Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, the latest Soulslike from action game masterminds Team Ninja, is an enrapturing amalgam of Bloodborne and Nioh 2 with some Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice sprinkled in for good measure. It’s punishing as hell, but also one of the most approachable games in a genre known for bludgeoning your characters to death. Though nothing—save for a dedicated easy mode—could really make this journey any less challenging, here are some helpful tips I’ve picked up in my 30+ hours exploring its Three-Kingdoms era mythical China that have aided my continued survival. So, without further ado, here’s some advice to get through this hellish adventure.
Wo Long demands and rewards aggression via the spirit gauge, a bar underneath your health that mimics Sekiro’s posture meter. Deplete this gauge, either by attacking or deflecting an enemy, and you’ll prime them for a satisfying fatal strike. This critical blow will kill in one hit or, and this is especially important for tougher goons, lower their morale rank so they take even more damage as the fight goes on. And because there’s no real stamina meter to contend with, you can attack as much as you want. So, be aggressive and cut them losers up. They’ll be dead before they even know what killed them, especially if you land that fatal strike.
Watch your step
If you’ve played the Nioh games, you know what I’m talking about here. Wo Long’s ancient China has a plethora of dubious traps littered about, from bridges that break in specific places to enemies hidden in hard-to-see locations. Other environmental hazards will render you damn near dead (like large bodies of water, which drop your health to a single point should you take an accidental swim) or afflict you with negative status effects (such as pooled sludge that increases your heaviness and reduces your movement speed). The game is hard enough, but the perilous environment makes for another, invisible yet omnipresent enemy you always have to watch out for.
Look for marking flags
I’ve mentioned flags in my initial impressions, my full review, and the above video for a good reason: They’re a great way to grow stronger in Wo Long. The larger battle flags, this game’s version of Elden Ring’s Sites of Grace, can be found on the main path. You’re expected to run into these; they’re where you level up, change spells, summon reinforcements, and the like. Battle flags also raise your morale rank, a number floating above the health bar that affects your damage resistance. There aren’t many battle flags in any given location. But scouting out the smaller marking flags, often found in hard-to-reach areas, will also increase your morale ranking. That’s not all, though, as these marking flags establish the floor (your fortitude ranking) that your morale ranking can never fall below. This is another method to, essentially, level up, because the higher your morale ranking, the more damage you can withstand. And if your morale ranking is higher than your enemy’s, you’ll deal extra damage to them, turning even the most fearsome jerks into wimps.
Practice the deflect a lot
A fundamental aspect of Wo Long’s combat, deflecting is not only necessary to execute in the more challenging encounters, but it’s also hella satisfying to pull off with a pleasing sword-clanging sound effect. It’s a lot like Sekiro’s parry. It’s fast and difficult to time (as each weapon’s deflect window is different), leaving you open to a swift death if you misjudge or spam the input.
This is why you should practice, practice, practice. You could get experience with the deflect in real combat scenarios, going from battlefield to battlefield hoping you learn to nail it consistently. Or you could travel via the battle flags to initiate basic training. This does run you through the standard mechanics you need to survive ancient China, but there’s also a brief deflect tutorial you can replay as often as you like to really pick up the maneuver’s timing. Getting the deflect down will not only give you an edge in fights, throwing your opponent off-balance, but it will also leave your enemy open for that delicious fatal strike. So, yeah, make sure you work on that deflect. It will come in super clutch.
Look for goodies, stay for views
Maybe this is a no-brainer for veteran Soulslike players, but it can be easy to speedrun the narrative, especially in a game as enthralling as Wo Long. But stop and turn over the stones in the various maps you visit; you’ll be surprised by what you find. Often, it’s a tougher enemy that will reward with a ton of Genuine Qi (this game’s experience points). Occasionally, you’ll stumble upon marking flags and helpful shortcuts to aid in traversing the world. Sometimes, though, you’ll score a chest with some legendary loot, like a general’s halberd or a warlord’s helmet. And on top of finding these goodies, investigating the locales will lead you to some incredible views, such as the cloudy skyline atop a hill in Ji Province or a gorgeous flower field on the luscious Mt. Tianzhushan. Take a minute to soak it all in. Before long, you’ll ascend into darkness.
Keep an eye out for invasions
Wo Long will sometimes throw invader NPCs at you. This happens whether or not you play online, as the game’s way to acclimate you to the actual multiplayer. And they spawn randomly, charging you from all directions. More often than not, though, when you’re notified you’ve been invaded, the enemy will get stuck on an environmental structure (like a lantern post) as they beeline toward you. It’s funny, sure, watching some red-colored dude run in place trying to get you. But you should really go after and eliminate them because invaders reward you with solid loot and oodles of experience points. These soldiers are tough, normally a more experienced warrior who’s intelligent and relentless that will test your might. But bodying them is a gratifying display of martial arts, and you get good stuff for doing so.
