“Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty” is a video game developed by Beijing-based studio Softstar Entertainment. It was released in 2004 for the PC in China and later in other parts of Asia. The game is an action role-playing game set in ancient China, featuring a story that follows the main character, Xin, on his journey to seek revenge for his family's murder. The game boasts customizable player avatars, five different phases to choose from, and two options for closed-range attacks. Players must deflect attacks using their melee weapons to counter their opponent's attacks and take advantage of the enemy's morale rank, which determines the difficulty of the encounter and the loot they drop. With five divine beasts to choose from, players can unleash spirit attacks, perform special combat moves, or cast elemental spells.
Combat: A Thrilling Experience
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty's core combat system is heavily influenced by Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Players must parry attacks to break their foe's poise and land a Fatal Strike. The game's combat system is thoroughly rewarding, and everything can be parried, including sword swings, swipes from hulking monsters, and lightning bolts. Deflecting blows lets players build up Spirit, which can be used to perform powerful moves, cast spells, or shore up their defenses. The exchanges can be deliberate as players probe for weaknesses and tactically use their Spirit, or over in the blink of an eye as they parry an unblockable Critical Blow and demolish their enemy in a single exhilarating instant.
Story and Writing: An Underwhelming Narrative
Set in a version of 2nd-century China inspired by the classic novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty follows an unnamed militia soldier as they're drawn into a war over an immortality-granting elixir. The narrative does little to communicate the nuances or depth of the characters and serves as little more than set dressing. While the writing is unremarkable, the battles are entrancing.
Drawbacks: A Few Noticeable Flaws
While the combat system is the game's strongest aspect, there are some drawbacks. The game's second half fails to match the quality of the first, resulting in tedium and stretches that aren't challenging enough. There are too few unique enemies for an experience based on memorizing patterns, making it feel repetitive at times. Other annoyances include a distracting loot system and noticeable technical issues like pop-ins and framerate drops in larger areas.
A Rare Title that Induces Trance-like Focus
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is a finely honed delight, with precise and responsive combat, deviously designed levels, and imposing boss fights. Its second half may not match the quality of the first, but it's a rare title that induces trance-like focus and euphoric moments of victory. While it may not quite reach the heights of the works that inspired it, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is a deeply satisfying showcase of freneticism that lives up to Team Ninja's lineage.