Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty‘s first expansion, Battle of Zhongyuan, was a by-the-numbers affair. It demonstrated why Team Ninja’s action game excelled while also not addressing its faults. Conqueror of Jiangdong, the second DLC, is in a similar boat and has a handful of incredible and challenging boss fights. But while its positives are still evident, this follow-up expansion also more clearly points out Wo Long’s shortcomings.
Wo Long is still — and will likely always be — a fantastic action game with smooth controls. Melee bouts are fast, and deflecting blows is a responsive central mechanic that can more than support the entire game. Unlike Lies of P, the window is a little on the wide side, but this allows players to feel more powerful without requiring perfection. Using the stamina-like Spirit Meter intelligently (which this update has also buffed) is an easy-to-grasp mechanic that yields more depth without overcomplicating it all.
There just aren’t many new enemies to exercise these combat abilities on. Its lobster creatures are both silly and a great addition to the bestiary, but there’s not much else besides that; even the levels themselves don’t stick out from what Team Ninja has already created. Conqueror of Jiangdong’s handful of stages has the typical jungles and rainy shipyards that are also in the base experience. Nioh 2’s DLC improved over time by going more and more fantastical in order to stick out from the base game, yet those same principles haven’t been applied to Wo Long.
The new boss fights fare a little better but are unnecessarily hamstrung. As is the case with almost every other part of Wo Long, these climactic showdowns are held back by the friendly AI. They either make battles laughably easy or create too much chaos and artificially crank up the difficulty. While they are likely meant to dial down the overall level of challenge and create a more unique experience, they just make Wo Long worse.
However, these showdowns are still brilliant at their core, and this is only evident if players go out of the way to dismiss the AI or play the side missions that strip away companions. This allows players to actually learn patterns and persist through skill, not luck. Every one of these bosses is excellently designed and has a ton of moves that require speedy reflexes to deflect, so it’s disappointing that these better battles can only shine in optional quests. The last boss doesn’t get its own side mission, though, and is one of the toughest and most rewarding fights in the whole game. Although, that’s only evident after dismissing both dumb allies that are just liabilities wearing armor.
Friendly characters diminishing Wo Long’s combat was a problem in the original campaign but is even more prevalent and annoying here. Any irritation like that is only going to compound if it keeps happening, and this DLC has given it that space.
This holds true for Wo Long’s other annoyances, like its easy difficulty and endless supply of useless gear. Conqueror of Jiangdong isn’t much of a challenge, especially for anyone who has thoroughly mined the rest of the game. These relatively easygoing levels make the final boss even more surprising since the difficulty spike is so ludicrously sudden and steep. There’s also a new feature that automatically sells armor, weapons, or accessories under a certain threshold when resting at a battle flag (which is helpful), but it doesn’t address the underlying problem of how bloated its gear system is.
The one new notable piece of equipment is the new weapon: the long sword. It’s terribly explained in the brief tutorial pop-up, but it’s an interesting blade that is built around charging attacks. Charging doesn’t leave players totally vulnerable, either, as it’s still possible to deflect incoming blows while focusing. Parrying while charging builds power even faster, so it incentivizes and rewards skilled play and those who are willing to risk playing offense and defense at the same time. As was the case with the cestus gauntlets in Battle of Zhongyuan, Team Ninja has repeatedly shown its knack for creating unique weapons that can change how the game is played.
Wo Long: Conqueror of Jiangdong DLC Review: Final Verdict
Team Ninja still can’t tell stories, though, as Conqueror of Jiangdong’s cutscenes are nonsensical and haphazardly stitched together to justify going to each level. And while the plot doesn’t matter here, it is yet another example of how the studio is treading water with Conqueror of Jiangdong. This sophomore expansion includes some amazing boss fights, but ones that are still sullied by unhelpful allies and relegated to side missions. These hiccups sit on top of the game’s small pile of problems that is slowly growing as the DLC rolls out. Wo Long is still a quality action game and Conqueror of Jiangdong is a reminder of that, but it also points out — and magnifies — its weaknesses.
Disclaimer: This Wo Long: Conqueror of Jiangdong DLC review is based on a PS5 copy provided by the publisher. Played on version 1.018.000.