Team Ninja has earned a reputation for crafting some of the most satisfying action games around, transitioning swiftly from the high-octane action Ninja Gaiden series to the Soulslike thrills of Nioh. Its latest effort, That Long: Fallen Dynasty, is an unforgiving but deeply rewarding display of the craziness that lived up to this dynasty. Smooth swordplay, spectacular boss fights, and novel systems further prove Team Ninja’s ability to craft incredible experiences. Though its back half is hampered by a lack of enemy variety, its lightning-fast pairings make it one of the more gratifying titles in recent memory.
Set in a version of 2nd century China inspired by the classic novel romance of the three kingdoms, we follow an unnamed militia soldier as they engage in a battle over an immortality-granting elixir. While fans of the book are likely to enjoy fighting alongside their favorite figures, the narrative does little to communicate their nuance or depth, with storytelling that serves as little more than set dressing.
However, while the writing is unmistakable, the battles are entrenched. Those familiar with SoulsLike will feel at home with Long’s similar progression system, online features, and shared brutal difficulty. More specifically, the main combat is directly influenced by Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, with an emphasis on parrying attacks so you can eventually break your foe’s composure and land a fatal strike.
While plenty of titles have attempted to mimic these elements to varying results, The Long: Fallen Dynasty evokes the same joy and frustration found in the games that inspired it, pairing precise controls and captures the white-knees intensity unleashed by a well-telegraphed foe. attack. Here, deflecting blows allow you to build up spirit, which can be used to bolster your defenses, cast powerful moves, or cast elemental-themed spells.
Deflection is essential for getting up to speed, and once you get used to it, it’s responsive and totally rewarding to play with. Everything can be overcome; Sword swings, swipes from giant monsters, and even bolts of lightning, each accompanied by a musical clang of steel that sends tingles. exchanges can be deliberate as you probe for weaknesses and deftly use your spirit, or in the blink of an eye you can unleash an unblockable critical blow, shattering an enemy’s chivalry, and demolish them in an exhilarating moment. When combined with boss fights, a flexible progression that lets you freely reshape your character, and wickedly designed levels that invite exploration, at its best, this is some of the best action in some time. One of the entries.
Unfortunately, there are noticeable drawbacks. Most obviously, it backs up against longer strides in its last half, resulting in some tedium and stretches that aren’t challenging enough. There are too few unique enemies for an experience based on memorizing patterns, making it feel like a rhythm game that plays the same songs over and over. Other annoyances include a distracting loot system and noticeable technical issues, such as pop-ins and framerate drops in large areas.
But even as its second part fails in comparison to the first, The Long: Fallen Dynasty is a well-respected delight. Its action is precise and responsive, and learning the intricacies of each opponent is immensely satisfying. While I wish its back stretch was either shorter or had a wider variety of enemies, this is the rare title that inspires trance-like focus and ecstatic moments of victory. It may not quite reach the heights of the works that inspired it, but it’s not far off.