Yes, you can pause this game
You read that right: In a genre synonymous with nonstop play, Wo Long is one of the few Soulslikes with a pause feature. It’s a little more involved, requiring you press the Options button, then the Touchpad on PS5 (or the Menu button, then the View button on Xbox), but the function is there all the same. And it’s pretty much limitless. You can pause during combat, while exploring the world, in the middle of a heated boss fight—just about whenever you want, save for cutscenes. This is a blessing. You don’t have to worry about dying when you pause because, as in traditional games, pausing in Wo Long stops everything. No one moves, so nothing can get you when you’re not looking.
Try feeding the cute Shitieshou
The Shitieshou are these little adorable, black-and-white panda bear demons scattered throughout the game. Meaning “iron chewer,” the benevolent Shitieshou literally live up to that translation as they’ll eat whatever metal you give them in exchange for a random accessory to complement your playstyle. Maybe this will be a hairpin that increases physical defense or an incense that raises element resistance, so not every trade will be beneficial to you in the moment. However, on top of being small fuzzy balls of cuteness, these panda bears are a great way to recycle the vast amount of gear you’ll accumulate, especially since the accessory’s stats are determined by the rarity of the item that you feed to the Shitieshou. Either way, they’re just hungry lil guys, so be nice every once in a while and feed them.
Always recruit two reinforcements
Seeing as there’s multiplayer in Wo Long, you can call upon reinforcements to accompany you on your journey. However, you don’t have to only summon human players. The game gives you the option to hit up various NPCs, like general Zhao Yun and rebel Zhang Jiao, to join you in battle. The best part is, aside from maybe one or two story moments when you must go it alone, you can recruit up to two warriors at a time to get your back. This drastically reduces the challenges you’ll face in ancient China as they’ll always stay by your side, can be revived when downed in combat, and summoned again should you eat dirt. You do need the Tiger Seal item to call your homies up, but this consumable is very easy to find in the world. And it’s not like bringing in reinforcements increases enemy ranks or alters their damage. In short, there’s no reason not to have two buddies with you whenever you can.
Use every Dragon Vein item you pick up
You’ll pick up a bevy of items journeying through Wo Long. But if there’s one consumable you should use the moment you find it, it’s the two Dragon Vein objects you’ll periodically come across. Survival is important, so making sure you’ve got ample Dragon’s Cure Pots (Wo Long’s interpretation of Dark Souls’ Estus Flask) is a necessity. That’s where Dragon Vein Crystals come in, as they increase the number of times you can heal with the Dragon’s Cure Pot. To raise the efficiency of the Dragon’s Cure Pot so that it heals more HP, you’ll want the Dragon Vein Essence, too. These items are difficult to nab, though. Some are hidden in chests and hard-to-reach locations. Others can be looted off the corpses of tough enemies. But both are boons for the Dragon’s Cure Pot, ensuring you live during this treacherous adventure.
If you can, get that delicious fatal strike
I’ve mentioned fatal strikes a few times already, but they truly are a useful mechanic before a fight and during an encounter. Much like the Nioh games and Sekiro, enemies will occasionally be overlaid with red circles. This appears for a variety of reasons: You’ve broken their spirit and they’re now vulnerable to an attack, you’ve snuck up from above or behind to get the drop on them, you’ve hit them enough times that their guard breaks, etcetera. All of these scenarios open a foe up to the pleasurable fatal strike, a move that sees your character perform a cool-looking martial arts attack as the camera zooms into the action. Most times, this will kill in one hit or deal a significant amount of damage. In all cases, though, successfully landing a fatal strike will lower your opponent’s morale ranking, leaving them susceptible to more damage as the battle progresses. It’s dope, and is both gratifying to pull off and helps makes fights a bit easier.
Don’t forget to return to the Hidden Village
Wo Long features a hub area, but you’re only taken there one or two times throughout the roughly 40-hour campaign. But when you rest at a battle flag, you can travel to the Hidden Village of Mt. Tianzhushan whenever you want. It’s actually very important to visit, but surprisingly easy to overlook in the “travel” menu. This lush locale, lined with spidery vines, towering mountains, and sadly inaccessible buildings, has various denizens you can chat with to get the tea about what’s happening in the world, like a wife who sent her husband out to get an ingredient for the perfect beer or some girl who lost her house keys while training in the fields.
Aside from kiki-ing with the mountain peoples, including the soldiers you meet on the battlefield, there are two specific VIPs you should hit up: the sorcerer Zuo Ci, who can respec your character’s stats and rejigger their appearance; and the blacksmith Zhu Xia, who does blacksmith things like upgrading your equipment and applying cosmetic decorations to your gear. Sometimes you need to make adjustments to ensure you actually make it through your latest trial. Revisiting the Hidden Village periodically during your journey gives you the chance to do that, so be sure to always make the loading screen trip back to Mt. Tianzhushan.
And there you have it. A dozen tips that, I hope, will make your time with Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty’s hazardous adventure a little less precarious. Again, this isn’t an easy game. It’s a Soulslike, after all, so all the genre’s hallmarks are here. But by experimenting and using the tools the game gives you, I’ve no doubt you’ll reach and beat the final boss. Go kick butt out there in ancient China, and make sure your gang’s with you.