Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty has just launched globally to generally great reviews from critics, but clearly negative reviews from PC players. Here is how Team Ninja’s latest game fits into Koei Tecmo’s portfolio and what sets it apart from the Nioh series.

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty in 7 bullet points

  • Developed by Koei Tecmo’s in-house studio Team Ninja, Wo Long came out on PC, PlayStation, and Xbox nearly three years after Nioh 2
  • The game, based on the Soulslike formula, tries to bring its own innovations to the FromSoftware-invented genre. Among them is a special Morale system that has a direct impact on ‌battles.
  • Just like Nioh, Wo Long allows players to create their own characters, offers a challenging combat system, and also supports co-op multiplayer.
  • One of the main differences, gameplay aside, is the setting. Fallen Dynasty is inspired by China’s Three Kingdoms period and is more epic in scope compared to Team Ninja’s previous Japanese titles.
  • “Wo Long” is Chinese for “crouching dragon”, which symbolizes the beginning of this historic period and a hero who has yet to become famous and unleash their full potential.
  • The game received positive reviews from critics, with an average score on Metacritic ranging from 80 to 82.
  • The PC version, however, is once again the rawest, mainly due to its poor mouse and keyboard support, as well as some optimization issues. This has already caused a backlash from players.

How does Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty fit into Koei Tecmo’s portfolio?

Since Team Ninja is best known for its action titles in a Japanese setting, Wo Long may surprise some of the studio’s fans with its Chinese aesthetics. However, the Three Kingdoms period has been a cornerstone for publisher Koei Tecmo for decades.

Dynasty Warriors, a series of epic historic hack and slash games and the publisher’s core IP, immediately comes to mind. Not to mention the progenitor of this franchise, Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Despite being less known among the Western audience, it is still alive and includes dozens of turn-based strategy titles.

The Three Kingdoms period is considered one of the bloodiest and most turbulent in Chinese history. But its events and figures have left a huge mark on ‌culture and remain an inexhaustible source of inspiration for creators today, largely thanks to the historical fiction novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

Undoubtedly the main provider of Three Kingdoms-inspired games, Koei Tecmo has made them the backbone of its catalog. And with titles like Wo Long or Wild Hearts, the recent monster hunting game from Dynasty Warriors developer Omega Force, the company is definitely trying to boost the popularity of this historic setting outside of Asia.

What are the key differences between Wo Long and Nioh?

At first glance, these games are very much alike, drawing inspiration from FromSoftware’s Souls series. Wo Long development producer Masaaki Yamagiwa is also no stranger to the genre, having helped publish Bloodborne during his time at Sony’s now-closed Japan Studio.

Yamagiwa joined Team Ninja in 2021 and started working in tandem with the studio’s president and producer Fumihiko Yasuda, best known for his work on the latest Ninja Gaiden trilogy and as the director of Nioh 1-2.

Fumihiko Yasuda (left) and Masaaki Yamagiwa (right), photo: Shuhei Yoshida

Together, they decided to merge historical titles that Koei Tecmo specializes in with the Nioh series. The biggest innovation is of course a jump button, a major improvement over Team Ninja’s previous Soulslike games.

Jokes aside, the main difference between the projects lies in the combat design and the pace of the battles.

As Yasuda told IGN, this is largely dictated by the setting. The Samurai nature of Nioh’s battles focuses on stamina, while Wo Long offers much faster-paced fights. So instead of forcing the player to choose the right moment to stab the enemy and engage in intense sword duels, the new game is all about frequent attacks.

Fans for the Three Kingdoms will know which weapons go with which warriors, and those weapons will be in the game. In Nioh’s case, the player gathered things like armor or weapons. In Wo Long, you won’t be switching your equipment up quite as much, and not all enemies will drop items. It’s a more simple system, but it should still lead to random status outcomes and replayability.

Fumihiko Yasuda

president of Team Ninja

With Wo Long, Team Ninja also aimed to create a system where the player has to quickly switch between attack and defense. According to Yamagiwa, ‌victory should evoke a “feeling of elation”, rewarding you for defeating a strong enemy.

Another major addition is the new Morale system, a metric of the player’s power level, as well as enemies’ strength. So the higher the Morale, the more damage your character can deal. “You gain something by defeating a strong enemy, but the same can be said for when an enemy kills the player,” Yamagiwa explains. “The balance between strength changes whenever someone dies.”

Death is one of the pillars of the Soulslike genre’s design, and Wo Long is trying to freshen up this element with its own unique mechanic. This allows the player to predetermine how challenging certain fights will be before jumping into them and having to die randomly.

Wo Long’s great launch overshadowed by problems on PC

It looks like Koei Tecmo is stepping on the same rake twice in the last month. Its previous major release, Wild Hearts, suffered from some major technical issues on PC, and Wo Long is no exception.

Although some critics noted that the game has lost some depth compared to Nioh, most of them praised Team Ninja for challenging and fun gameplay, as well as the Morale system and beautiful Chinese aesthetics.

The problems arise when you decide to play Wo Long using a mouse and keyboard. Right now, only 31% of the 1,867 user reviews on Steam are positive. The vast majority of negative comments come from Chinese players, who have no problems with the game’s setting but are really angry that Team Ninja hasn’t improved the controls and camera since the last demo.

Anyone ordered a time machine in the era of bad PC ports from the 2000s?

Players also complain about the game’s poor optimization, two words that have unfortunately become synonymous with AAA development lately. “Let me be fair, Wo Long doesn’t have a problem with poor PC optimization because it doesn’t have any optimization at all,” one Steam user wrote. Many players also report terrible performance on Nvidia chips.

Despite all these issues, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is showing good numbers. At the moment of writing, it has already peaked at 53,907 concurrent players (via SteamDB), and the counter continues to rise.

It is difficult to say how Wo Long will perform in terms of sales. Thanks to FromSoftware and the massive success of Elden Ring, the Soulslike genre has become more mainstream than ever. However, none of this formula’s disciples has managed to achieve the same level of commercial appeal, with most titles in this category still quite niche.

As of October 2022, the Nioh series, which includes two games, has sold over 7 million units globally. And Team Ninja may well expect lifetime sales of several million copies for Wo Long.

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