Ori and the Blind Forest launched in 2015 to critical and commercial acclaim. In the five years since the launch in 2015, Moon Studios has been hard at work getting a sequel up and running, creating an artesian experience far and above from the first game. With all the love and care Thomas Mahler spoke to us about in our interview last week, I can finally see tangible proof that not was he right, but Thomas is the type of game developer I can get behind; someone who wants to make a specific experience and someone that understands what draws people in.
Over the last five years, I’ve started but never completed Ori and the Blind Forest on Xbox and PC. It wasn’t until last year when Moon Studios ported the game to the Nintendo Switch that I found the time to dedicate myself to experiencing the game to completion. I’m happy I did because my interest in the sequel felt hollow due to never having finished Blind Forest. With the sequel queued on my Xbox One X, I felt finally ready to see what’s changed, how things have improved, and how emotional this new journey would be for Ori.
The Sky Called to Her
If you’ve never played an Ori game, the series combines platforming with Metroidvania in a sprawling world full of magical colours, wonderous locations to discover, and dangerous enemies to overcome. In Ori and the Blind Forest, the world was full of twists and hidden secrets. In Ori and the Will of the Wisps, the size of the game is three times the size of the first game and full of things to discover.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps continues on from Ori and the Blind Forst with Ori, Gumo, and Naru living together In Nibel forest. We meet the newest member of the family an owl hatchling named Ku and Ori, who have become close since the first game. These two are still unsure of who they are, and this allows them to grow closer, but they were unsure of who they are. Ori helps Ku, who is not able to fly, by attaching an old feather from Kuru to the young bird, and together they fly to the new land of Niwen.
My light revived Ori, a new age had dawned
Set within the new perilous land known as Niwen, Ori and Ku are quickly separated, and it is up to Ori to find Ku. If you thought that the new area would be anything but drNiwen is dark and dreary and lacks a Spirit Tree, putting the land into a state of decay. However, the inhabitants still persevere, doing their best to survive and make the best of their situation.
Luckily, as Ori arrives empty-handed, new tools and weapons are made available. My first unlockable is still one of my favourites, as the Spirit Edge, a sword made of light, can take on enemies. Moon Studios does an excellent job at circumventing my worries by adding new and exciting weapons, effectively fine-tuning the Ori experience to new heights. I wasn’t sure how much would change or improve in a sequel, but Moon Studios spent the last four years working on this game – the thoughtfulness behind every weapon, behind every Spirit Shard, and behind the new Ori.
Unlike its predecessor, in this game, Ori is now able to equip skills that can be used in combat and traversal. Throughout Niwen are hidden Spirit Shards which add things like being able to stick to walls, dealing 10% more damage, or dealing 15% more damage but also taking 15% more damage. There are many ways to equip and approach this game, and if you want more of a challenge, you’ll find that here. In addition, the game is able to be played on Easy, Medium, or Hard, which as Thomas mentioned in our interview, depending on which path you go with, might not be too challenging, will offer some challenge.
And, while Ori and the Blind Forest was a platformer with some combat mixed in, Ori and the Will of the Wisps expands the combat in such exciting ways, going back to the first game is going to be hard to adjust to. As much I enjoyed exploring Niwen, I was always ready to get back into conflict with the monsters in the forest. Ori gains a bow made of light (Quincy from Bleach anyone?) that ramps up encounters and puzzle mechanic that uses the joystick to precision aim your arrows. Every improvement that Moon Studios incorporated can be felt in how Ori moves and reacts to the environments and how Ori handles in combat.
And if the combat wasn’t excellent, Moon Studios nails the platforming bits. Ori and the Will of the Wisps isn’t Soulsbourne hard, but the game offers a rewarding challenge. Platforming, for example, is fantastic, offering teeth clenching moments as you explore Niwen. As Ori gains new powers, the platforming becomes more challenging. It’s impressive how much of a sweat I built up in the latter portions of the game thanks to the exhilarating gauntlets built by Moon Studio.
And, when it comes to boss battles, I enjoyed them for what they were. However, in some instances I found myself frustrated due to misreading an attack, and not paying attention to the learn the patterns in front of me.
Ori Is A Storybook in Motion
It also should be mentioned that Ori and the Will of the Wisps is both a gorgeous and well-animated story brought to life. Stepping on an icy tree’s branches gives out as Ori traverses the forest. Animals of all kinds hide and scurry about in the background, there’s this feeling of a lived-in area that would ask me to stop and admire the scenery.
And all of this wouldn’t be quite the same with the stellar and sweeping score from Gareth Coker, the composer behind both Blind Forest and Will of the Wisps. Immediately from the opening moments, the music grabs you and pulls you into familiar Nibel forest, starting your adventure with Ori and Ku. Having finished a fresh campaign of Ori and the Blind Forest, the music this time around feels bigger.
As of the writing of this review, many of you have heard about technical issues plaguing Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Moon Studios has a Day One patch set for the game’s launch and that is meant to fix a ton of underlying issues like technical hiccups, slowdown, and framerate drops. I’ve been playing the majority of my review on Xbox One X and have only encountered a few things like freezing when backing out of the map, as well as going from the home screen of my console back into the game. There are some noticeable delays and one that left me wondering whether or not the game froze on me and I’d have to hard reset the Xbox One X.
I’ve seen fellow reviewers dealing with much worse issues like losing progress due to a nasty save bug that’s occurring, but I feel like I’ve been rather lucky since the issues I’ve had have been nothing as bad as losing progress.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is an excellent follow-up and is exactly the type of game Microsoft needs to pull people into the ecosystem. Moon Studios delivers a sequel that builds upon its predecessor in every way and finds new highs to deliver another standout experience. With new mechanics, an expansive upgrade system, and one of the most impressive look storybooks come to life, I am pressed to find anything wrong with this game. It’s easily already one of the best games I’ve played in the last year and also a game I can’t stop thinking about.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]