When I played the open beta for Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, I could immediately see the potential. I love soulslikes, but they aren’t necessarily known for having the smoothest combat, so it was awesome to see one that aspires to offer much more intricate and fast-paced martial options than your average death screen simulator. But where the demo I played a few short months ago showed promise, the new build I played recently showed a marked improvement in so many areas that my excitement went from high to counting down the days until launch. The fact that Team Ninja has taken such swift action on feedback from the beta is not only impressive, but also incredibly reassuring, and I walked out of the demo champing at the bit to play more.
One of the main ways in which Wo Long immediately felt different was with the ease in which I was able to pull off the all-important parry maneuver. Any soulslike fan worth their salt knows how much easier the daunting uphill battles become once you master the timing and pattern recognition involved, and Wo Long’s beta could be fairly unforgiving when it came to timing. That window has been adjusted, so after some initial floundering around and a bit of practice, I was able to succeed in countering my opponents far more frequently, which made me feel a lot more powerful.
Of course, I wasn’t always successful and got beaten to the ground more than a few times in the attempt. In those cases, though, it was nice to be able to fall back on another major adjustment: the time it takes to heal oneself has been dramatically reduced. Where I personally didn’t have as many issues as others with the parry timing in the beta, I definitely had qualms about the extremely long drinking animation that triggered every time I tried to heal, which got me killed more times than I’d care to admit – especially during boss fights. Now the time it takes to drink up and make the pain go away is practically instantaneous, which Team Ninja tells me was explicitly implemented upon player feedback. Getting killed while trying to heal has never been a fun mechanic to me, so this tweak made me extremely happy.
Beyond these two big changes, combat felt even faster than the beta, and my options for dishing out punishment during it were even more numerous. One major one was the addition of the spear to my arsenal, which allowed me to keep my distance when striking at enemies, and coincidentally was very appropriate for skewering the giant boar I faced at the demo’s conclusion. The new martial arts that came alongside it let me do stuff like juggle my enemies in the air like a Dynasty Warriors badass too, which was a nice touch. I really can’t understate how fantastic combat felt in this post-beta build – smacking enemies around, countering their moves, and using spells to wreak havoc felt so dang good.
With apologies to my friends and coworkers who are less masochistic than myself, though, I do have to say that many of these tweaks took the difficulty edge off a bit, which worries me somewhat. I’m not saying that every soulslike needs to make me want to throw my controller into a microwave, but for me getting my butt kicked and fighting to overcome a nigh-insurmountable challenge is certainly part of the appeal. Being able to heal in a flash, making parrying easier to pull off, and offering so many tools to turn the tide against one’s opponent meant that, rusty as I was, I only died once during the demo and that was only because I was fooling around and practically begging to be put down. Hopefully Team Ninja will make enemies more deadly and intelligent to offset some of the changes that made me feel more lethal than I’m used to feeling in a soulslike.
The new build I got to play only included one small section, but I came away from it very impressed by how much better Wo Long feels now than it did a short time ago. Here’s hoping it continues to improve before it’s released early next year.