Now 2023 was a stellar year for video games, and we’re continuously blessed with amazing Souls-Like games, with many thankfully adding their dynamic spins to the sub-genre. But with such a packed year of games, it’s easy to miss out, especially with hidden gems like Wo Long. I’m thankful I got a chance to play this after missing it last year, as it is quite simply an outstanding Souls-Like, which feels like the refined craft and efforts from Team Ninja and Koei Tecmo Games, into making a highly engaging, dramatically satisfying and mighty visceral competitor to even the best games made by From-Soft.

What is Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty Complete Edition?

For those like me who missed out on the original release of Wo Long 12 months ago, fear not as the complete edition gives you everything from the base game to a bunch of extra content, fleshing out the gameplay and time exponentially.

Focusing on the Three Kingdoms era of Chinese history, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty takes players into an alternative version of the last days of the Han dynasty, where China is ravaged by war, genocide, and cosmic forces. Playing as a nameless warrior who is given a second chance at life, you find yourself caught in a never-ending battle between kingdoms looking for ultimate and eternal control via the elixir of life. You will meet strange foes, enlighten allies, and battle far and wide, with a grand sense of warfare tactics, invasion, and conquering.   

Team Ninja and Koei Tecmo Games have been fan favourites of the sub-genre, and one of the main studios to provide a fresh take on the mechanical foundation that From-Soft laid out back in 2009. What we have with Wo Long is a game featuring lightning-fast combat, intense difficulty, and a profound sense of character progression and customisation. But at the same time, implements highly approachable and exceedingly fun combat, the difficulty which you can alter through some neat mechanical dynamics, and plenty of player choice, allowing all kinds of players be they fans of the genre or not, to create a playstyle the world reacts to organically and meaningfully.

There were some things which reminded me of Nioh, and particularly what I disliked about that game, yet the developers have managed to push flexibility, making this one of the most approachable Souls-Likes I’ve ever played.

That is quite a lot to disgust I know, but Wo Long, while having a lot going on, became quite memorable for me for all the right reasons. And became a game I admire greatly, even that of Sekiro.  

A tale of love, death, warring kingdoms, and meh …

East Asia has a rich and engrossing history that is drenched with warring dynasties and shifting perspectives as eras covered in bloodshed, evolve into new ones.

Team Ninja and Koei Tecmo Games wanted to present a Souls-like epic and timeless story with thematic elements spanning far and wide. But overall felt a little shallow, be it with some spectacular spectacle, some cool characters, and awesome set-pieces.

From the get-go, there is war and an unbelievable amount of bloodshed, with the stakes of innocent lives and the entirety of the dynasty at play, with everything ready to crumble and fall. There are deadly feuds, warring families, and tricksters lurking in the darkness waiting for the right amount to strike, like a venomous snake. All this reminds me of season 7 of Star Trek: Deep Space (, just without the memorable characters and whatnot.

Now granted, I appreciate the value of telling an actual story in Souls-Like titles, and for what it’s worth there isn’t a bad story here. The narrative is incredibly grand, and I felt as I journeyed through China, I saw multiple factions fighting, and felt the breath of battle and the devastating impact on the lands and its people. There is a good variety to the supporting cast, with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing and surprised. Overall, a great sense of scale and world-building.

But there is also a plot that doesn’t amount to much more than, going forth, team up with a supporting character, kill a big bad, proceed and repeat. I never got the chance to bond with whoever I was teaming up with, no chit-chats, no chances to increase our bond aside from killing enemies, and a lack of impact when things wrapped up. A lot is going on, and I feel like the developers should have looked at Onimusha 2, and the buddy system. Where you meet these characters and decide who you wish to bond with, by buying them gifts, fighting with them, and earning their trust through side quests.

All this amounts to new side quests, story beats and so forth. Wo Long could have benefited from a system like this, granting more of a chance to bond, learn and develop with a character you wish to do so with. But we get a mission, by mission structure, where new support comes in, helps, and vanishes at the end of the mission. Some of them do return but don’t have enough charm or personality to make them memorable.

The plot and the sense of character development are okay, but I wish it was either fleshed out a lot more, or more of a classic Souls-Like that keeps a lot of things vague and limited in their exposition.

But thankfully Wo Long nails pretty much everything else, including the presentation which is utterly breath-taking at times. With beautiful art direction, fantastic and varied world design that captivates every moment through the journey, and a soundtrack which is simply stunning. I love the sheer brilliance of the developer's presentation skills, as they thoroughly and professionally crafted some of the best-looking games ever made, and Wo Long can sit comfortably aside Ninja Gaiden, and relish in the glory of just how darn good looking, and sounding they are.  

