Back in 2015, Moon Studios, a small indie studio under Microsoft Studios, made a Metroidvania style videogame “Ori and the Blind Forest”. The game was critically acclaimed on all platforms and equally loved by fans all over. So, when Microsoft announced Ori and the Will of the Wisps, during E3 2019 conference, the expectations went even beyond the original game.
As in most cases, it is quite hard to surpass an original which is still considered one of the best action platformers ever made, a modern classic. Still, just like the theme behind Ori’s story, I was quite hopeful. Ori and the Will of the Wisps finally released in March 2020, with lots of hope covered in a murky layer of darkness.
Ori And The Will Of The Wisps Review
Without going into spoiler territory, let’s just say the almost heart-warming opening once again leaves us with nothing but a button to jump and sticks to move, but it does not take long for the game to introduce us with our first (of many) offensive abilities. Now if you are one of the many who played the original Ori, you might remember the slow but melodious cycle of upgrades throughout the game.
However, this time around things have gone quite differently. To fight darkness, this time light equips Ori with upgrades in a much faster and polished pace. Honestly, the amount of new content this game comes with in comparison to the Blind Forest, is humongous, with a good length even if you don’t go for all the hidden gems. So I find it much better to address these areas through separate explorations.
Level Design and Tight Corners
Ori has almost double the map size to explore this time around. Apart from some returning concepts, like water that requires purification, and creatures trying to pound our little fella; there are many different challenging areas to explore, and just like most Metroidvania style games, all explorations come with a price and their rewards.
Every area is riddled with numerous upgrades and challenges, which can help Ori in clearing areas that may not be accessible the first time. This actually defines the core gameplay element of this game: You get to a new area, you find a new Ability or weapon, but you can’t access every nook and cranny yet, so you move ahead into the new area, find another ability or new moves, and return to the previously inaccessible area and grab whatever is hidden there.
As new areas open for exploration, you face not just newer enemies but also the map starts to express its own agenda against you, tightening the difficulty repeatedly.
Visuals and Sounds
From afar, you may not discover the visual upgrades offered this time. While the game still looks a lot like original back from 2015, there are however many lighting, particles and animation upgrades which give the game quite a positive boost it definitely needed. And this time around there is a lot more versatility in level design, enemy types and weapon animations than the previous outing, which only had one main weapon type to play around with.
Gareth Coker returns with his fantastic music composition skills, and once again delivers an emotional and adrenaline filled punch, and the soundtrack just keeps getting better as your exploration becomes deeper and wider. Have to mention, just like the original Ori, there are some phenomenal chase sequences only made better with Gareth’s ability to dramatize the moments with his piano strokes. The soundtrack is one of the best to come out since the last Ori.
Gameplay, Customization and Role-Player Ori
In Ori and the Blind Forest, we had three simple upgrade paths, which if we happen to explore and find all the secrets, we could easily get them and enjoy a fully powered up Ori by the end of the game. This led to a lot fewer choices and almost no customization, but it was still a great experience.
However, Ori and the Will of the Wisps takes quite a dynamic approach this time and gives us multiple weapons, abilities, and great upgrade choices, to customize our experience just the way we want it. This leads to one of the most drastic and positive changes in comparison to the original game, and also gives us lots of options to replay the game multiple times (apart from various difficulty levels).
Instead of a shooting star, Ori is equipped with Spirit Edge, a blade made of light and mostly our primary weapon (especially at the beginning of the game). What makes this weapon unique in comparison to previous gameplay style is, it does not auto-aim, in fact, while playing with a controller I significantly noticed that my moves with Spirit Edge were quite controllable with the use of the main button (X in my case) with the movement of the stick, leading to some great epic moments. But that’s not all.
The game also offers a multitude of weapons that even play part in some environmental puzzle-solving as well, such as Spirit Arc, which is a fantastic bow and excellent for long-range combat. And even Spirit Arc comes with its own upgrade options, including increased fire rate and multiple shots capability, a fantastic change of gameplay style in comparison to the original game.
Similarly, we have other options as well such as a light Sentry, and my favorite to do some heavy pounding, Spirit Smash (yup, quite closer to what Hulk Smash would be if it happened to be in Ori’s world). And that’s not even half of your arsenal this time around, leading to gameplay choices and a lot more reason to replay this game.
But with that said, apart from such fantastic additions, at the core, Ori’s gameplay is still the same. It is still all about exploration, dodging and the absolutely necessary timing to keep yourself on toes and moving from one area to another at an almost non-stop pace. The only few occasions you have to catch a break is when you get to interact with many NPCs introduced this time around which were almost extinct in The Blind Forest. Which brings me to another great aspect this time around.
Many of these NPCs not only provide the above-stated upgrades and abilities, but also give optional quests that make the exploration aspect more meaningful than previously, and the game’s economy and use of orbs also reach a whole new meaning because of this.
In many ways, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a radically different experience even though in its presentation it still falls closer to The Blind Forest, and it is all for the good. It is a definitive expansion of the experience with lots of gameplay choices which delivers ten times more the replay value than the Blind Forest. Even if you did not play the first game, you will still enjoy this.
Jump, Dodge and Dash
Ori returns with its signature style action and puzzle set pieces, where you jump and dodge in perfect timing and conquer every challenge that comes your way. This playstyle does leave us with only one choice (my personal opinion only), that you will need to play with a controller.
You can play with a mouse and keyboard but it would put you in a crucial spot in many tight turns this game throws at us, especially during the sand levels. Unlike The Blind Forest, the game has removed manual saving options and it relies on auto checkpoints, which becomes a slightly higher challenge, but throughout my playthrough, I did not face any challenge marred by the placement of these checkpoints.
Nevertheless, you will still feel frustrated and some of the backtrackings might even feel lethargic, but that’s the price we pay to enjoy Metroidvania style videogame.
While the game has expanded in many ways, I did not mention one of the major upgrades, and that is the lore behind the light and darkness, and the universe Ori belongs to. There is a lot deeper story this time around, and the implications of your actions are expressed through a fantastic closure to the second chapter of Ori’s journey.
While I will leave this for you to decide on your own whether the story is now complete or requires more chapters, I can assure you that the experience Ori brings in this sequel is complete and satisfactory by all means.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps comes with a price tag of an indie game but delivers a Triple-A experience. It is struggling with the giants like Doom Eternal and Final Fantasy VII remake, but still does not falter and creates its own unique spot.
I am quite sure just like Ori and The Blind Forest, The Will of the Wisps will also garner a strong following, and might even let Moon Studios push out another chapter, hopefully soon. Do try if you are new to Ori, and you won’t be disappointed.
If you are interested in learning more about the game then you can check out our Ori And The Will Of The Wisp hub.