Koei Tecmo and Team Ninja know how to do historical fiction. They’ve been doing it for years, from the early Edo period of Japan with Nioh and ancient China with Dynasty Warriors. With a blend of real-life accuracy, romanticism, and magic, they create games that honor historical roots while telling engaging fantasy stories.
The upcoming action RPG Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty seeks to continue in that tradition, combining history and the supernatural into an epic combination. It takes inspiration from a specific period of Chinese history, the era of the Three Kingdoms. You’ve got a game that takes several known figures from the area and puts them into a fantasy-tinged take on history.
So how does Wo Long take influence from both history and our love of fantasy? Let’s take a look at how the game delivers a perfect blend of magic, history, and action.
What period of Chinese history does Wo Long deal with?
Wo Long takes place during a mysterious period of history known as the Three Kingdoms era. It’s named so because of the three states that divided China during the time: Cao Wei, Shu Han, and Eastern Wu. This time period was marked by a series of battles, wars, government takeovers, and betrayals.
The Three Kingdoms period is a complex, incredibly deep period of China’s history. The leadership of the kingdoms of China changed hands so many times, with political infighting — not to mention regular fighting — running rampant. Historians generally agree that it lasted from 220 AD (the end of the collapse of the Han dynasty) to 280 AD (reunification under the Jin dynasty). Others note, however, that the conflicts began as early as 184.
It would be impossible to fully cover the history of the Three Kingdoms period in a short article like this. The basics you need to know are that the three states of China, each led by their own emperor, claimed sovereignty over the whole of the country. Over the nearly hundred-year period, these states battled with each other over possession of territory and the right to rule.
The end result was the bloodiest period in China’s long history. It’s alleged that nearly 36 million people died during this time. The state of Wu won the conflict in the end, but the Jin dynasty they established ultimately crumbled in 420 AD.
Blending history and fantasy
The tricky thing about the Three Kingdoms period is that we have so little concrete evidence to support it. Historians generally agree with the dates and persons/territories involved, but as to the exact state of affairs, it’s almost impossible to say.
One of the most well-known resources on the Three Kingdoms is the book Romance of the Three Kingdoms. This historical novel, published in the 14th century by Luo Guanzhong, is based on historical documents from the 3rd century. It depicts hundreds of historical figures during the Three Kingdoms period and their numerous plots, schemes, and battles for power.
However, this novel takes plenty of liberties with the truth and dramatizes several details. True to its title, it depicts a romantic, bloody depiction of China’s leaders, soldiers, and emperors. Many characters are depicted with magic or supernatural abilities, apparently done to appeal to a wider audience.
While this less-factual retelling does make the Three Kingdoms period a little bit more mysterious, this novel has contributed to a lot of the cultural and historical obsession with this time period. Without this novel and subsequent stories about this era, this conflict might have been mostly forgotten except for Chinese historians. It’s influenced countless books, movies, and TV shows, especially in China — not to mention, video games.
Wo Long and the history of Three Kingdoms in video games
Wo Long isn’t the first video game to take influence from the history of the Three Kingdoms. That’s been the bread and butter of Koei Tecmo for decades. Perhaps the company’s most noteworthy is the Romance of the Three Kingdoms series of computer strategy games. First released in 1985 and still going strong, these turn-based role-playing games let you relive famous battles of the Three Kingdoms as numerous factions.
This later set the stage for a spin-off series, Dynasty Warriors. Developed by Omega Force and published by Koei Tecmo, it took a decidedly more action-heavy approach. It places you directly in the action of multiple commanders as you slash through enemies. (Or, in the case of the first game, fight one-on-one. But whatever.) As with the original novel, it was a far more fantastical depiction of the Three Kingdoms — complete with magical spells and abilities.
That brings us to Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, developed by Team Ninja and published by Koei Tecmo. This upcoming action-RPG mixes history and fantasy into a wonderful blend. It pays attention to the details that we know about the Three Kingdoms. Team Ninja depicts a rendition of the country that feels so deeply enriched in the era’s history. Yet many of the characters have magic powers. With the intense relationships and power struggles, the magic makes these warriors all the more threatening.
The supernatural elements extend to the enemies as well. As a nameless warrior during the Yellow Turban Rebellion (circa 184 AD), you’ll be fighting against demons plaguing the lands of China. It’s obviously a fantasy tale, with mysticism and magic abound. Set against the backdrop of the Three Kingdoms, Wo Long pays homage to both real history and popular depictions of this era.
When can you experience this historical fantasy?
We’ll see exactly how Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty represents ancient Chinese history before long. The game launches on March 3 for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC via Steam. Wo Long will also be available on day one on Xbox and PC Game Pass. A demo will also be available to play starting on Feb. 24.
Pre-orders for the physical and digital editions, priced at $59.99 USD, are available now. You can pick them up via our affiliate links below!
What do you think of Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty? Interested to see how it represents the Three Kingdoms period? Let us know!