Fast-like lighting. Devastating like thunder! Approachable like calm water

I had mixed feelings regarding Nioh, and this put me off somewhat on trying the sequel or venturing towards Wo Long originally. I loved the Ninja Gaiden games from Team Ninja, be they had moments of extreme difficulty, and while I love Elden Ring and Bloodborne, I’m not a fan of Dark Souls I – III. I have a complicated relationship with the sub-genre, but when I find a Souls-Like I genuinely favour, it’s usually with a lot of love, and respect. And with Wo Long, I feel I found one of my top games of the sub-genre, urging people who may have the same feelings as I do with many other titles to check it out.  

By no means does Wo Long pull its punches and will surely give you the beating of a century if you give it an inch. But while the combat encounters between you and a demonic-looking tiger may look terrifying, Wo Long manages to implement small but meaningful mechanics allowing anyone to come into play and have a great chance to survive, strive and conquer even the toughest of foes.

What you get with Wo Long is a mix between the better Dynasty Warriors games, Onimusha and Sekiro, where fast reflexes, quick thinking and the trusted trigger-happy button mashing will provide some of the most stunning and brutal fighting. You can expect those super-fast enemies, legions of soldiers you will mow through when powerful enough, and epic boss battles that test your endurance and strategy.

The fighting is generally quite slick, and smooth and packs a punch, whether you’re using a long sword engulfed with lighting magic, or a bloodthirsty Warhammer that sends the ground shaking. But Wo Long has a few cool ideas to push the combat to a significantly deeper level.

The Morale system is a nice touch, whereby making sure death is few and far in between of each other, will your ranking of honour go up. As it raises so will your strength and presence in small ways, but possibly enough to give you an edge over even the most menacing combat encounters. Even some basic enemies will become terrified at the sheer sight of you, killing other enemies, and possessing a high honour/morale ranking. It’s a neat mechanic that will greatly benefit those who may struggle with the faster, bigger, and more threatening foes.

To be honest, I did grind some areas a little to raise it as much as possible, as I’m usually quite rubbish with parrying and counters. So having a high Honour/Morale ranking did help me just that little in some boss fights, who would otherwise be way too quick for me, without completely breaking the game. This system does give you an edge providing you wish to put the time in to raise your honour and adds a nice bit tension inducing risk and reward, as constantly pushing forward to kill more enemies may make or break your ranking.

Something else which allows tractability and a grand scale of desolation is the “Spirit Meter” does link with a few attributes of combat, be it your stance when blocking, spirit attacks or Martial Arts attacks. All of these can aid you in a fight in a few ways, be it fighting a boss that’s weak to lightning, or simply taking on a powerful heavy enemy that’s proficient in blocking, and you need a Martial Art attack to break it. Even something as terrifying (for me) as parrying, came about accessible, as timeframes for countering were good, with a clear signal as to when to counter or prepare to do so. And even holding down the block button while trying to parry is doable if you have a good stance with enough of a spirit meter.

My only concern was with the learning curve, or just the general learning of mechanics, as everything is very much on the fly, passing by and you will miss it kind of deal. The game’s first couple of hours are both the best and worst on display, as the gameplay is excellent, and provides good pacing, and freedom to learn and practice. But the number of tooltips, guides, and introduction to countless systems, and sub-systems is quite overwhelming.

It doesn’t help that the UI at times is quite flaky, with small icons, a low text size, and a lack of easy distinction between weapons, weapon classes, and stats. It’s all very painful at times, and I just wish there was better accessibility. This is a fault I have with a lot of Souls-like games, and while I didn’t like comments made towards Elden Ring about its gameplay and world-building. I did agree the UI could be massively better.

But aside from these tricky first few hours and steep delivery of even basic information, I love just how you can adapt and change your playstyle on the fly, without facing long-term consequences for picking a certain weapon, or spell. You can pick, choose, swap and more, meaning you can fight in any situation, providing you learn, adapt and occasionally think outside the box, utilising your resources as best you can.

A brutal and exhilarating dance of death

Wo Long certainly excels in providing thoroughly meaningful and adaptive combat, but regarding the general flow and impact, it excels even further. The variety of enemy types, combat encounters, weapons to hack and slash with, the pacing, brutality and sense of accomplishment after a tough fight all accommodate an utterly compelling experience. Wo Long just showcases that Team Ninja and Koei Tecmo Games are masters at crafting highly enjoyable combat systems and outcomes while looking and feeling stellar.  

Not only does the lighting-fast combat look great, but it also feels great, due to the variety of weapons, spells, counters and punishing moves I could execute, but also the flexibility and adaptive nature of fighting styles. I never found myself truly stuck or frustrated with a gauntlet of enemies or a boss encounter, as there was so much, I could do to tackle the problem head-on.

So I explore to find new weapons with better stats. Should I learn powerful magic spells that could exploit an enemy's weakness? Maybe venturing off to an optional boss to raise my level and overall character stats? Or simply change my tactics from offensive to defensive, as a way to lower the enemy/boss spirit meter and deliver a potentially battle-ending fatal blow. There are also other elements at play to expand the mechanical horizon, from conducting simple yet effective stealth to teaming up with powerful allies to venture forth and provide backup.

