Weve never heard of Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, the next game from Nioh''s designers for that long. It was also revealed at Xbox and Bethesda''s Games Showcase in June, and immediately caught the eye of everyone who has even a passing love for all of hardcore action-RPG.
Team Ninja and Koei Tecmo won Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, but the team had no idea that Rise of the Ronin would last for another decade yet, and in a series of trailers, it demonstrated how it immediately intends to seize from the creators of previous Nioh games.
There is a jump button, but no stances! It''s much quicker! It''s built in China instead of Japan! But it''s difficult to divine any of what this actually means for the game, really, from gameplay, no matter how flashy and well-planned they are. However, in a hands-on with the games first demo, I''ve been able to figure it out for myself and let me tell you, the difference is so vast and significant as FromSoftwares was in the transition from Dark Soul
First of all, Wo Long is significantly faster. Instead of slashing between stances and pacing in circles with your sword levied on your enemy is a thing of the past here, and you are encouraged to crash like waves against the enemies, giving them little room to stand up. Chinese Martial Arts, after all, embrace the back-and-forth nature between aggression and self-preservation; Wo Long understands and embraces this natural flow.
The core of this game is countering and parrying. Here, a good defense is based on an incredibly violent and unassailable offense. Standard attacks can be parried (with fairly generous timing) and give you the advantage, which can off enemies in one fell swoop. But more powerful enemies those who have been corrupted with the power of demons, or demons themselves, even wont fall so easily.
These more powerful foes are armed with devastating attacks, enhanced by an angry red aura and a long wind-up time. They are primed for more devastating parries: time it right and knock them off their feet during these moves, and youll deal massive amounts of damage (as well as severe body parts, making the rest of the battle much easier).
You feel like a bonafide martial arts action movie star: the camera yanks back, you punch a tiger (or something) to the floor, then you dive in and plunge your sword into its chest, obliterating two of its nasty-ass claws.
While you have a stamina bar, you have your Fortitude which is similar to that of wizardry, who dodge, dodge, and then blast an expensive spell. Depending on how you differentiate your level from your enemies, you must constantly look up whether you want to finish a fight with spells and guarantee victory, or reserve your Fortitude for the next battles.
With every death, you lose your souls (here, its qi) and fortitude, but surprise, surprise! you can reclaim anything lost by killing the enemy that killed you in the next run. Otherwise, youre making a lot of things much harder for you.
You may have a rank 20 miniboss halfway through the level, for example, when youre level ten. To ensure you can confront this bastard again and again (and with a fighting chance), you may explore and plant flags; minor and major standards will demoralize enemies and empower you.
Jumping is a key part of battle and exploration in Wo Long, where you can use it to get above and fall upon your adversaries, but it comes with a risk/reward dynamium. Jump into an attack and you will get swatted out of the air like a feckless insect, or you can break your limbs or interrupt attacks.
The jumps main objective, though, is to allow you to get your proverbial teeth into these stunning Chinese levels. While your jump is more like a small, agile hop, there is also a lot more verticality and exploration in general, than you would ever find in Nioh. And thats for the best, because Wo Long is a linear structured game, similar to Nioh and Ninja Gaiden before.
With Soulslike games becoming increasingly more focused on open worlds, I like that: it strengthens Team Ninja''s position in the game, allowing it to really encapsulate tight level design, and show off what you can achieve by collecting enemies, bosses, and certain aspects of level design into one place before hitting you with something completely different in the future.
It''s no surprise, however, but Wo Long: Fallen Kingdom is shaping up to be something special. Team Ninja has taken everything it learned from Nioh, studied the genre extensively, and rejected the path most taken. Instead, it is forging ahead, keeping its guns on track, and merely taking samples of the formula that made Elden Ring the world''s largest game without copying it rightfully.
The result is something unique, unremittingly brutal, and absolutely stunning. Wo Long: Fallen Kingdom may not be the King of the Soulslikes anytime soon, but it does not care that it will instead be the King of the Team Ninja-likes.
Fallen Dynasty will be available on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S in early 2023. It''s a day one Game Pass feature, too.
A demo for the game is now available on PS5 and Xbox Series X/S.