Team Ninja has delivered two excellent Soulslike action RPGs with the Nioh games, and though 2024 will see the developer switching to a different style of game with the open world action RPG Rise of the Ronin, it’s not quite done with Soulslikes just yet. Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, which is launching in less than a month, is also going to be a Soulslike- but though it is obviously going to have some similarities to the Nioh titles, it’s also diverging from their framework in some key ways. Here, we’re going to go over a few of those differences.
Let’s get the obvious difference out of the way first. While the Nioh games were set in Japan, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is set in China. Like Nioh, it will make heavy use of dark fantasy elements, but on the historical timeline, it’s going much further back, with the game taking place in the Three Kingdoms era of China. The setting, of course, is going to impact other aspects of the experience as well. For instance, the combat is built around Chinese martial arts, which means it’s going to place a much greater emphasis on speed. More on that in a bit.
As you may have guessed, the gameplay front is where Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is going to differ from Nioh the most, and it’ll do that in a number of different ways. Even basic movement and traversal are going to have their own unique flow, thanks to the fact that, unlike Nioh, Wo Long will have a dedicated jump button. From combat to level design, that’s going to impact gameplay in a variety of ways- speaking of which…
According to Team Ninja, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is going to sport level design that will feel quite different from Nioh in some crucial ways, one among them being a greater focus on verticality. With players now being able to jump, the developer says environments will now be more layered and allow players to explore in a more vertical sense as well. And speaking of exploration…
GREATER FOCUS ON EXPLORATION
Like the Nioh games, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is going with an area-based structure rather than open world design, but Team Ninja says it’s still going to place a much greater emphasis on exploration. Speaking in an interview with Wccftech, the developers explained that the game will feature much more open environments, featuring, in their words, “much bigger locations with huge vistas, unique landscapes, and massive castles.”
FASTER AND MORE FREE-FLOWING COMBAT
This is probably a comparison that you’ve seen often enough already, but it bears repeating nonetheless- if Nioh was Team Ninja’s Dark Souls, Wo Long is their Sekiro, and that’s going to be reflected in the pace of the combat. That’s down to everything from players being encouraged to be much speedier and more aggressive with their attacks to being able to dodge incoming attacks in a variety of ways (especially now that you can jump), while countering and deflecting attacks will also be a core part of the experience. Speaking to PLAY magazine not too long ago, the developers described Wo Long’s combat as “more free-flowing and elegant” than what Nioh fans might be used to.
This is one of the biggest reasons for combat in Wo Long being much, much faster paced. Stamina (or Ki) was a key mechanic in Nioh and its sequel, as it tends to be in the vast majority of Soulslike games, but Wo Long is dropping that mechanic. With the game being focused first and foremost on Chinese martial arts, Team Ninja says it decided to remove the stamina gauge so as to allow players to get into a zippier rhythm of attacking and dodging, and to lend that aforementioned free-flowing feel to combat. Again, that sounds a great deal like some of the biggest changes Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice made to FromSoftware’s Soulslike formula.
In the stamina gauge’s place, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is introducing something that puts a very unique spin on the idea. Players will have to keep an eye on their spirit gauge, which is essentially one of the game’s primary ways to encourage players to be more aggressive in combat. Every attack you dish out will fill your stamina gauge, but on the flipside, other actions, such as blocking or getting hit, will take a chunk out of it. As you might imagine, it will be key to find the right windows in which to move in and attack enemies with flurries of blows. Using special martial arts attacks will also consume spirit, so you’re going to want to make sure you’re keeping that gauge filled up.
MORALE RANKING SYSTEM
The Morale ranking system is one of the biggest changes Team Ninja is making in Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty. In a nutshell, the system dictates how powerful you and your enemies are, and what kind of a matchup it’s going to be between you and a foe. Both you and every enemy in the game will have a Morale rank that will dynamically change based on your gameplay actions- defeat enough enemies and you can level up your Morale rank at a battle flag (which is effectively a Dark Souls bornfire or a Nioh shrine), which, in turn, will also reward you with new spells. If, however, you die, you run the risk of knocking down your Morale rank. So if you run into an enemy that has a higher Morale rank than you, you’re going to be in for a tough battle- unless you decide to grind and increase your own rank before taking on the foe.
Wo Long will also allow players to call upon the aid of mystical mythological creatures. Known as Divine Beasts, each of them will have a unique elemental type that will also determine what skills and abilities they can use. From high damage dealing area of effect attacks and spells that cast a healing aura to imbuing your weapons with elemental magic and a variety of passive effects, summoning Divine Beasts will give you an edge over your enemies in a number of different ways.
The Nioh games have a reputation for going a bit overboard with their loot systems, and given how needlessly excessive the constant barrage of loot can feel at times, that criticism isn’t hard to understand. Players will still have a variety of options and the game will still place an emphasis on build diversity, but Team Ninja says it is tweaking the system to make it feel a little bit less cluttered and a little bit more accessible.
ALSO COMING TO XBOX
Nioh and Nioh 2 are both still PlayStation consoles exclusives, and next year’s Rise of the Ronin is going to be one as well, but sandwiched between them, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is going to be a rare occurrence of a fully multiplatform Team Ninja game. When it releases under a month from now, the action RPG will also be available for Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One. In fact, not only will it launch for Xbox consoles, it will also be available via Game Pass day one, so Xbox fans who’ve wanted to get a taste of Team Ninja’s Soulslike offerings but have never had the opportunity to are going to be able to dive right in with Wo Long.
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