Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty hands-on preview – like a Three Kingdoms era Nioh-spinoff

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty

Team Ninja’s new action game Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty got a playable demo, so we got some hands-on time with the game and prepped both a written and video preview below.

This demo will be running from now until September 25th, and those who manage to complete the demo will earn in-game rewards that will be unlocked when they move onto the full game when it releases in 2023.

So far with my time in Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, it feels like I’m playing Nioh, but set in China, which shouldn’t be a surprise as this is the same studio who made Nioh after all. Check out a narrated video preview below:

The game takes place during the Three Kingdoms era of China and fans of the story, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Dynasty Warriors, or Chinese mythology, and Chinese horror stories will find a game that is brimming with amazing content and creatures.

Before I talk about the actual gameplay, I want to give a pleasant mention to the character creator. The character creation system in Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is very robust and well done. There are a lot of touches that can be used to really make your character your own.

You can customize your race, gender, and there is even the ability to select your own personal pronouns, but that option isn’t in the demo itself. Not that it mattered to me, I will also go the route of creating a rugged old warrior with heavy armor and a Padao or Cresent Glaive.

During my time with the demo, I tried out two different character builds, a healing build that started me with medium armor and a bronze sword, and a defense build that started me with the previously mentioned heavy armor and a Padao.

Looking at my time with Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, I spent much more time playing that heavy armored build because that’s just my playstyle. I like to rely on high defense, slow movement and reach weapons to keep myself alive.

Having played Nioh before I was very comfortable with Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty the moment I picked the controller up and dove into the game. While the gameplay didn’t seem difficult at first, one thing I quickly realized was how dangerous it could be to fight more than one enemy at a time.

Multiple times I became very easily overwhelmed when I just ran into two bandit mooks at once. The demo starts out in the mountains where you are fighting members of the Yellow Turbans, a Taoist death cult turned mountain bandits. Before long though, you will come across zombies and other monsters as you journey through the mountains.

As you play, you’ll come across banner stands, which function the same as bonfires in a Souls game, or shrines in Nioh. One interesting twist however is that for every banner you place, your minimum strength will rise. Meaning that when you die you can only lose as much strength as your banner stand score.

This system rewards players for exploration as well as helps to avoid issues of backtracking and grinding.  You will also notice that when you lock onto an enemy, they will have a number next to their health bar which would be their strength or “fortitude” score.

If an enemy seems too strong for you to take on and their fortitude score is too high, you may be better off avoiding them for now and trying to get your own rank higher before returning to bring them down.

The combat in the demo is fun, it feels really fast paced and flashy. The addition of the visceral execution moves on exhausted enemies is a nice bonus that carries over from Nioh as well. Honestly, I only ever ran into one issue with the gameplay and that was with the lock-on system.

There were times where I would try to lock onto an enemy in front of me and the camera would prioritize an enemy who was far away and not even on my screen. It didn’t happen too often, but in a game where enemies have some devastating power attacks that can one-shot or nearly one shot you, a good lock-on system does feel like it should be key.

One thing I really enjoy is the amount of customization you have with your character. With the actual appearance of my character, as well as the weapons, armor, and magic in the game, it certainly feels like Team Ninja are putting an emphasis on letting the player create their perfect build.

The visuals in Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty are good as well. So far, the only thing I’ve noticed is that sometimes enemies who are far away will have janky animations, as if they are skipping frames entirely and just jittering as they walk around.

This isn’t an issue when fighting up close however and I have been informed by a source at Koei Tecmo US that the development team is already aware of this issue and are working to fix it. The actual animations of my own character while I navigated the world, fought enemies, and looted gear was all top notch.

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty feels as good as Nioh‘s animation but at the same time, had this Chinese presentation. The way my character held his weapons, moved his body, and swung his blade felt very distinctly Chinese rather than a simple Nioh reskin. There has definitely been an attention to detail here that I want to highlight by Team Ninja.

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty

Another issue I noticed was when I was playing, the framerate would dip at times that did not make sense to me. The dips were never severe enough to fully take me out of the experience, but it was noticeable enough that I could definitely see it from time to time. I’m hoping that this is just an issue with the demo though and it will be fixed for the full release in 2023.

I really have enjoyed my time with Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty so far, I have not finished the demo yet as I keep making dumb mistakes and get my head kicked in, but I hope to finish it up by the closing day on the 25th.

Even if I do not finish the demo, I know I will be picking this game up day one and preparing myself for a full playthrough as soon as possible. I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited for a Soulslike/Niohlike before. The setting is just right up my alley.

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is launching sometime in early 2023 across Windows PC (via Steam), Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5, and will be available on Xbox Game Pass on day one.

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Tyler was a former Niche Gamer contributor.

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