapons being the most coveted. The same can be said for armor pieces. 


However, the game’s crafting system can make loot somewhat redundant and useless in the long run. At a certain point in the game, players can change the enchantments on any gear they find, allowing them to create the perfect mix of abilities and status effects. All you need to do is find a five-star piece of equipment and customize its perks. Once you’ve found the right combination, there’s little reason to swap out your gear, even if the game continues to offer new loot. Thankfully, there’s also a transmog system so you can not only build your character up to be the most powerful it can be, but look stylish in doing so as well.

Conquer the lands

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty’s progression will once again be familiar to anyone who has played a FromSoftware title. Instead of souls, you’ll be getting “Genuine Qi” from enemies to use for leveling up. This is separate from the currency that will be used to buy from vendors. 

There are only five attributes (Wood, Fire, Poison, Water, and Metal) with each one progressively getting diminishing returns the more you invest in them. Your choices will affect your health, attack strength, spirit gauge, carry weight, etc. You’ll be able to respec if ever you decide on going a different path so this gives way to experiment just a little bit more. 

But what is Wo Long if not adding a little bit more to the mix? Alongside leveling up, comes Wizardry spells. For every five levels, you’ll be given a point per attribute to use and unlock what are essentially extra elemental attacks and status effects you can activate. 

There’s a decent enough variety of offensive capabilities such as shooting poison for sustained DPS or activating an AoE earth attack around you to stun your enemies. You can also trigger active effects such as getting a little bit of your health back whenever you land a hit or receiving a damage/ defense boost. Each wizardry spell requires a certain amount of spirit to use so spamming all of them won’t be an option. 

However, I did find myself mostly ignoring the wizardry spells around midway through the game. A lot of them aren’t really that particularly great or useful. More of a novelty to have in certain combat scenarios but nothing that says it’s a required part of my arsenal. It’s a shame really given how extensive it all is but this was an area in the game that definitely could’ve used a bit more tuning to be relevant in the meta. 

But on top of all of that, the reinforcement system in Wo Long allows you to have up to two co-op buddies to help you hack and slash through the levels. There’s also PvP for those who fancy it. This is absolutely fantastic and I can see countless hours just messing around with your buddies in the game’s admittedly well-designed levels. They’re not as interconnected as I would’ve liked them to be and are more along the lines of stages that you’ll go and travel through in the mission select screen. 

NPC companions are also available if you prefer to play alone but need a bit of help as well. I remember thinking that the companions felt a little bit too OP during the demo and I’m glad to report that it’s no longer the case here in the full release. They don’t do a lot of damage but they do act as great distractions for the bosses so you can just sneak around and hack away. There is a way to improve their stats and behavior later in the game so they’re not completely useless. 

You don’t always have to have a companion so for those who want a solo run, it is possible but there are particular parts in the story where the game will require someone to accompany you. But like I said, they’re not anything game-breaking in terms of their balancing and at times, they do shout out the occasional cheesy-warrior lines that keep exploration and combat entertaining. 

Final Verdict – 8/10

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is an exhilarating game that rewards you for the investment you put into its numerous gameplay systems. Smooth and fast-paced combat, an interesting setting to explore, and adrenaline-pumping boss fights put this up there as the best Sekiro-inspired titles. Not a lot can do it the way Team Ninja has with their soulslike titles. Much like what happened to both Nioh games, there’s already a fantastic foundation here in Wo Long and should it be lucky enough to get a sequel, I can only see good things happening. 

This review was made via a PS5 game code provided by the publisher.