Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is a "Masocore" title for everyone

Nearly 2 months ahead of its March 4 release date, Koei Tecmo reached out to RPG Site to offer us an early look at Team Ninja’s upcoming Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty - and while I’ve been spending the past week playing through the team’s latest effort, it’s finally time to jot down some of my thoughts of the opening hours of the upcoming “Masocore” action RPG.

That being said, a lot of what I’m allowed to write about at this time is limited to the first two main story missions of the game, and the enemies and level design therein. Additionally, I already wrote about my time with the game’s time-limited demo on consoles last year. While minutia has changed, such as balance changes related to parry timings, the overall package is much the same. If you want a primer about what Wo Long is, and what players can expect, read that preview first.

All of what I said in my previous preview still rings true. While much of Wo Long’s DNA is still very much rooted in Nioh, the game itself is a very different beast. Combat has gone from a combo-oriented affair where players are constantly switching between weapons and stances while at the same time maintaining their Ki, to a much more simplified experience where - much like with From Software’s Sekiro: Shadow’s Die Twice - there’s a much larger emphasis on timing parries to enemy attacks in order to break their guard, before going in for a swift kill.

Player’s still have access to abilities like Wizardry Spells, which can either attack enemies outright, or more granularly buff your character in a variety of ways - but much like the rest of the battle system, everything now hinges on Spirit; a sort of stamina system that is ever-present on the game’s UI. Dealing damage or properly deflecting attacks will raise your Spirit into the blue, allowing you to buff your strong attacks with an enhancement that upon landing a successful strike will lower the threshold required to break that enemy’s stance.

One of the two levels that I’m at liberty to talk about has you slowly ascending a mountain; first by dealing with packs of Yellow Turban enemies scattered across a ransacked village, before coming face to face with a powerful Demon at the peak of their stronghold. A recurring theme throughout Wo Long’s levels is how they’ll have small secrets tucked within corners of the environment, and how you’ll slowly unlock shortcuts from one Banner to another.

While Nioh’s adorable Kodamas are nowhere to be found, instead players are able to discover both larger checkpoint Banners - which you can respawn from - as well smaller ones merely act as a means of increasing your minimum Morale for the level. As mentioned in my last preview, Morale acts as a sort of strength multiplier; and the gulf between your own Morale and an enemy can greatly determine the difficulty of an encounter. 

Needless to say, for players struggling with the game, taking the time to search a level for all of the Banners might be the difference between frustration with a boss encounter, and a breezy time - and for anyone strictly looking for a challenge, you can always make a beeline for the level’s objective, which is displayed in your compass at all times.

There’s a lot more I could talk about regarding Wo Long, but with over a month and a half to go until the game hits store shelves, the nitty gritty will have to wait for a while longer. For now, I stand by everything I said last September; Wo Long is very much its own beast, and while many Nioh fans will appreciate what it has to offer, there’s enough differentiation here that you’ll really have to play the game yourself to see how it stacks up to your expectations. Knowing Team Ninja, hopefully, the wait for another demo won’t take that much longer so that anyone who missed their chance with the first demo will get the opportunity to see for themselves if Wo Long’s new take on Team Ninja’s action gameplay will be right for them.