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Exclusive Interview with Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty Devs Fumihiko Yasuda and Masaaki Yamagiwa

By Isabella Jiangcheng
Aug. 27, 2022 updated 09:00

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty features a darker version of the Three Kingdoms with monsters rampant through the lands of a war-torn China.

It has been two months since Team Ninja announced the first trailer of Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty at the 2022 Xbox & Bethesda game showcase, but players are still fascinated by the "souls-like" epic of the Three Kingdoms.

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty

Led by Nioh producer Yasuda Fumihiko and Bloodborne producer Masaaki Yamagiwa, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty has gained players’ attention since 2020. Koei Tecmo, the company behind Team Ninja, has a huge track record for Three Kingdoms-themed titles. Its mature experience in historical research has proven to be a quality assurance for Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty. At the same time, the past success of Nioh and Bloodborne in creating the most creative and hardcore fantasy-themed action titles has also hinted at the great potential for what Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty will bring.

Masaaki Yamagiwa (“Bloodbourne”) and Fumihiko Yasuda (“Nioh” series)

Recently, Team Ninja showed the second trailer for the game to sate some of the players' curiosity. The latest trailer focuses on the battle scenes in the game and the various gods and monsters that players will have to face in the game. Although set in the Three Kingdoms era, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty’s ambition is not to develop yet "another" Three Kingdoms strategy game. For Team Ninja, creating dark fantasy in a troubled world that is more immersive than the Nioh series is their ultimate goal for Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty. Of course, for Yasuda and Yamagiwa, the key to the immersive experience is probably ‘create monsters so powerful that our players will be repeatedly tortured so that they believe the story is real.

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty Gameplay Trailer

Superpixel got an opportunity to talk to Fumihiko Yasuda and Masaaki Yamagiwa, the men behind Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, right before the release of the game’s latest trailer and chatted with them about the highlights of Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty that players can anticipate.

Wo Long in the interview refers to Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty


Superpixel: We understand that originally Team Ninja considered setting the game in the Genpei War era, but why did you choose the Three Kingdom setting in the end?

Fumihiko Yasuda: We considered many different backgrounds for the game. However, we thought that the Genpei War period was too similar to the Sengoku period in which Nioh was set. We want to provide gamers with a brand-new experience. I personally enjoy titles related to the Three Kingdoms period. The period represents turbulent times when strategy and romance co-exist, and loyalty and hatred collide. Since Team Ninja has never done anything related to the Three Kingdoms, we would love to try it and bring our players a top-notch action game.

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty

Superpixel: We saw a lot of monsters in the latest trailer; how do you balance the historical background with the fantasy theme and characters?

Fumihiko Yasuda: Although the Three Kingdoms itself has its own heroes and grand battles, Wo Long still is an action game that needs to incorporate a lot of powerful enemies. Three Kingdoms is a war-torn era, after all, so we chose to add a few fantasy elements to this dark period to enhance the idea that ghosts and monsters lingered in the land of China. 

Koei Tecmo has launched a variety of Three Kingdoms games, and Team Ninja certainly doesn’t want to go the same way as the other titles. We hope Wo Long is a Three Kingdoms story with a hardcore fantasy setting. But this does not mean that our plot will deviate entirely from the history and the player's understanding. We have already tried the concept of blending history with fantasy in our Nioh series and have had success. We look forward to perfecting Wo Long with our previous experiences.

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty

Superpixel: The designs of the monsters in the trailer are quite unique. Are they based on Chinese mythology? In addition to Classic of Mountains and Seas, did you draw on other literary and historical works?

Masaaki Yamagiwa: The monsters that appear in the trailer this time include Shuigui (water ghosts), Changgui (evil spirits in the form of a tiger), and Suanyu (a bird with a snake-like body). In fact, they are the ones that some gamers may be familiar with already. Although they may not all come from Classic of Mountains and Seas, we did refer to the literary works we can access and try not to violate the description of these gods and monsters in the traditional legends and folklores. We hope to make Wo Long a deserted and chaotic world that integrates historical facts and fantasy as much as possible and reduces the sense of being out of place, so we also have to do a little bit of our own design to adjust to this worldview.

Shuigui (Water ghosts)

Changgui (Evil spirits in the form of a tiger)

Suanyu (A bird with a snake-like body)

Superpixel: We do sense an apocalyptic, wasteland feeling in the trailer.

Fumihiko Yasuda: The idea of blending history and fantasy may seem like trying to mix oil and water together. Therefore, for game production, using design to improve credibility is the most important goal, and the player's sense of immersion has become the most important indicator for us. After all, a game is just a world created through CG and design. Fortunately for us, Wo Long is an action game. Players need to fight evil monsters along the way, and players will most likely be defeated countless times. Such setbacks will form a very strong sense of belonging and bring high viability to the game. We have been trialing out this concept in Nioh, and I believe we can do it well this time too.

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty

Superpixel: Many plots and concepts of the Nioh series are not only a challenge but also a process of learning and discovery for players unfamiliar with the Sengoku period. How will Wo Long demonstrate the charm of the Three Kingdoms period to players who are not familiar with this history?

Fumihiko Yasuda: We don't want to make Wo Long a textbook game that educates players about historical facts. For players who enjoy history, seeing the monsters from Classic of Mountains and Seas or fighting famous battles in the Three Kingdoms period in the game may be a unique surprise to them. These surprises allow them to have a deeper understanding of Wo Long and bring more joy to playing the game. But as developers, our purpose is to bring the best action gaming experience to everyone. We hope that even players who are unfamiliar with the history can enjoy the experience through our innovative combat graphics and deeply rooted narratives. Of course, if Wo Long can become an opportunity for everyone to understand history, we will also be very happy.

