Five years ago – to the day, mind you – that the original Ori and the Blind Forest came out for Xbox One, Moon Studios has returned with Ori and the Will of the Wisps. We’ve been looking forward to this one for a while, if only because of the pure majesty and bliss that the original game provided. Imagine excelling that particular game in a number of areas, with more gameplay, more challenges and more tranquil beauty than we could ever expect from our Xbox One console (or Windows PC if you want to take that route). Lo and behold, that’s just what the team has done because this is easily one of the best games of the year.
This adventure once again puts players in control of a white guardian spirit, and although we won’t go into too much detail, there’s a new owl character that ties in with the character’s destiny. Where it goes from here is up to you, as you journey through the game’s massive Metroidvania-esque environments. And if you thought the original Ori was something, hang on to your dream cap, because this one is even bigger.
Exploring in Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a thing of majesty. You’ll break through walls, drop down into lower platforms, and encounter dangerous foes as you make your way across the map. You can easily pause the game and see where you are, and where you’ll need to go next, so there’s never an issue of getting lost. Surviving, however, is a completely different story.
You’ll die a lot in Ori and the Will of the Wisps, but it’s in an educational way, as you overcome traps and adversaries and continue on your quest. Moon Studios has balanced out the save points tremendously, as they kick in automatically this time, instead of you feeling the need to activate checkpoints manually. This goes a long way in inspiring you to continue your adventure.
The platforming in Ori and the Will of the Wisps is better than ever. Along with the ability to double jump and climb up walls, the heroic guardian can also unleash attacks, including a stylish slash that can cut through most objects with ease. There are other abilities you’ll pick up as well, adding depth to the overall game and really making you feel that sense of progression – even over what the original release previously offered.
Oh, and there’s challenge aplenty here. The chase sequences within the game have multiplied tremendously, from escaping a deadly tidal wave to overcoming other perils that come your way. These make the waterfall from the original game look like a simple whirlpool. However, once you figure things out, you’ll master these sequences with ease and continue on your breathtaking journey.
Moon Studios has injected Ori and the Will of the Wisps with inspired, precise gameplay. You’ll never run into any platforming woes here – unless you suck at it, of course – and find each move coming off perfectly. Sure, there’s a higher sense of difficulty, but Ori challenges you to overcome these odds with your newfound sense of moves. They’re really something and give you even more control over the hero than ever before. Now that’s how you move forward with a sequel.
What’s more, you can implement different abilities with your character, such as perks that give you the ability to increase your power with attacks, decrease damage taken, suck up gems left behind enemies and more. You can equip up to three of these at a time, and mix things up so things never get dull. You’ll spend hours on end implementing new changes and seeing just what they can do for you.
You’ll need them, too, because, oh, boy, are the bosses a handful. Not only are they imaginative, but also incredibly brutal. But that said, the checkpoint system makes things more than fair; and once you figure out a pattern, you’ll be on your merry little way.
The game will take a good amount of time to get through, thanks to all the hidden goodies, perks and more. In fact, we probably spent more time with Ori and the Will of the Wisps than we do with most traditional Metroidvania games. That’s saying something.
Not to mention truly stunning visuals that you’ll see along the way. The game is filled with striking backgrounds, moody and atmospheric lighting, and razor-sharp animation that doesn’t let up in the least. And the loading is just the right speed as well, so you don’t have to wait too long to jump back in. Likewise, the soundtrack is epic, with enough wonderful melodies that play right along with each gameplay sequence. There’s not a dull one in the bunch. The voice work and sound effects work incredibly well, too.
There’s barely anything dull about Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Newbies might find themselves frustrated in certain parts; but, really, the game provides more than enough chances to excel. And it does so with a wondrous presentation that goes miles beyond the original, especially with its imaginative, gorgeous design. Throw in gameplay that keeps changing around every corner, and you have an adventure that’s got a mighty spirit.
If you played the original Ori, you should jump into Will of the Wisps with little hesitation. And even if you haven’t, you shouldn’t miss this journey into the magical forest. It’ll entrance you.
A bold experience that outperforms the original Ori game, and one of the year’s finely polished releases.