Team Ninja has breathed new life into the classic Romance of the Three Kingdoms tale with their latest release, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, an action RPG with Souls-like gameplay. Renowned for their work on the Ninja Gaiden franchise and more recently, Nioh 1 and 2, Team Ninja has taken the age-old drama to the next level by infusing it with fast-paced combat and a dark fantasy setting. The game is available for $59.99 on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and on PC via Windows and Steam, as well as on Xbox Game Pass for both console and PC.
Due to the additional co-op features that Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty has, players are encouraged to dive into this title with a squad. However, the first week of the game’s release it was almost unplayable, filled with crashes, graphical errors, and co-op issues. At one point, we even lost an entire level of progress due to crashing. Nevertheless, Team Ninja responded quickly and deployed two updates to bring the game up to version 184.108.40.206 within the first week. Post-update 220.127.116.11, we have not experienced a crash yet (knock on wood). Some issues remained including graphical errors, such as white or black flickering, animation errors, resurrection bugs, menu items not marking read, and getting stuck inside walls. As a port from console to PC, the game could have used a bit more testing time.
Team Ninja has made significant upgrades to the co-op systems for Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, not only compared to Nioh but for any Soulslike game. But before players can access these co-op features, they must defeat the first boss, Zhang Liang, solo. He is much harder than anything players will face in the game for quite a while, and he is not meant to be beaten. Players should expect an even tougher challenge going back to replay the first level in co-op where cinematics can’t save them. Once players defeat Zhang Liang and obtain their first Tiger Seal, they can unlock co-op by touching the flag in the next zone. They will not be required to spend Tiger Seals when setting up an online lobby with their squad.
I understand the level of development required for console to PC cross-platform play is high, but it is disappointing that Xbox Game Pass players on PC cannot co-op with their Steam friends on PC. In this current generation of technology, cross-play should be the standard, as displayed by the Wild Hearts release. Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty has some of the best co-op play for this genre to date. Players can join with up to three friends and play seamlessly through the entire storyline campaign and side quests. However, some limitations include managing their main hub once they unlock it and upgrading their reinforcement system, which they need to do on their own. Co-op in this game is off-the-hook fun.
Team Ninja wants players to understand the spirit deflect system before sending them off into the wild. The first boss’s difficulty ensures that players understand it. Executing deflects creates rewards in the combat system that lead to dope offensive animations and more. Enemies and bosses get staggered or even put into a stunned state, allowing players to put big damage on the target. Dodging or blocking will stop the damage but offer no reward and add meter to the defensive spirit gauge. Players live and die off the spirit gauge. If they go red, then they get stunned and can’t spirit deflect. If they stay nice and blue, they can execute spirit attacks and major martial art moves. However, this is just melee combat.
The Wizardry Spell system is what takes this game to a whole new level. Essentially, there are tech trees for the five different schools of magic, which they call phases. Earning Qi throughout the battlefields allows you to level up this system. If you die, don’t forget to go back and get revenge on the same enemy to get your Qi points back or you will lose it all! In these spell phase tech trees, you have everything from frost bolts to damage power-ups and defensive cooldowns. This system adds some serious MMORPG vibes to the game. You can create or adjust your playstyle for solo or co-op modes. You can even adjust on the fly mid-map if you need something for a certain encounter using the battle set options. It’s a super flexible system that makes combat more dynamic and unique. Finally, you have your divine beast, which is essentially a super move. These are earned as you progress through the story and power up off a separate meter. Each beast has two abilities and can be swapped out as needed. I love all the options here, and nothing but good times come out of this.
Morale is your most important stat or power-up meter. It determines the difference in strength between you and your enemies. If an enemy’s Morale Rank is between 1 to 4 levels higher than your own, it will be yellow. If it is more than 5 levels higher than your own, it will show red. You can cap it out at 25 per battlefield, which is ideal for strong end bosses. You can increase your Morale dramatically by landing Martial Arts moves, Spirit attacks, or Fatal Strikes. However, don’t get it twisted, you can lose it just as fast by getting hit by a spirit attack or dying. You need to mark and cap battle flags to raise your fortitude, which allows your morale to never fall beneath its level. The revenge system also works with Morale. Die, and your Morale will reset down to your Fortitude level. However, go back and kill the enemy that killed you, and you’ll gain it back. No worries on the big boss fights; your morale will reset to normal every time. I like the extra thought process this adds, and it makes clearing the map worthwhile aside from gaining loot.
The gear in this game can be a bit tedious. I don’t like having to fish for loot in this type of genre. This is due to some of the martial art skills and enhancements that are not changeable on an item. However, there is some flexibility with the embedment system that allows you to change some of these enhancements. But I just feel like you’re on a constant mission to find the same weapon with better martial arts skills. Aside from this, it’s a clean system that works well as a whole. Your phase spec is based on your weapon grades and works in unison with that system. You also have some extra slots for ranged weapons and accessories. I do like the system and the flexibility it offers to create your own playstyle.
Is the game hard? I would say yes, but playing alone will make it extremely more difficult. In co-op, you can resurrect your squad members a few times before it gets too fast to reach, which makes it much easier. Personally, I think this game is best played in a squad of three; such good times. But honestly, I don’t think I would have finished it playing alone. When you beat it, there is a plus mode that allows you to get the endgame gear and play through the story again in a harder format. There is also a PVP mode that allows you to crash into other players’ games and kill them. There is some replayability here, but it’s going to be more of the same. The story is very engaging, but I don’t see myself playing through it again. If you are into the Romance of the Three Kingdoms type games, you will love it. It’s full of well-produced cinematics that reintroduce familiar friends and foes. I might dive into some PVP though. Thankfully it’s a day one Xbox Games Pass title so giving this a try is a no brainer.