Where Team Ninja’s ‘Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty’ Came Up Short

Not Team Ninja's best work


Mar 5, 2023

Team Ninja may have missed the mark with their release of “Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty” last Friday.

Best known for the recent releases of the “Ninja Gaiden” and “Nioh’ series,” Team Ninja’s latest contribution to the gaming community leaned more toward the underwhelming side of the scale. And after what appeared to be an overall impressive trailer to hype up the release from the Japanese video game developers, “Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty” failed to serve as a strong Souls-like RPG (better known as Soulsbourne) genre addition.

So, where did Team Ninja come up short?

As a part-time gamer, it must be said that a road of challenges lie ahead for those unfamiliar with similar games in the Soulsbourne category. This game won’t come like second nature to your average sports junkie — like yours truly — accustomed to spending countless hours building his or her dream roster on “MLB The Show” or “NBA 2K.” Instead, from the very start, “Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty” kicks off the exact same way it continues: With a road of utter confusion.

The plot itself seems fairly simple. You’re a nameless militia soldier set in 184AD China during the Later Han Dynasty. While fighting for your life, you’re tasked with the improbable. And that’s to overcome a corrupt group of fellow warriors and demons while teaming up with historical soldiers. Pretty straight to the point, right?

Well, at first glance it appeared so.

But upon further examination and several hours of dabbling into the gameplay itself, underwhelming became a much more suitable label on various occasions.

For one, it felt as though Team Ninja attempted to recreate its own version of the “Dark Souls” series or “Elden Ring.” Similar to “Elden Ring,” which many regarded as last year’s game of the year, “Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty” piggybacks on a few in-game features. And this couldn’t be any more obvious. While the setup and character attire certainly appeared similar, the whole character death followed by a respawn alongside enemies who you last battled gave massive “Dark Souls” vibes. Granted, “Dark Souls” set a very high standard for the whole Soulsbourne gaming genre. But that was just the start.

Furthermore, players at the start are presented with the option to prioritize graphics. Now, considering this went down on the PlayStation 5 and not the 4, this was disappointing. The graphics were nearly identical to what could be expected from a PlayStation 4 gameplay stream. They didn’t even live up to the bar set by games like FromSoftware’s “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice,” which drew the comparison in the weeks leading up to Team Ninja’s latest gaming installment.

Items for usage aren’t given explanations or context, leaving users stranded to figure it out on their own.

Unlike “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice,” which offers greater flow, “Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty” does not. It’s like the little brother, featuring an unclear backstory from the get-go, no clarity in direction and much clunkier gameplay throughout.

Depending on the type of gamer you are, the fast-paced style and expectations for users could be either great or daunting. But given the assistance of fellow warriors, they prove to be virtually useless. While your main avatar has a damage range of 11-28 when battling enemies, your supporting cast of NPC’s fire off weak hits of seven damage consistently, questioning the point of their presence.

In “Elden Ring,” which “Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty” spawned a great degree of inspiration from, you’re given more reliable support — not expected to carry an entire squad like LeBron James and the 2017-18 Cleveland Cavaliers. This results in less rewarding damage dealt on a constant basis, which does right by the enemies’ health.

On a much brighter note, Team Ninja did offer gamers more inclusive character creation. You’re given the flexibility of selecting your characters’ gender, age and class (phase). That’s all relatively standard. But unlike a plethora of other games under the genre label, “Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty” offers more cultured hairstyles, which aren’t historically accurate but create greater diversity.

Overall, the game should generate a diverse range of opinions. Experienced gamers will likely lean to a more underwhelming side in the debate, confused but not exactly frustrated. Meanwhile, those unaware of games alike will likely grow frustrated and confused about the backstory, gameplay and task at hand.

Final verdict: 6.2/10

Thumbnail photo via Gio Rivera/ NESN
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