Analysis of "Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty": you can live from a great fight

Promotional image of the video game "Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty".  Image of Koei Tecmo

( Spanish) — The Japanese video game developer studio Team Ninja is a benchmark in action titles thanks to works like “Nioh” or “Ninja Gaiden”. Now, their most recent release, “Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty”, confirms that they are still among the elite in the creation of combat systems.

As a challenging action RPG set in Chinese folklore and mythology, “Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty” shines only thanks to its excellent dynamic combat in which parrying is the main mechanic, especially in the fights against his opponents. big bosses However, the title is overshadowed by various elements such as a story with little emotion, a poorly balanced difficulty and a confusing progression system, among others.

plot with clichés

The play is set in China’s late Han dynasty, which is already an interesting starting point. video games more mainstream in the western market they have abused being set in Japan and the proposal for “Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty” starts with something little explored. The possibilities of Chinese folklore and its mythology are vast, but the title fails to exploit them satisfactorily.

The story of the title places us in the middle of the Rebellion of the Yellow Turbans but revamped with magic, demons and fantasy, and an old man known as the Taoist in Black who emerges as the stereotype of an evil villain who wants to corrupt everything. There appears the figure of the protagonist, who must stop it by allying himself with historical figures of Chinese folklore. A pretext that serves to justify the action and the journey through the game’s settings. And little else, because everything seems cliché and the characters are quite flat, with loose cinematic sequences between combats in which it is difficult to connect with them and their motives. There is a directory of characters that contains infinities of text for each individual, but it seems not very organic and excessively expository.

 "Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty" It has appendices that describe its characters.  koei tecmo

“Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty” has appendices describing its characters. koei tecmo

Polished and satisfying combat

In the video game industry it is no longer a novelty to find games that are inspired by “Dark Souls”/”Sekiro”/”Elden Ring”, works developed by the Japanese studio From Software that have achieved great success in the last 15 years and have They have become a benchmark in the medium. Challenging titles in difficulty, demanding combat and brilliantly designed fantasy settings. “Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty”, as far as the combat system is concerned, continues what Team Ninja worked on in “Nioh” and “Nioh 2”, but it is also clearly influenced by “Sekiro” and the prominence given to it. Grants the “parry” mechanic.

This idea of ​​diverting or parrying the attacks of the enemies is the axis on which the combat of “Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty” moves and the one that elevates it above other titles. It is the best of this work and manages to create that feeling of satisfaction when it is mastered. The mechanism is simple: any attack from the enemy can be deflected, but it is especially important to do it with critical hits (marked with a red aura) to avoid being hit hard and counterattack.

And this is combined with the spirit, the other main mechanic of the title. On this occasion, the character does not have energy, but instead has a spirit bar that will go up if we hit enemies and if we deflect their attacks, and will go down if we do the opposite. If we execute a spirit attack with our bar charged, it will especially affect enemies (they also have this spirit meter).

 "Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty" It has varied scenarios well set in which its story unfolds

“Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty” has varied well-set scenes in which its story unfolds

In this way, the work of Team Ninja invites the player to be patient to know when to execute the right spirit blow as well as invites him to take risks, to be offensive and to create a frenetic dance with greater reward. Divine beasts can also be summoned, a resource that can affect the course of the battle by bringing a mythological being to the scene that will help us. They are not as common or varied as the yokai of “Nioh 2” but they are a key element for the most challenging moments.

There are two more mechanics that play in favor of the title. A morale system in each mission that rewards the exploration of the scenarios to facilitate their completion. Morale affects player and enemy stats and is reset on each mission. By defeating enemies and placing flags/banners on the stage, we will be able to raise it, which will help in the confrontation against the final boss of each mission. The other interesting mechanic is stealth, which helps to advance in the scenarios by performing executions without being discovered and saving efforts in combat.

Precisely the scenarios are one of the strong points of the title, thanks to the good artistic design and the setting that each of them offers. Aesthetically they are pleasing and we find from burned and abandoned villages to snowy mountains or cities devastated by demons. They are varied, they help to situate the action and stimulate its exploration despite the little variety of enemies and the little interaction that there is with it.

Arbitrary difficulty and mechanical issues

One of the main problems with the game is the design of its difficulty curve. And it is that in a couple of moments it confronts the players with certain bosses that force them to understand and master the combat mechanics. Bosses that can be truly frustrating. One of them is the first boss that players will face right out of the gate. The other, and the main exponent of this difficulty curve, is a rider that more than one will know how to recognize. To overcome the latter it is strictly necessary to master the parry system. Pulling it off is satisfying, but seems overly challenging and arbitrary for where you are in the adventure. And once overcome, everything that comes after will seem very simple compared to this challenge.

Despite this, the final bosses are the best thing the game has. They offer a certain variety that is missing during the exploration of the scenarios. Throughout the 30-40 hours that the game can last, we will constantly face the same type of enemies. And we will see some final bosses recycled as normal enemies or in the secondary missions that the title offers. In this respect, it does feel that Team Ninja has taken a step back from “Nioh 2”, where a slightly more variety could be found.

The other big problems with the game are elements that feel unpolished or practical that blur the final result.

First is the spell system. “Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty” features spells of five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. On paper they sound good because they can be combined to damage enemies. The problem is that using spells isn’t any more practical than hitting and ‘deflecting’. In fact, it also consumes spirit, so the practical use of them is questionable.

screenshot of "Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty"

Screenshot from “Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty.”

On the other hand, there is the progression system, as well as the equipment and loot (or loot) system. In “Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty” our character will obtain Qi with which to level up, with which he will be able to divide his attributes into the five aforementioned elements: wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Each one grants some statistics as well as the different weapons and armor that we can give to our avatar. The problem is that there are too many numbers on the screen. They are confusing and little illuminating in how they affect the performance of the protagonist.

It is possible to obtain hundreds of pieces of equipment through loot, but it is difficult to find stimulation or satisfaction in the constant notifications or in determining which piece has the highest number. Beyond the aesthetics, they only change some statistics, it is difficult to know if they are better or worse than what you already have and in a few minutes it is possible to obtain a new piece that surpasses the current one. Also, the menu for navigating through the device is cumbersome and detracts rather than adds to the experience.

Enjoyable, but lackluster

“Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty” is an enjoyable video game and another demonstration of Team Ninja’s mastery of combat systems. It is a relatively contained work and less ambitious than other games of the genre. Those looking for a challenging experience with dynamic confrontations and rhythm will find this a good title, especially if they enjoyed the “Nioh” saga. However, it is far from the refinement, and ambition, of works like “Sekiro” and it is hard not to think about the ballasts that prevent it from shining. A series of design decisions that do not help or add depth: a poorly measured difficulty in the beginning and in the middle of the game, a confusing and archaic progression and loot system and a forgettable plot and characters. Chinese folklore could offer much more.

“Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty” is available on PC, Xbox Series X and S PS4 and PS5.

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Written by Editor TLN

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