Team Ninja is a development studio that requires no introduction, as it has worked on some of the best action games ever made, such as the Ninja Gaiden series, among other franchises. In the past few years, however, the Japanese studio proved they definitely know how to make a challenging action role/playing game in the vein of FromSoftware's Dark Souls series with the Nioh series.
While the Nioh series has been seemingly been put on hold, Team Ninja is hardly done with challenging action role-playing games, or Masocore games, as they are called in Japan, and are hard at work on Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, a game that has the potential of becoming Team Ninja's Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and a hit on his own right.
Last week, we spoke with Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty Producers Fumihiko Yasuda and Masaaki Yamagiwa, discussing story, gameplay, the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S demo, and PC-exclusive features, among other things.
(The interview has been conducted through an interpreter and has been edited for clarity)
Wo Long Fallen Dynasty stars a player-created character, as opposed to the first Nioh. Why the choice?
Making your own character and letting them take part in real historical battles and fight alongside famous warlords and military commanders was one of the biggest appeals in Nioh 2, and we wanted to keep that for Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty as well, as the game follows Chinese history as Nioh followed Japanese history. Having a set protagonist helps promote any game, but characters like William in Nioh or Ryu Hayabusa in Ninja Gaiden do not talk that much during the games and do not contribute much to the story, so having a fixed character doesn't change too much, in terms of storytelling.
How important will the story be for the entire experience?
The story will be important for the entire experience, as it will help players immerse themselves in the world we have created. Establishing military commanders and being able to fight together with them, or even against them as bosses, will also be very important. Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty's main focus is the action, but a certain level of immersion will make players feel even more involved in these action elements.
Wo Long Fallen Dynasty feels somewhat different from the Nioh games, placing great emphasis on learning the enemies' moveset to perform satisfying parries and deflect their attacks. Was this always intended, or did it come to be during development?
Deflecting mechanics have always been an important of the game, and one of the key elements that define the experience, which gives players the freedom to choose when they want to be offensive and when they want to be defensive. The Spirit Gauge is another mechanic that regulates the flow of combat, letting players decide when it is the time to go all out or to be more defensive. All of these mechanics aim to give players not just this combat freedom but also a feel for Chinese martial arts, and we are happy when players notice this, as it means we are doing our job right.
Wo Long Fallen Dynasty features a very different take on the loot system features in the Nioh series. Why the change?
The Nioh series had a lot going on in it, and the main focus in the first game was on the samurai action, with many different abilities that players had to think hard about how to utilize properly and we built upon these features in the second game by adding Yokai abilities. In Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, we wanted to focus mainly on the action, so we made the game a little bit more streamlined, which also makes it a game that is easier to pick up and play. The game is also a new IP, so it made sense to start from square one. We want it to have its own identity and come with features that can differentiate it properly from the Nioh series.
Wo Long has the mission-based progression as the Nioh series. Have you ever considered creating a more open-ended experience during development? Do you see future games from the studio adopting a different approach?
Wo-Long: Fallen Dynasty is more open than the Nioh series, not only due to the addition of jumping mechanics but also due to the game being set in China, as we wanted to give players the feel of a much bigger location, with huge vistas, unique landscapes, and massive castles which are all elements that strongly define China. The game is still mission-based like Nioh because we wanted players to focus on the action and the intensity of battles with as fewer distractions as possible. Even like this, players will have many reasons to explore stages, as reaching as many different flags as possible to take advantage of the Morale system is quite important. So, even if Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty isn't an open-world game, players will still be able to do some exploring, and get rewarded for it. As for the future, we are already developing a proper open-world game with Rise of the Ronin, and its open-world features will allow us to replicate what being a Ninja is supposed to feel like.
PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S players have been able to try out Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty thanks to a time-limited demo, and its feedback survey is out, highlighting the changes that will be made to the experience based on how players felt in the demo. Were you surprised at some of the feedback? Are there further changes planned outside of those outlined in the survey?
Before the demo's launch, we focused on the game's central mechanics, such as the Morale system and the deflecting mechanics, and we felt we had reached a good point with them. Health potions being a little too hard to use or the deflecting timing feedback was somewhat anticipated, as we focused mostly on the central game mechanics and left the fine-tuning for later, which we would have wanted to do for the demo, but ultimately couldn't. We believe we were able to make a fine demo to show these core mechanics, so from now until release, we will be focusing on tweaking and tuning elements highlighted in the survey alongside other elements that the team noticed.
Will there be another demo before Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty releases? Will it release on PC and previous-generation consoles?
We know that many Japanese players were unable to try out the Wo-Long: Fallen Dynasty demo as it is still difficult to find PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S consoles in stores, and we believe the situation is not that different in other countries, so we hear from a lot of fans that they wanted to try the game, but couldn't. We are currently considering offering players on other platforms a chance to try Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty before release, but there isn't much else we can say right now on the matter.
Both Nioh 2 and Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin support NVIDIA DLSS on PC. Will Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty follow suit and come with PC-exclusive features?
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty will come with mouse and keyboard support for PC as well as NVIDIA DLSS support. At the time, however, we can't say if it will be available at launch, like for Nioh 2, or implemented later on with a patch, like for Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin.
Multiplayer will play a big role in Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty and the release on Xbox Game Pass can make the community bigger than ever. Will the game support cross-platform play?
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty will support cross-generation multiplayer, allowing users on PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4 or Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One to play together. Cross-platform play between PlayStation and Xbox users will not be supported.
Is Nioh ever coming back, or do you feel that you have done everything you could with that series?
At this point, we really can't say. We know that a lot of players would like to see a new entry in the Nioh series, and we would definitely like to be able to develop another in the future.
Thank you for your time!