Eventually, there will be no Eastern mythology left to put into a video game. Still, that doesn’t there cann’t be multiple games based on the same stories. Koei Tecmo is tackling another one with Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty. This is another example of what I’m trying to coin as a “souls-lite” kind of game. You play as a nobody who gets roped into a huge conflict spanning the geopolitical and spiritual world. With a combination of various weapons, martial arts, and wizardry, you’re a pretty versatile hero. However, it’s all dependent on how skilled you are and how the game decides to help you out.
What’s Going On In Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty?
Chinese folklore is rich in stories and narrative which makes it ripe as a basis for a video game. In Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, the plot tries to insert you into a plot that is both historical and mythological. So, the deal is that there’s a life-changing substance called Elixir that a trio of generals is leading an army across the land to obtain and control everything. In one village, the hero appears as a militia soldier and saves a blind young man before being fatally stabbed. They make a full recovery however and after describing to the man what they look like, they try to escape. Unfortunately, the villains show up, steal the secret power, and leave you for dead. Now, it’s your job to make them dead… and maybe save China too.
The Glory of the Fallen
It’s not easy to make a game with soulslike elements that are also enjoyable to play — and that’s where souls-lite comes in. Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty has managed to pull this off pretty effectively. The first way it does so is through the use of color and flair. Chinese mythology is frequently depicted through vibrant painting, and the game captures some of this. Whether it’s in the huge variety of armor and weapons you gather, the magic spells you use, the characters you meet, and even the enemies you fight, it has the appearance of a spectacle. Even when you’re getting swept, you’re ready to jump back in at a moment’s notice.
This leads to the next point about the sheer amount of variety. Now, while soulslike games definitely offer a wide arsenal of things to use, these are highly dependent on exploration and RNG. With this affair, you can pick up several different weapons and pieces of armor within the same small area. It may feel overwhelming at first, but it opens up a lot of experimentation. This is amplified once you start to learn wizardry based on Fire, Water, Air, Earth, and Metal giving access to a large spell tree. If that’s not enough, each weapon also comes with its own special martial arts attack, and you also get to summon giant sparkly divine beasts to attack or boost you!
A Friend In Need
That’s still not the end of it with one particular mechanic leading into how you experience the game: Companions. The hero has an almost unbelievable case of “trust face” because almost every non-evil person you meet trusts you on sight. After that, they’ll usually offer to help you out while following your orders. The presence of allies definitely makes the challenge a much lighter experience since many of them are quite likable. In combat, they definitely help take the burden off so you can ease into new areas and challenges. As icing on the cake, they’re quite handy in combat as they can alternate between aggressive attacking and acting as distractions.
Lastly, the gameplay and controls deserve a mention. Soulslike games can be kind of cryptic with how they teach and how actions play out, but this one makes things clear. After spending some time with the controls and practicing a surprisingly challenging first boss, you start to feel like a skilled warrior. Movements are sharp and precise with enough balancing to make you want to engage enemies and bosses in close combat. The Spirit system both rewards and punishes you for good timing and careless spamming respectively. Once you get into the swing of things, combat becomes enjoyable and more satisfying.
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty Falls… Again
More and more games try to include as much as they can to appeal to wider audiences, but this means issues can slip through the many crack. With Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, some of the problems are definitely noticeable. Going back to the companions, they also invite some negatives. First off, you don’t have much control over their behavior. They’ll do whatever they want whenever they feel like it, including running into bosses when they barely have any health left. On the other, they can be so good at their jobs that it makes you feel like a third wheel. Are you the hero or not, it looks like your allies can do a lot without you.
Then there’s the restrictive nature of the world. Again, many soulslike have open worlds that you’re supposed to curiously find your way through. This is one more or less uses a level-based structure. You go from one point on a map to another and then just follow the path. There are some winding trails and hidden spots, but most of the time you can see where you need to go and extra rewards at the same time. Robs the game of the mystique it could have had.
Witnessing the Fallen
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is a 3D action-RPG souls-lite based on Chinese mythology and history. It’s a lighter but still challenging affair that provides so much variety and presentation that makes you want to keep going through it all. Though with so much pressing on it, your allies are able to steal the spotlight from you no matter how much you yell at them and exploration feels limited in a game so large. Still, it can be fun and interesting to learn about the Wo Long Dynasty… that has fallen.
Will Quick is a freelance media wizard living in Spain. When he's not gaming or writing, he's doodling comics or whatever else pops in his head.