Wo Long development producer Masaaki Yamagiwa has commented on the difficulty level of Team Ninja’s new Soulslike, revealed at the Xbox and Bethesda Showcase.
Yamagiwa previously worked at Sony’s Japan Studio when it published Bloodborne, so understands the importance of balanced difficulty.
“Difficult games shouldn’t be difficult just for the sake of it,” Yamagiwa told IGN. “I think it’s really important that this difficulty exists for the purpose of delivering a sense of accomplishment to the players once they have overcome it. That’s why I think players should always be able to blame themselves when they die. The game has to be fair and its difficulty should never be unreasonable. In that regard, it works in my favour that I’m not very good at games myself. I’ll always naturally be judging the fairness of games.”
Wo Long is a Soulslike set in China’s Three Kingdoms period and is a collaboration between Team Ninja and Koei Tecmo, famous for its Dynasty Warriors series.
The game began development following Team Ninja’s Nioh, so shares much of its Soulslike DNA.
“Making it a challenging game was something we had decided from the beginning,” said producer Fumihiko Yasuda. “With all the legendary heroes of the Three Kingdoms period, it can come across as somewhat campy, but in reality it was a time of war and devastation. It was a dark period in which people were constantly fighting, which is a great match for a Soulslike game. Being set in China, Wo Long is more massive in scale compared to our previous games set in Japan, which allowed us to show a more severe and dark world.
“The same can be said for the difficulty. There’s no doubt this will be an extremely challenging and demanding game, but we’ve come up with new ways to approach that difficulty. In that regard, players can look forward to a type of satisfaction that wasn’t present in earlier Team Ninja titles.”
Following the huge success of Elden Ring, as well as other Soulslike games this year such as Tunic and Sifu, means high difficulty isn’t enough for a game to stand out and catch attention. It needs to balance difficulty and fairness, while also bringing unique elements.
That’s why Wo Long will introduce a new mechanic around a morale system.
“We wanted to take the unique elegance of Chinese martial arts and make it work as a stylish form of action. Utilizing this action to overcome challenging battles should create an experience like no other. Since the game is set during the wartime of the Three Kingdoms period, we came up with a system that revolves around the warrior’s morale. Both the player and enemies have a morale status, which will lead to new strategies within the Soulslike genre,” said Yamagiwa.
This system will impact player death and is seemingly inspired by the Nemesis system of Shadow of Mordor.
Said Yamagiwa: “We wanted to create a type of strategism with adversity as its theme. You gain something by defeating a strong enemy, but the same can be said for when an enemy kills the player. The balance between strength changes whenever someone dies.”
Further, Team Ninja are sticking to level-based design rather than open world for Wo Long. This isn’t the studio’s answer to Elden Ring.
Wo Long is due for release in early 2023 across Xbox and PlayStation consoles, and PC.