Soulslikes, a style of punishing motion RPGs popularized by Japanese developer FromSoftware, are all too frequent as of late. Ever since Darkish Souls got here onto the scene in 2011, a bunch of studios have been making an attempt their palms at FromSoft’s iconic method. Some try to combine issues up by introducing new mechanics, like Mortal Shell with its hot-swappable “shell” courses that present participant selection. Others, like Dolmen, misunderstand what makes these video games nice with sluggish fight and linear degree design. After which there’s Wo Lengthy: Fallen Dynasty, the upcoming Workforce Ninja (Nioh, Stranger of Paradise: Closing Fantasy Origin) sport that presents a strong, if acquainted, sampling of assorted Soulslike tropes, providing an accessible entryway to the style.
Wo Lengthy: Fallen Dynasty places you within the footwear of a anonymous customizable militia soldier combating for survival in a fantastical interpretation of China’s Three Kingdoms interval. You’ll combat alongside acquainted historic figures—together with the strategist Cao Cao and the warlord Liu Bei—and slay ferocious beasts, common foot troopers, and demonic monsters whereas roaming historic China. Should you’re pondering Nioh however in historic China, you’re proper on the mark.
And that’s in all probability probably the most apt description of Wo Lengthy: Fallen Dynasty: Nioh meets Sekiro with a touch of Bloodborne, all in an historic Chinese language setting. There’s dodging and parrying, numerous loot to gather (from armor to weapons to firearms), a posture bar to handle, and a plethora of adverse (sometimes macabre) bosses to combat. This assortment of style tropes means any muscle reminiscence from different Soulslikes will switch to a Wo Lengthy: Fallen Dynasty playthrough. Whereas it’d sound reductive to name the sport a compendium of FromSoft mechanics, this simply makes it simple to select up and play. And even should you’re not conversant in Soulslikes, the sport does an honest job of onboarding newbies with copious on-screen tutorials.
Take parrying, for example. A maneuver to deflect incoming strikes and ship deadly counterattacks if an enemy is weakened sufficient, parrying in Wo Lengthy: Fallen Dynasty is quicker than in Nioh and Sekiro. The timing window is brief. Throw a parry out too quickly or too late and also you’ll inevitably take harm and exhaust your self, which means you’re opened up for a devastating loss of life should you spam the transfer too incessantly. However all through the sport, it’ll show useful on-screen guides (that may be additional explored in varied submenus) reminding you the way and when to make use of the parry in order that it’s only. This would possibly sound rudimentary (particularly to FromSoft followers who subscribe to the “get gud” logic), however ongoing tutorializing in a style infamous for beating the shit out of you helps decrease the barrier to entry. Wo Lengthy: Fallen Dynasty needs you to succeed regardless of consistently bodying you, and I can admire that.
Nowhere is this encouragement more apparent than in the morale ranking system. A floating number above the health bar, everyone in Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, including yourself, has a morale rank. The higher the number, the stronger the enemy. Die and your morale decreases. You can raise this number by killing foes, with more challenging enemies rewarding a greater morale boost. But on top of beating creatures and goons to a pulp, exploration becomes a viable method for increasing your morale rank by finding and raising battle flags littered around a location. Flags, this game’s rendition of Dark Souls’ bonfires, are battle rest points that not only let you level up and customize abilities, but raise your fortitude rank, which is a sort of floor for your morale.
If your morale rank is, say, 16 while your fortitude rank is 14, no matter how many times you die, your morale will never drop lower than 14. This makes spelunking an almost leveling strat as the more flags you find (especially the smaller marker flags specifically targeted at your fortitude) the stronger and more capable of fighting tougher enemies you become. No longer are you relegated to grinding the same handful of opponents at a nearby rest point. By exploring ancient China, raising battle and marker flags, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty emboldens you, whether you’re a Soulslike beginner or veteran, to take risks and rewards you for it with either an exotic locale, interesting loot, or an enthralling boss design.
And trust me, you’re going to need those fortitude and morale ranks to be as high as possible. Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, despite being more accessible than other games in the genre, is still hella hard. You’ll die a lot, and the game has no problem pitting you against multiple combatants at once like they’re your private grave escorts. However, this is a compendium of familiar Soulslike mechanics. So, you’ve got Sekiro’s posture bar (called the spirit gauge here), a double-jump a la Elden Ring’s Torrent, a deflect that recalls both Nioh and Sekiro, and some unsettling enemy encounters that remind me of Bloodborne. All this is to say Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is an excellent melting pot of Soulslike ideas that welcomes newcomers to the genre while providing ample challenge to oldheads looking for a bruising. Seriously, it rules.
I only had the opportunity to play a preview build of the game, which lasted approximately five or so hours with a few different locations to explore. But based on what I’m seeing of Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty so far, Team Ninja seems poised to come through with another solid Soulslike. Sure, it’s a lot like Nioh and Sekiro, but there is enough difference here (aside from the oft-ignored Chinese setting) that makes this an intriguing game worth checking out. Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty launches on March 3 for PC, PlayStation consoles, and Xbox systems. I’m stoked about this one, y’all.