As a huge fan of Team Ninja’s Soulslike games, I am absolutely obsessed with Nioh 1 and 2. I have completed each game around 7-10 times and can’t get enough of them. However, it’s not just these games that I crave; I am constantly on the lookout for anything related to the ‘Souls’ genre, whether it’s directly by FromSoftware or other developers creating Soulslike games like Nioh.
When I heard that Team Ninja was creating something similar to Sekiro (note that I said similar, not the same, nerds) but adding in elements from Koei’s flagship Dynasty Warriors franchise (yes, I know it’s just the Chinese dynasty, but let’s be real here, Lu Bu is the hardest boss in the game – they know what they did), I was beyond excited. I immediately preordered the game on the day of the announcement, although I later cancelled it when Koei Tecmo graciously provided us with a code to play.
From the very moment you start up Wo-Long, it becomes immediately apparent that this game was crafted by the same team who created Nioh 1 and 2. The visuals, demon designs, blood effects, and even the character creator all feel like they were lifted straight from the Nioh games. Even the sound design is eerily similar to Team Ninja’s previous efforts. In fact, some players have gone so far as to create a character that looks exactly like William from Nioh 1, and when playing through Wo-Long, the first 15 minutes are virtually indistinguishable from Nioh, aside from the story beats.
One of the things that I particularly love about the Nioh series, and which Team Ninja has replicated in Wo-Long, is the use of tightly packed levels rather than an open world with dungeons interspersed throughout. This approach makes each level feel distinct and fresh, a technique that has proven incredibly effective in all three games.
This is where the similarities between Nioh and Wo-Long begin to wind down. While Nioh focuses on ‘Dark Souls 1’ style combat elements of ‘whack once, defend and run away’ combat, Wo-Long puts more emphasis on parry-heavy, stylish combat akin to Sekiro. This is where Wo-Long really begins to shine, as stringing together a bunch of parries to punish the enemy or boss is incredibly satisfying and addictive. Before I knew it, I had sunk 30 hours into the game in just 5 days (which, as a parent, is quite a feat in and of itself).
One thing worth noting about Wo-Long is that it’s probably the easiest Soulslike game I’ve played (barring maybe Fallen Order). When I asked people I know about the game, they agreed that it’s easier compared to other titles in this genre. And that’s fantastic! Unlike most Soulsborne fanboys, I don’t need games to be incredibly hard to be worth my time. It’s all the other things, like tight combat, that I prize above all else. The fact that Team Ninja has created a game that is so accessible for those looking to break into the Soulslike genre, or to get a taste and a feel of something similar to Sekiro before taking the plunge, is just incredible.
The story of Wo-Long is an enthralling journey through a significant portion of the Chinese dynasty, with a sprinkling of Chinese mythology that adds a unique flavour to the game. Playing Wo-Long has led me to the conclusion that Chinese mythology is perhaps the most fascinating mythos I have ever encountered, with an inherent beauty that is missing from many others.
However, Wo-Long’s level and enemy design are not without their faults. Like Nioh and Nioh 2 before it, many of the levels in Wo-Long feel incredibly similar, which can become tedious towards the end of the game. While this did not deter me from playing, the limited enemy design began to wear on me around two thirds into my 30 hour playthrough. The game only has around five different enemy variations, including snake women, human swordsmen, human archers, big monkeys, and human-esque demons. This lack of diversity in enemy types became increasingly monotonous, especially when the game started introducing smaller versions of bosses as regular enemies.
Although these issues did not ruin the game for me, they did detract from my overall enjoyment and led me to the conclusion that the last third of the game felt a bit rushed to get out on time. It would have benefitted from additional attention and time in development. Hopefully, the DLC packs will rectify this issue by introducing many new enemy variations.
In light of these criticisms, I give Wo-Long an 8.5/10. If I had reviewed the game within the first 10 hours, I expect I would have given it a 9.5/10. However, a few choices made to expedite the game’s development led to some tedium towards the end, which ultimately lowered my overall score.
Have you played Wo-Long or any other Soulsborne/Sekiro-style games? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!
Game code provided by publisher.
Written by Luke.
Edited by Alexx.