After exploring Japanese tales and legends in Nioh, Team Ninja is back with Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, another demanding action-RPG. This time, the game takes us to the Three Kingdoms of China with a gameplay focusing on parrying, spells, and martial arts. It is set to release on March 3rd for PC, PlayStation, and Xbox (available on Game Pass from day one). Is it a success? Let’s find out our opinion.

A year after Final Fantasy: Stranger of Paradise, and as the ambitious Rise of the Ronin is being prepared, Team Ninja unveils Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, a new challenging action-RPG in the vein of a “Souls-like” and the two Nioh installments. Instead of returning to Japan, the team takes us to China, set in 184 AD.

The Han dynasty is in chaos, as a powerful artifact (the Elixir) tempts numerous warlords. However, a greater villain is pulling the strings from behind the scenes. Playing as a customizable nameless hero, you must restore peace and order. Thus begins a long journey across the Three Kingdoms, where you will meet many characters.

Not Nioh or Sekiro, just Wo Long

What sets Wo Long apart from other challenging action-RPGs? You might have heard that it is a mix between Nioh and Sekiro, which is not far from the truth. On one hand, the gameplay is very fast and fluid, and on the other, parrying holds a significant, almost central role.

Deflecting an attack has two advantages: first, it allows you to absorb 100% of the damage while staying close to your opponent; and second, it increases your “Spirit Bar,” a gauge that lets you chain more special attacks. The more you rely on these, the more you will lower your enemy’s posture, eventually leading to a powerful finishing move.

This posture is considerably weakened if you deflect attacks surrounded by a “red aura” (i.e., attacks that can inflict the most damage). Lastly, note that it is possible to trigger a finishing move by jumping from the air or sneaking up behind an enemy.

What exactly is the Spirit Bar?

The Spirit Bar is crucial in Wo Long, located in the middle of the screen, below the health bar. It consists of two parts: a right side and a left side, with a center that marks its default value. It is somewhat similar to stamina in Elden Ring.

In Fallen Dynasty, you can chain light attacks indefinitely, but heavy and special attacks (martial arts/spells) cause the Spirit Bar to drop to the left. When it reaches zero, the next enemy attack will immobilize you for a few seconds. To refill it, you must either land a light attack or, most importantly, execute a successful parry.

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Miser à fond sur la parade, c’est clairement la “bonne manière” de jouer à Wo Long Fallen Dynasty. Oubliez vos heures sur Nioh ou Elden Ring à esquiver, bloquer, puis attaquer ! Il faut à présent plus ou moins tout réapprandre, sinon bonjour la galère. De nouveau et comme par le passé, il n’y a pas de modes de difficulté – on reviendra plus tard sur ce point – et le premier boss ne vous fera pas de cadeau. Mais dès que vous aurez compris le truc, c’est un vrai bonheur à jouer… L’un dans l’autre, nous avons eu un gros coup de cœur pour le gameplay de Wo Long qui se révèle à la fois prenant, dynamique et engageant. Après 30h, ce fut toujours aussi grisant d’en exploiter toutes les subtilités, que ce soit à l’épée, au bâton, avec des doubles lames. On aurait juste aimé un bestiaire plus fourni.

Un jeu plus accessible qu’il n’y paraît

Regarding the adventure’s structure, Wo Long follows in Nioh’s footsteps! Main missions take place in relatively linear areas, heavily influenced by the “Souls-like” spirit, with one or two mandatory bosses, loot to collect, and shortcuts to unlock. In 2023, a year after Elden Ring, this may be a bit too classic for the genre, but it works.

Fallen Dynasty also introduces jumping and climbing certain walls, giving a more vertical approach to exploration, which is a good thing. Other new features include: in 95% of quests, one or two NPCs automatically join you to provide support (which can be disabled from Chapter 2); and side areas are accessible at any time from checkpoints and the map.

These last two points show that the adventure has become more flexible and accessible than before. At the center of this new direction is another important system, the “Morale Level.” In Wo Long, you have your hero’s fixed level (improved with experience) and the Morale, a temporary leveling system that resets to zero at the beginning of each area.

The more enemies you defeat, the higher your Morale Level will be, and the more damage you’ll deal! Enemies have the same indicator, clearly displayed above their heads, allowing for a significant power gap. This gap can play a decisive role when the Morale difference becomes significant, to the point that experienced players may easily dominate certain areas and bosses.

Morale Level, at the heart of the game’s “secret”:

Another note about Morale Level: remember the finishing moves that can be triggered after weakening the enemy’s posture? Besides dealing damage, this powerful attack also reduces the villain’s Morale Level. In other words, you can literally lower the enemy’s level during a fight! Against bosses, this is an essential factor to consider. Note that your Morale can decrease in the same way if you are hit by attacks with a red aura.

This system is crucial and not without consequences! After a failure, your Morale Level will return to the last recorded rank. This rank increases as you progress through checkpoints and optional flags found throughout each area (hidden in various locations).

Keep in mind that the most powerful spells require specific Morale levels to be cast, and there are also rare items that can increase this value. Overall, this is another good idea from Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, an original way to encourage exploration and prompt players to engage with enemies. Occasionally, creatures with a high Morale Level will appear shortly after the beginning of an area, guarding a secondary route that leads quickly to the local boss.

A Different and Enjoyable Progression

Wo Long manages to strike a nice balance between challenge and accessibility. The most dedicated players can struggle alone through the levels up to the endgame (which offers significant challenges), while others will appreciate the mandatory secondary NPCs, online help from real players, and side quests to gain XP and higher-level equipment. However, a minor disappointment regarding Fallen Dynasty’s side content: the side missions are merely shortened copies of the main areas.

The same goes for the endgame, which involves revisiting previously explored locations but with increased difficulty for high-level loot. We would have liked to see more variety in these aspects, as well as in the graphics, which show their age when the artistic design doesn’t hold up. On a positive note, the game runs smoothly at sixty frames per second on PS5.

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Indeed, Wo Long’s gameplay is so well-polished that the “true end” wasn’t enough to satisfy us. Simply put, we’re always eager to experiment further. With a more limited arsenal of weapons compared to Nioh, Team Ninja shines with its martial arts system (unique techniques tied to each weapon) and spells, divided into Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water.

Essentially, depending on how you allocate your experience points, you can develop an offensive, defensive, or even supportive approach. Mixing styles and trying new strategies without hitting a wall is entirely possible. There are many options available, and you can even find synergies with online players. In short, it works well, is relevant, and is another reason to appreciate Team Ninja and its latest game, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty.



  • Excellent gameplay feel
  • The Spirit Bar system
  • Jumping and “infiltration” aspect
  • Often successful atmosphere
  • Variety of special moves
  • More accessible than Nioh
  • Impressive cinematics


  • Limited enemy variety
  • Somewhat disappointing endgame
  • Inconsistent artistic direction Editor’s rating

Editor’s Verdict

After Nioh, Team Ninja once again demonstrates its mastery of action-RPGs with Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty. Although the game isn’t perfect (limited enemy variety, somewhat disappointing endgame, side missions repeating already visited areas), the gameplay is so solid that we’re willing to overlook most flaws!

Here, everything revolves around parrying, martial arts, and spells, resulting in an innovative approach for the genre. Most of the atmospheres are well-executed, offering various paths for players to choose as warriors, and the game is more accessible than the studio’s Japanese Souls-like titles. An excellent pick, especially since it’s available “day one” on Xbox Game Pass.