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    Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty review

    Need to Know

    What is it? A Souls-adjacent action RPG.
    Release date March 3, 2023
    Expect to pay $60/£50
    Developer Team Ninja
    Publisher KOEI Tecmo
    Reviewed on GeForce GTX 970, Intel i7-4790K, 16GB RAM
    Steam Deck TBA
    Link Official site (opens in new tab)

    $59.99 (opens in new tab)View at Amazon (opens in new tab)

    Wo Long, meaning “Hidden Dragon”, is an appropriate name for a game that feels like it’s basically come from nowhere to tear up the action RPG landscape. Which isn’t to say it doesn’t adhere to some of that framework—the legacy of Nioh and Dark Souls is still present—but by removing the traditional constraints of the subgenre, Wo Long takes soaring flight.  

    It’s a project born from Team Ninja’s partnership with KOEI, a publisher which is well known for its games based around the Three Kingdoms era of Chinese history—most notably Dynasty Warriors. Wo Long is set in that same era, blending historical fiction with the finely honed combat Team Ninja is known for, along with a dash of the fantastical and demonic. You are an unnamed warrior; a nobody who gets tangled up in monumental events. As if to drive home your nobody status, the very first boss might be the toughest in the entire game. You encounter this giant of a man before you have any major skills, spells or special weapons to call upon. He’s only the first boss but still he has two tough-as-nails phases. Beating him is the price of admission, a test to prove that you’re ready to stand beside the heroes of Chinese legend. “You must be this good to enter,” Wo Long seems to say.

    Die nasty warriors

    (Image credit: KOEI Tecmo)

    Despite the nods to history, Wo Long goes hard with the dark fantasy, shaking things up with demons diverting the natural course of history. Its monsters are closer to body horror abominations than they are creatures of myth (fitting given the game’s producer, Masaaki Yamagiwa, worked on Bloodborne) and the sound of buzzing locusts feeding on the corpses of a battlefield genuinely disturbs. Wo Long sometimes feels like a mash-up of genres, with romantic heroes caught up in a horror story. Both sides are balanced well, though, and while Wo Long never manages to conjure up a mythology or world as captivating as FromSoft’s finest, its mix of history, horror and fantasy is compelling. 

    A shame then that Wo Long is undermined by some technical issues on PC. Frame rates generally held at 60 fps—there’s no unlocked fps option—but in spots there were some dire dips that risked bringing the game to a halt. In addition, there were a few visual bugs like a strange glow that would take over the screen until I reloaded. I also encountered a couple of crashes—not something you really want where every inch of progress is hard won. Tinkering with the settings can boost performance, but there’s not much that can be done about the glitches without a patch.

    Apart from these technical blemishes, Wo Long is an exceptionally accomplished evolution. It doesn’t have the same variety as something like Elden Ring, but its focus on Wuxia-style martial arts puts it a cut above its peers. It’s a game where challenges feel exciting rather than punishing because the learning curve is so exquisite and mastery feels sublime. Team Ninja has really managed to push the envelope, and lovers of Wuxia cinema and action RPGs had best not miss this one. 

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