Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty Complete Edition Review – PC

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty Complete Edition is my annual reminder that I cannot kick it when it comes to soulslikes. Team Ninja’s latest stab at the genre returns one year later as a full package, featuring the base game and all its DLC. My aforementioned woes aside, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is a fast-paced action RPG that is more forgiving than its genre kin. That’s not to say it won’t run your ass over, but the consequences of failure seem minor in comparison to the likes of Bloodborne or Sekiro. There are still elements that could use some more TLC, like Ninja Theory’s characters and storytelling, and some of the muddy visuals. If you don’t gel with soulslikes, I don’t think Wo Long will change your stance on the genre. The sickos on the other hand, are going to play this thing until their joysticks drift.

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty follows your player created character in late Han Dynasty China. Rebels and demons convene in a plot to overthrow the ruling Han Dynasty, and you along with your many allies must stop them. Throughout the campaign you meet many historical figures from multiple sides of the conflict. I struggled latching onto any of the supporting cast. A high task thanks to characters coming and going at breakneck speeds. My lack of historical context wasn’t doing me any favors in connecting with any of the characters either. It’s a blend of things that end up leaving the story on the backburner.  Really though, all I wanted to do was jump around and hack dudes up with my katana, and there’s plenty of that to be had here.

When it comes to success in Wo Long’s combat, the parry is king. Boss enemies are punishing but easy to read if you have the patience and the speed to maneuver around their attacks. You will find yourself losing these fights again and again. I say that as someone who lost every fight many times. Mostly because I was still learning the enemy’s moves or because I got greedy and took one extra sword swing that I shouldn’t have. Even the opening boss had me on the ropes. From the warlords to the mythical creatures, each boss is just as eye-catching as they are deadly. Aoye, my personal favorite, is a multi-horned cow covered in long strands of hair. He’s a grotesque demon who attacks you with his hair, yet I can’t help but admire him. Even as he kills me for the ninetieth time.

Wo Long changes up some norms in the soulslike genre. The mana bar is gone, in its place is the spirit gauge. Instead of filling or refilling this bar with potions, the spirit gauge is filled by successfully landing close ranged attacks. This gauge can then be used for special spirit attacks or elemental attacks that do additional damage to enemies (even more if they have an elemental weakness). This is a refreshing change that introduces some additional risk-reward into combat situations. Trading blows with enemies becomes a calculated game of cat and mouse as you try to decide the best way to fill the gauge without overextending yourself. Landing multiple blows, while avoiding damage will result in you stunning enemies. This opens them up to a powerful stun attack animation that eats up a chunk of their health bar. If you’re fast, following the animation, you can also get off a few extra spirit attacks, which can really help when dealing with the spongier bosses. Your companions can also come in handy in fights, taking a bunch of aggro while leaving you open to attack freely.

A lot of the exploration in Wo Long is linear, but this doesn’t keep the game’s multiple areas from feeling huge. These areas are at their best when they’re vast and bright, teeming with deadly enemies around every corner, and giving off a sense of dread and hopelessness. Areas like Hidden Village and its mountainous forests or Hanshui River and its ransacked shipway encapsulate the war-torn land and the lost beauty in all of the chaos. Some areas fail to capture that same vibe thanks to a generic feel and muddy visuals. An early village area comes to mind with its cluster of similar looking buildings scattered amongst the mountains. It’s a brown mess that makes you want to rush through to the next area in hopes of greener pastures, literally.

Enemy variety in each area is a mix of human warriors, demons, and beasts. I did find things got more interesting once the demons and beasts became more plentiful. Players have a morale level that rises with each enemy slain. Enemies and bosses also have a number to indicate how much of a challenge they are going to be for you. You lose morale levels upon death, but it just drops back down to whatever you had upon your last save. Battle flags serve as campfires in Wo Long. They seem much more plentiful to campfires by comparison. I never found myself too far from a battle flag after any given combat encounter.

At battle flags you can spend Genuine Qi (the game’s Souls equivalent) on one of the five phase levels. These have elemental ties and each have corresponding Divine Beasts, which grant players favors in the form of passive abilities and stronger attacks. Playing around with the five phases is where a lot of the game’s variety comes in. In one playthrough I hopped around the phases, unlocking abilities sporadically like some weekend warrior ordering a sampler at a brewery. Throw in the wide mix of weapons and equipment you can find and purchase throughout the world and you start to see you have even more options when it comes to combat.

All previous DLC is present in this complete edition of Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty. Weapons, areas, and enemies from DLC 1-3 (great naming convention, guys) can be found throughout the campaign. The crossover DLC also makes the cut, which includes weapons and armor from last year’s Lies of P.

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty Complete Edition is the full package. If you liked the original release and have been looking for an excuse to return or check out the DLC, this may be for you. If you’re looking for a starting point in the genre, you can do much worse than this. The focus on speed, parrying, and combat variety is an enticing entree for those who feel soulslike are just out of their reach. It’s not going to be a walk in the park, but we’ve all gotta start from somewhere, and Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty feels like a good place to start.

 

Author: Nick Coffman
Nick is a Chicago Comedy writer whose first gaming memory is the "drowning imminent" music from Sonic 2. He was able to recover from that traumatic experience and now writes game reviews. He recently built his first PC and now uses it exclusively to play small indie titles.

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