The first boss fight in Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is right up there with the toughest first bosses in video game history. This opening battle pits you against Zhang Liang of the Yellow Turbans, as you clash in a kinetic two-phase fight to the death. It’s an intense skill check that challenges your prowess of Wo Long’s mechanics almost immediately. In many ways, it feels like a rite of passage for the rest of the game and a bold statement of intent from developer Team Ninja. I initially loved how it forced me to adapt to the demands of the game’s particular brand of Souls-like combat, yet the further I progressed, the more this feeling dissipated as I realized that this introductory struggle was little more than an unbalanced outlier, providing a much sterner test than the bosses following it.
For many, this sudden difficulty spike will be a barrier to entry, halting progress a mere 10 minutes into the game. It’s a shame Wo Long begins with such a sturdy roadblock, not least because this initial undertaking isn’t indicative of the rest of the game moving forward. In fact, outside of this first boss, Team Ninja has crafted one of the more approachable Souls-likes in what is a traditionally challenging genre.
I didn’t encounter another boss fight on par with Zhang Liang’s difficulty until roughly 15 hours into Wo Long’s campaign. Most of the bosses in between were a relative cakewalk, to the point where I was able to cut down each one on my first attempt–usually in under a minute. I still had fun dispatching every single one, but the ease with which I was able to do so makes them lose some of their luster and reinforces the notion that the first boss is at odds with the rest of the game. The battle with Zhang Liang sets up expectations that never come to fruition, particularly when other fights allow you to summon help from either AI or human teammates.
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