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Review: Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty shakes up the genre

A unique identity and surprising accessibility make for a solid and satisfying action RPG.

Derek Swinhart

Mar 8, 2023

Team Ninja has a long history of creating challenging action games, and while Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is no different, it makes strides in terms of accessibility when compared to its peers. Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is challenging but fair and always gives players ways to help overcome it and thrive. Combine this with unique gameplay mechanics, a striking Three Kingdoms-inspired aesthetic, and frenetic, stylish combat and Wo Long is a treat for action RPG fans.

The Good

Wo Long feels excellent to play, and executing parries is satisfying and easy. The timing window is surprisingly large, and it is incredibly forgiving compared to something like Sekiro. Nailing parries and owning bosses is common in Wo Long, and you will find yourself on a mean streak of pulling off amazing moves and bloody slashes with only a few button presses. The Three Kingdoms-inspired environments and enemies are a highlight, and battling alongside Guan Yu and Xiahou Dun is a delight, especially for fans of the source material or the Dynasty Warriors series.

The Bad

Wo Long makes a terrible first impression. While the first boss took little for me to tackle as a longtime Souls fan and Sekiro devotee, the impression I have seen elsewhere differs. The first boss has been an insurmountable challenge for most, making it seem like the rest of the game will be equally unfair when it is much more accessible. The first boss is easily the hardest encounter, and it wasn’t until much later that I faced anything remotely similar in challenge, and by then, I had a firm grasp on the mechanics.

What Surprised Me

Wo Long is frenetic, fast, and intense, but it makes it easy to execute all of its moves. Playing it makes you feel empowered instead of weak, and you will be tackling mythical monsters like it’s nothing within the first few hours. AI allies are constant companions, and they help alleviate much of the difficulty while adding some fun wrinkles to gameplay. The unique moral and fortitude mechanics make grinding within a level easy and becoming powerful enough to tackle that stage’s boss is a fluid and satisfying experience. If anything, the game can feel a little too easy sometimes, with bosses barely putting up a fight before you and your mob take it down within a minute.

What Was Predictable

The formula of dying and finding checkpoints that reset enemies is becoming incredibly tiring. At this point, especially with a game like Wo Long, these trappings feel more like a cage than a real benefit. It seems like Soul-inspired action RPGs are floundering in terms of ways to shake up the formula, and many times the strict adherence to the series’ staples makes for tedium as opposed to tension.

Bottom Line

Wo Long is fun, fast, and fluid, with satisfying combat that empowers and challenges you equally. There is style in spades, and while the story is nothing to write home about, you’ll remember the flashy moves and monstrous bosses long after the credits roll. This is a great starting point for many looking to get into the impenetrable genre that is souls-likes, and if the pitch-perfect timing of Sekiro turned you off, Wo Long is here to offer something more approachable.


Visuals: B

Wo Long delivers in style but is technically unambitious. Levels are linear and small overall, with only a few offering winding paths. The PC version is marred by technical issues and is borderline unplayable, something unforgivable today. The console versions are a different story, but there are some framerate drops here and there. Sound: B+The English dub is terrible but Japanese and Chinese far much better. The sound of pulling off techniques and breaking enemies is so satisfying, and enemies are distinct and memorable. The music is also a highlight, mainly when it leans into its aesthetic.

Playability: A-

Wo Long is a joy to play. Combat is stylish and frenetic, and learning the parrying mechanics is satisfying and simple. The gear system is a sore spot, with randomized loot making rewards feel downright useless, and the entire package feels propped by its pitch-perfect combat. Luckily that combat easily sustains Wo Long for the 15-20 hours it lasts.

Story: D+

Wo Long’s story is a tired one. An ancient evil corrupts the world in a dark fantasy version of the Three Kingdoms period. It is visually inspired, but we have seen these characters a thousand times before. The writing is confusing and nonsensical much of the time, particularly when new companions are introduced.

Replay Value: B

Wo Long is a dense game with many weapons, spells, and mechanics to explore. Mastering its combat will offer many hours to those Sekiro fans starving for more parrying goodness, and its accessibility will keep the new folks around as well.

Overall Grade: B+

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is available for PS5|PS4, XBox Series One and X|S and PC.

Reviewer played the game on PC.

Derek Swinhart

Derek has worked in games journalism and PC gaming hardware and has a depth and breadth of experience across many genres. He plays almost everything but has a particular fondness for challenging games like the -Souls series and real-time strategy titles.

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