To this day, no one is unaware of the great influence that From Software’s work has had on the industry. However, I do find it particularly interesting how it has impacted the evolution of certain long-standing studios, such as Team Ninja. The ultra-demanding vision of hack and slash that they cultivated with the resurrection of the Ninja Gaiden series (and that ended with the ill-fated Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z), completely changed with the rise of souls-like as a new successful vehicle for proposals. of action with touches of role.
The Nioh saga was the result of uniting their vision of difficulty with a gameplay derived from that seen in games like Dark Souls, which allowed them to have a tremendous self-identity: the enormous importance of loot, faster combat, a setting centered on the always fascinating folklore of feudal Japan and the posture system, as well as the different onmyo and ninja skills, gave its combat an unprecedented depth in this type of proposals .
This retrospective work is important when facing Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty. If Team Ninja has fleshed out their take on the Souls series through Nioh, it’s impossible not to see Wo-Long: Fallen Dynasty as his approach to Sekiro, one of Hidetaka Miyazaki’s most loved and special games. After trying a new demo, I am very hopeful that, just as Nioh made valuable contributions to the Souls formula, this title is going to be a new step forward in the genre.
An environment with many possibilities
The demo we tested is intended to be played at the upcoming Paris Game Week, although fortunately we were able to try it without a time limit to experiment with the mechanics within that small phase we had. The nature of the demo that we played, designed to be tested in a short space of time, means that it cannot properly assess parameters such as difficulty or level progression, which certainly seemed much more forgiving than in the first beta of the game. However, it has provided a great testing ground for many of the new mechanics in the game.
By way of brief introduction, we will say that Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty es un souls-like (as defined by its own creators) set in a fantastic version of the ancient Chinese Han dynasty, before the establishment of the three Kingdoms, which is usually the best known setting of this period of its history thanks to sagas such as Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
The change of setting from feudal Japan to the Han dynasty goes beyond aesthetic reasons. In Nioh, for example, we had concepts like weapons like the soul of the samurai that were introduced directly into the gameplay, increasing our level of familiarity with them. In Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty the concept of the conquest of territories as a reflection of the turbulent years of war that occurred during the era of the Three Kingdoms; While we go through its scenarios, we will have to place flags that increase our morale level. This level of morale will determine our strength and that of our abilities, as well as that of our rivals will do the same. In this way, we will not have chances of winning if we fight against opponents much more powerful than us: we will have to defeat enemies to raise our morale level and thus be able to face the strongest on the level. In this way, it is possible to favor the exploration of the scenarios, looking for those flags that will raise our base moral level (as well as others that will act as a respawn point and experience manager), and also make us always have to face certain fights to have enough power to facing the biggest challenges of the phase.
“It’s impossible not to see Wo-Long: Fallen Dynasty as Team Ninja’s particular approach to Sekiro”
This conquest mechanic finishes rounding off with a detail that I loved: in Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty there is a transcript of the sadly missing Nemesis System that we saw in the Shadow of Mordor saga. If we lose against an enemy, our morale will drop to the minimum that we had conquered, but that of the one who has defeated us will increase. In this way, we will have to be stronger in our next encounter if we want to rise above who has been skilled enough to defeat us. All these characteristics will make going through the scenarios of this game more complex than usual in the genre, something that is intensified thanks to the verticality that has been introduced in its enormous phases thanks to our protagonist’s ability to jump; This ability will be very useful in combat and makes a huge difference in terms of sensations compared to Nioh.
The end of the Han dynasty, on a literary level, meant an era of folklore, legendary heroes and great deeds. For this reason, we will have the opportunity to meet different historical figures and ally ourselves with them to obtain their help in combat; We have not been able to experience this feature in the demo, but in some videos that have been released of the game, mythical figures have already appeared, such as that of General Lû Bú, who promises to be a fearsome rival on the back of his inseparable horse Red Hare. At first glance, the game’s plot seems to be more ambitious than previous Team Ninja titles.
The beauty of Wuxia cinema moves to the controls
Regarding the combat system, we find agile, fast and full of possibilities confrontations. We were able to deal with typical soldiers who were reluctant to attack, but also with more motivated and large ones, as well as hedgehogs and other animals whose appearance could change during battle. However before embarking on our journey, there was important choices to make. To begin with, when at the beginning of the game we edit our character, we will have to choose a type of nature that matches our style of play. Linked to the five elements, we can choose between fire, metal, wood, water or earth, each of them corresponding to different passive characteristics for our protagonist (for example, more focused on attack, defense, stealth…), but also to a divine beast that determines our summoning powers and the magic at our disposal. This is where things start to get interesting, as there are a huge difference between the different typesand it becomes so much fun to experience the same phase from different styles.
For example, I like direct combat, so in my first review of the demo I chose Fire nature, very oriented to an offensive approach and with magic based on curtains of flame and derivatives. However, when I tried the Metal type, more focused on causing status effects on enemies, the approach changed completely. Although our combos and movements are similar, our characteristics make us depend more on specific weapons and equipment, in addition to the correct use of magic, with which we can invoke a kind of swamp to slow down our enemies, for example. I tried other types, which gave access to magic focused on the use of poison, invoking earth elements or increasing the abilities of our allies (with multiplayer perspectives). I don’t know if this magic-focused differentiation of types will allow the creation of hybrid characters, but at first it’s surprising how well integrated they are in classic souls-like gameplay and how much the combat changes between the different styles.
In addition to magic and invocations, we can use a wide variety of weaponseach with their own characteristics, special attacks, and moves (and with loot that seems much more measured and consistent than what we experienced in Nioh), but we can also make counterattacks and deflections with a colorful and exciting system through which we will deflect the enemy’s attacks to one side; the introduction of counterattacks is of paramount importance, as was the case in Sekiro, especially in confrontations with bosses. There will be enemies that will be almost impossible to overcome unless we master this mechanic. Without going any further, the final boss of the demo was a gigantic boar with flaming fangs whose charges could not be avoided unless we deflected them precisely, resulting in a visually impressive combat and very exciting at the controls. I may be overdoing the parallels, but it reminded me a lot of another title match featuring the One Armed Wolf.
However, do not think that we will be able to use all these resources with total freedom. In substitution of a bar of stamina, posture or magic, under our life and that of our enemies there will be a bar of momentum, divided into boxes. Using magic and special attacks very often and taking damage will take the bar to the left, turning it red and leaving us more vulnerable to being stunned; using special abilities sparingly, deflecting attacks, and taking no damage will shift it to the right with a green color. If we take the opportunity to make a strong attack when our momentum bar is green, we will color our enemy’s red, giving us a window to make a spectacular final execution attack. It is a system that is very fun, that goes beyond the simple skill at the controls to add another element of management in combat. Combined with the agility of our character, the rest of the attack-defense resources and the spectacular representation of the grace and beauty of chinese martial arts (very reminiscent of the Wuxia cinema), we have a combat system that feels fresh and familiar.
Graphically, the demo worked at about Stable 60 FPS on a PS5. There also seemed to be more texture definition and more detail than seen in the first public beta. It is true that at the moment there does not seem to be a huge evolution since Nioh 2, but it is something that his artistic section more than compensates for and he continues to look really spectacular in his action.
In summary, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty not only aims to evolve (a lot) the Nioh formulabut it is presented as a stimulating and promising revulsive for the genre, as well as for the trajectory of the study. It remains to be seen how all these changes and dynamics will affect the experience over the hours, especially everything related to the morale system, as well as the narrative performance of the game, without a doubt one of the weak points of his previous works. . But for the moment I couldn’t be more excited for Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty.
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty will be released on March 3, 2023 on PS4/5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.