Fallen Dynasty’ Knows You Can Reach Perfection


It took me slightly below three hours to defeat Zhang Liang, the primary boss in Staff Ninja’s latest Soulslike, Wo Lengthy: Fallen Dynasty. This statistic shouldn’t be notably surprising — Staff Ninja has at all times been upfront with their admiration for FromSoftware’s extremely profitable and punishing sport design philosophies. Their earlier makes an attempt — Ni-Oh and Ni-Oh 2 — are loving tributes to the Darkish Souls collection, albeit ones that by no means reached the identical acclaim as their inspirations attributable to their (rightfully) perceived brutal unfairness. Nonetheless, spending even a couple of moments with Wo Lengthy makes it clear that Staff Ninja aimed to ape a unique sport from FromSoft’s secure this time round: 2019’s Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Let’s get the comparisons out of the way in which shortly. Each video games: happen throughout a time of political upheaval for his or her respective nations (the autumn of the Later Han Dynasty in China and the top of the Sengoku interval in Japan); combine historic figures and settings with fantastical beasts and demons; are designed with semi-open linear ranges with a give attention to verticality; and depend on exact and completely timed parries to grasp their fight. Their core ideas, nonetheless, couldn’t be extra straight opposed, as Sekiro rewards stealth, endurance, and deliberate offense, whereas Wo Lengthy prompts gamers into full-frontal aggression whereas improvising a reactionary protection.

Influenced by Chinese language martial arts, the varied methods inside Wo Lengthy’s fight work collectively to make each encounter immensely satisfying. Primary assaults can mow down normal enemies, however heavy assaults (referred to as Spirit Assaults) and weapon-specific martial arts assaults inflict spirit harm, which may break an enemy’s guard and help you carry out a Deadly Strike, which causes large harm. These heavier assaults, together with a sophisticated elemental-based magic system, deplete your Spirit Gauge, which is actually a stamina bar with some further bells and whistles. Shedding an excessive amount of spirit causes exhaustion, and you may solely regain it both by way of normal assaults, ready out the timer, or deflecting (learn: parrying) an assault.

Screenshot by way of Koei Tecmo

I’ve barely scratched the floor of the numerous, many methods working synergistically throughout the sport: you may as well carry out ranged assaults — like capturing a bow — with L2, get assist from historically-relevant AI companions, combat with varied weapon sorts that each one really feel wildly completely different, forged the aforementioned magic for each offense and protection, plant flags to boost your morale rank to deal extra harm whereas taking much less, and use summon a massively useful Divine Beast for useful buffs or to take a bit of an enemy’s well being. 

None of this mattered for Zhang Liang, although, as a result of gamers won’t know any of it. Of the bosses I confronted racing by way of Wo Lengthy for this evaluate, he stays essentially the most tough not due to a sporadic nature, unfairly damaging assaults, or sheer deviousness: it’s as a result of he teaches you tips on how to play the sport. Spiritually, the expertise was akin to Einstein’s definition of insanity or the movie Groundhog’s Day: doing the identical factor again and again and anticipating completely different outcomes. Zhang Liang runs at you with ferocity, his huge assaults making mincemeat of your well being bar. Speeding headfirst with out a deal with on the mechanics, surviving for quite a lot of minutes felt like a Sisyphean process.

Throughout my preliminary makes an attempt, I felt fortunate to get one or two deflections, as a substitute specializing in taking as a lot of his well being as shortly as doable. However after a dozen or so tries, I began touchdown increasingly more deflections; the timing began to make sense internally and I get additional into the combat. I started to strategy every try as an excuse to review his strikes and study his patterns, rising extra conscious of our spirit gauges over time and experimenting to search out essentially the most impactful strikes (deflecting and spirit assaults/martial arts) to carry out deadly blow after deadly blow on him. Defeating him the primary time felt simple — too simple — so naturally, he had a second type that fully upended the combat and compelled a completely completely different strategy. However I persevered, struggling towards the second stage and forcing myself to enact the identical methodical strategy to fight that bought me that far within the first place.

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty - 02
Screenshot by way of Koei Tecmo

My revelations might sound fundamental, banal even, for these conversant in Soulslike video games. However my earlier makes an attempt at breaking into the style — rolling credit on Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, spending a dozen hours inside Wo Lengthy’s inspiration Sekiro — by no means resulted on this a-ha second. The minute all of the methods subconsciously coalesced felt magical, a flipped swap bringing not simply this boss combat however all the sport into the realm of the doable. I relaxed my gamer stance, turned on Taylor Swift — who, sidenote, shockingly turned out to be an unimaginable choose as a result of I someway play higher listening to her music and have three victories to show it — and started to benefit from the grind. Every dying supplied one more likelihood to proceed to “get good,” and I truly felt like I was getting higher. 

After I lastly beat Zhang Liang, it didn’t really feel like a sudden victory, one which was handed to me by sheer likelihood as among the different boss fights throughout the sport did. It didn’t really feel simple or notably inconceivable or anticipated or surprising: it merely felt earned. There was a reduction too, naturally; I fearful about writing a evaluate primarily based solely on the primary boss that I couldn’t conquer. However, evidently ended up taking place anyway as a result of nothing else mattered as a lot as this boss combat. Not the graphics, which seemed nice on my PlayStation 5, the place I averted the numerous bugs and hiccups PC gamers are reporting. Not the deliciously campy English voice performing, the tantalizingly foolish but self-serious story primarily based on a transparent reverence for Chinese language historical past and fantasy, or the sheer satisfaction of the sound design when breaking an enemy’s guard.

As a Soulslike beginner, beating Zhang Liang lastly made the style click on inside my mind and get its grubby, clingy, intoxicatingly tough hooks into me. For anybody like myself who has both been scared to enterprise into the Soulslike style or tried to attach with different video games and solely to be let down, Wo Lengthy: Fallen Dynasty may simply be the one which lastly makes you right into a fan. It’s the Souls du jour that may not do something notably novel or ingenious throughout the style, and it would falter on a design degree when in comparison with FromSoft — the degrees are simple and infrequently visually bland, and the vast majority of enemies are copy-and-pasted troopers fairly than particular person and memorable threats — however every little thing it does feels so refined and symbiotic that it doesn’t matter: it’s only a blast to play. Defeating Zhang Liang after hours of trial and error whereas “Look What You Made Me Do” blasted out of my audio system made me consider that, with dedication, stubbornness, and apply, beating Wo Lengthy: Fallen Dynasty shouldn’t be solely achievable: it’s inevitable.

This evaluate is predicated on the PlayStation 5 model of the sport. A replica was supplied to us by Koei Tecmo.


Though it might not be as ingenious and thoughtfully designed as its inspirations, Wo Lengthy: Fallen Dynasty thrives on gameplay that’s satisfying and intuitive sufficient to win over newbies, whereas offering sufficient problem to maintain Soulslike veterans engaged and blissful.