The combat is simply brilliant and makes Wo Long as memorable to me, as Elden Ring or Bloodborne.

But what will be burned into my memory and not in a good way is the loot … or be it the amount there is and the trouble of sorting it. The gigantic amount of loot, weapons and gear can become tedious to sort through, especially when drops are frequent, and useless gear does pile up quite quickly if you’re not ever so attentive to the alerts. The decision between even the smallest stats makes it even worse, as there are a lot of different stats, that often vary between 0.2% difference.

I personally never liked the concept of looter shooters, where I get 20 of the same weapons, but all have varying stats and usually in the smallest, most inefficient tweaks possible. The same goes for Wo Long, and it was a shame, especially with as I mentioned the flaws in the UI, making the tough decisions even longer, as I squinted at my TV to see the 0.02% difference in attack speed, or whether I should go for something that grants a 0.5% improvement with Spirit Meter accumulation.

I don’t care, I don’t like it, but I understand there are people more accustomed to it and even like doing this sort of thing where to shift through dozens of weapons and pick out one good one, for the next ten minutes until you find another 20 to consider from. But Wo Long never truly overwhelmed me for the most part, and you can settle on the most important stats to consider, which are always highlighted first when viewing a weapon.

And I can easily forgive this minor trespass, due to the staggering craft behind the level design and mission structures. I was blown away by the number of environments, the branching paths encouraging approachable level design, the profound side quests, optional bosses, and fun missions. As Wo Long presents goes against the argument of “Quality or Quantity”, and meshes the two together, for a lengthy, fulfilling campaign, that hosts a great deal of side content, that is truly awesome. One moment I’m wondering about sand-soaked wastelands where villages are under attack, grand castles filled with elite soldiers, and down to poison-encompassed swamps with the nastiest of ogre-like enemies.

Best of all, you can switch between side and main missions, save progress easily and go back to the current state of a side mission after returning to the main one. It’s a simple yet highly effective and user-friendly feature that means no time is wasted.

Does it have an Easy mode?

The dreaded question all hardcore Souls-Like fans hate to hear, and I can understand why. But in the case of Wo Long, the answer is a Yes-No.

As mentioned above there are a ton of gameplay mechanics, and small features which truly allow for deeper adaptive playstyles, and others which offer small bouts of forgiveness, without feeling “handholding”.

What does give new players to the sub-genre a better chance of survival, and learning is the Morale System which I touched upon before. It’s an internal ranking of your character which can be used as a means of comparison and thus judge your chances in a fight. All other NPCs have their ranking, and being higher or lower than theirs will drastically change your approach and even the outcome. If you have a higher morale ranking, you will feel more powerful, and even your presence will alter in the view of many basic enemies. Attacking and defeating NPCs will affect others nearby. But a higher ranking will increase your power, and fighting enemies will a higher ranking than yours will significantly improve it. Plus, you can lose it just as easily as you gain Morale, by taking too much damage, missing counters and facing a crushing defeat. So it's not all easy peasy.

Morale is a great system that encourages exploration, consistently besting your enemies, but also allows those who may feel underwhelmed in certain skills to boost their overall presence and determination, with a higher ranking. Along for the ride, you will have companions to aid you, and their AI is pretty good, making for extremely helpful partners that usually get you out of a tricky fight or two. And checkpoints are quite plentiful and crushing defeats don't meddle too much with the experience you earned thankfully.


Now I’m massively disappointed in myself for missing Wo Long last year, and even more so as it would have been considered to enter the Top Ten games of 2023! While the narrative didn’t grip me, and there are some small fundamentals which needed further refinements, the core gameplay and Souls-Like dynamics are unbelievably phenomenal!

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is a must-buy for any Souls fan, avid adventurer, keen fighter and all fans of Team Ninja/Koei Tecmo Games goodness. The combat is remarkably enjoyable, fast-paced, brutally intense, yet highly approachable. Everything else from level design, accessibility in gameplay/difficulty and the presentation is immensely spectacular and pushes Wo Long as one of the best of the sub-genre. Especially with the Complete Edition, you can enjoy much more of Wo Long, with meaningful and grand expansions, that will keep you invested with lots of fun for quite some time.

++ Insanely great combat, which is fast, challenging, rewarding and approachable.
++ Awesome level design, fantastic world-building, and plenty of fun quests.
+ Stunning presentation, with stellar music and visuals.
+ Lots of cool features that add layers to the Souls-Like formula.

- Some UI elements are outdated and clunky.
- The excessive loot and stats are tedious and longwinded.
- The narrative is not entirely gripping or stimulating.

A PS5 copy of Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty Complete Edition was kindly provided by the publisher for this review.