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty

Superpixel: Will there be historical characters in the game that will break the conventional understanding and have their image completely redesigned?

Masaaki Yamagiwa: The male protagonist you see in the trailer is Zhao Yun, who is also a character we put a lot of effort into designing based on Wo Long’s plot. As for other historical figures, we wanted to create characters who are slightly wilder and more brutal to align with Team Ninja’s overall ideology while not breaking these characters’ historical images.

Zhao Yun

Zhao Yun and the protagonist fighting side by side

Zhao Yun Concept Art

Superpixel: We heard that there are a few Chinese staff on the project. What work did they do, and were there any unexpected discoveries?

Masaaki Yamagiwa: The Chinese staff in our team have helped the project a lot throughout the development. In terms of design, Chinese staff participated in the verification of historical elements such as architectural designs. They also helped supervise the localization and voice dubbing, especially the polishing of the historically correct wording and phrasing for the Chinese version of the game. We attach great importance to the polishing of the Chinese version of Wo Long, and the Chinese staff has undoubtedly made great contributions to improving the quality of this game, for which we are very grateful.

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty Gameplay Trailer Mandarin Dubbing Version

Superpixel: Is there a big difference in design between Chinese weapons and Japanese swords and halberds? What sources of inspiration and references did you have for the combat moves?

Masaaki Yamagiwa: There is indeed a certain degree of difference between the two. We drew on past literature and videos for the action design of Wo Long, and we also had Chinese staff to help study the movements in Chinese martial arts movies. During motion capture, our team also invited stunt performers who can master Chinese weapons. However, Wo Long is still an action game rather than a historical game, after all. I hope that Chinese players can experience some cool visuals and actions beyond historical understanding while being satisfied with our research.

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty

Superpixel: Will the game allow character customization?

Masaaki Yamagiwa: Just like Nioh 2, players can customize their characters in Wo Long. We have also incorporated more Chinese-style elements into clothing and accessories,

Superpixel: What are some of the famous Three Kingdoms battles we can experience in the game?

Masaaki Yamagiwa: Players can enjoy a variety of famous Three Kingdoms battles in Wo Long. In our latest trailer, players probably already saw battle scenes, including Hulao Pass and Luoyang. But we can't reveal more information just yet.

Hulao Pass

Superpixel: Does Wo Long generally continue Nioh in terms of combat experience, or does it have some other new features?

Masaaki Yamagiwa: Wo Long has similarities with Nioh in terms of combat and visual design, but the fighting methods of the Japanese samurai in the Nioh series will be very different from the action of Chinese martial arts in Wo Long. In Wo Long, we adopted a concept called Hua Jin (dissolve enemy’s spirit) derived from traditional Chinese martial art. With this new concept, we believe players can experience the combat rhythm and strategy in a completely different way.

Superpixel: We see the protagonist summoning a beast in the trailer. Is this a combat feature in the game?

Masaaki Yamagiwa: We create a "Divine Beast" system in the game. The summoned beast that the player sees in the trailer is Zhuque (also known as the vermilion bird). These divine beasts will bring various help to players during the game. Of course, these legendary creatures are different from other monsters in the game. They have spirituality and divinity and will appear in the form of Xuanwu (black tortoise), Zhuque, and Qilin.

Zhuque (also known as the Vermilion Bird)

Superpixel: How is the difficulty of the boss battles balanced this time? How did the team decide if a battle was too difficult or too easy?

Masaaki Yamagiwa: The process of repeated trial and error. As developers, we can indeed increase the difficulty of the bosses and allow only a small number of players to pass the level, but we think that that will not be fun and it can be unfair to the majority of the players. Therefore, when we design the boss battle, our priority is to balance the difficulty levels. In the end, we want players to beat a boss and never have to deal with it again.

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty

Superpixel: Will developers pay attention to speedrunners? Any particular speedrunning skills that impress you or perhaps make you guys think, "something like this could also be featured in our gameplay"?

Masaaki Yamagiwa: Wo Long did not specifically consider or adjust any features in relation to speedrunning. As developers, we have no way of incentivizing our players to do something like this (speedrunning). Only when the title is released and players can actively explore it will speedruns become an interesting thing. We hope that after the release of Wo Long, we can see players play to their heart's content. Personally, I love to watch the speedrun videos; it's very entertaining.

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty

Superpixel: Finally, compared with the existing Three Kingdoms games on the market, what is it that makes Wo Long stand out? Is it a new interpretation of the Three Kingdoms, the fantasy elements, or the hardcore action gameplay?

Fumihiko Yasuda: Team Ninja has a strong legacy and identity among all its games. Wo Long is an important title that combines history and combat after the Nioh series, so we will try our best to make it a solid action game. We hope Wo Long can even bring better immersive experiences to our players than the Nioh series did.

Masaaki Yamagiwa: The core of Wo Long is the philosophy of "Hua Jin" in our battles: in a heated battle where life is on the line, players can use Chinese martial arts to defeat the enemy gorgeously. The turn of events will make players nervous while invigorating their fighting spirit at the same time. Precisely because we want to present such a philosophy,  we believe that the chaos of the Three Kingdoms period is the only worldview Wo Long can adopt. We will definitely polish this concept and hope that players can feel this experience.

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty will be released in early 2023 and available on Steam, Xbox One/Series, PS4/5 and Microsoft Store.

Steam Page: Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty