It’s been nearly five years since the release of Moon Studios’ Ori and the Blind Forest. Claiming critical praise for its wonderful art style, game design, and story, it was no surprise that the developer would announce a sequel in 2017. Ori and the Will of the Wisps wowed audiences at E3 2017, looking like a worthy successor to the original. Unfortunately, the game was a much larger undertaking, causing not one, but two delays. Fortunately, it seems the game is just about ready for release, with a firm March 11th release date, exactly five years after the original. We got a chance to play the game before it launches, and we have to say, we can’t wait to jump back in. Be aware that there are light spoilers to Ori and the Blind Forest.
Will of the Wisps takes place immediately after the original game. Fans of the original may remember the egg left behind by Kuro, the antagonist of Blind Forest. That egg hatches, releasing Ku, a new feathered friend for Ori, Naru, and Gumo to raise. The game starts with a focus on story, taking time to show the progression of the relationship of these characters with small interactive moments. After Ori finds a feather from Kuro, he takes Ku for his first flight. Unfortunately, during that flight, they get caught up in a storm, and they end up separated in a new land. This is where the game truly begins.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps makes several improvements over the original game. Not only is the art direction more stunning, but the game basically enhances every other aspect as well. The world is larger than ever (roughly three times bigger), and it includes a multitude of characters to expand on the story of this world. With such a large expansion to Ori’s world, surely, this means there will be new threats. Sein, Ori’s sentient spirit light, has merged back with the Spirit Tree, which means Ori needs to find new means of defending himself.
Combat is actually a big feature to Ori and the Will of the Wisps. The game still has the classic Metroidvania exploration, but now it has several different offensive abilities for Ori to collect. Among the first of these abilities is the acquisition of the light sword. This allows Ori to attack relentlessly with a flurry of combo strikes. The player can even do really cool directional attacks with this weapon. Across his journey, he’ll come across many enemies, each more challenging than the last. With the additional focus on combat, the team at Moon Studios introduce new Spirit Shrines as well. These shrines give players a challenge where they’ll face waves of enemies, each progressing in difficulty.
Traversal is another major enhancement to Will of the Wisps, as Ori will gain several new abilities to explore. Some of these abilities include clinging to certain surfaces, grappling to plants, and ricocheting off projectiles and enemies. In true Metroidvania fashion, these abilities will open up new areas to progress the story and uncover more secrets. With the world being much larger, there’s definitely a ton of collectibles and upgrades to find. It feels great to run around and control Ori with such smooth precision. You can bounce off plants, swing off poles, and even dash in midair.
Perhaps one of the biggest enhancements to the game is the music. We spoke to composer Gareth Coker about all the changes to the music, and it sounds like it was a big undertaking. Experiencing it first hand, it was great to hear the subtle changes and details the music had to immerse yourself into the story. The narrative really flows well with the music and it feels so seamless with your adventure. It never grows stale and it always fits your surroundings, feeling like a true musical accompaniment.
My time with the beginning act of the game was pretty extensive, and I have to say it was pretty challenging. The combat takes a little getting used to since it’s fairly new. It requires a sort of defensive awareness, requiring players to pay attention to where their enemies are at all times. I admit, I died a good amount of times playing on normal difficulty. Some of these deaths were related to enemies that halted my progress, and some were just basic enemies that got me at low health. There are abilities to make things a bit easier, including one that can heal you up in a pinch. Luckily, death doesn’t make you lose a lot of progress, as there’s a pretty good checkpoint system in place.
Aside from dying, the other challenges would come with the exploration. The game has such a detailed world, and it doesn’t hold your hand very much throughout. There were some moments where I was puzzled, having to really think of how to progress. One of these instances actually involved the ability bash, which allows Ori to slingshot himself off projectiles. I didn’t realize that the projectiles I bounced off of actually shot in the opposite direction. This made a certain barrier difficult for me to pass until I discovered that one detail. Once I figured this out, I immediately began uncovering more secrets.
With the expansion of the world comes a ton of new characters. Not only will Ori come across new creatures, like the Moki, but he’ll also come across reoccurring characters. Lupo is a character that sells maps to Ori, which helps to navigate the ever-growing world. Tokk is another character that acts as a sort of guide for Ori. A wanderer, Tokk will be found in various areas to help Ori progress the story. He even introduces the player to spirit gates and keystones, which are often the biggest obstacles in your path. Ori will have to find two keystones to open each spirit gate, usually requiring some skillful traversal.
There are many more colorful characters Ori will come across, as well as many enemies. According to Xbox Game Studios Senior Producer Daniel Smith, the bosses will have relation to Ori as well. How that will play out, we’ll have to see, but it’s exciting to see this world develop more lore. It’s because of this lore that this world can have more puzzles and ideas. Areas that have mechanical structures or more primitive ideas are fleshed out in these gorgeous locales. It helps that the game runs in 60 fps, even in 4K. Moon Studios really created something beautiful with Ori and the Will of the Wisps.
There’s a lot more to say about Ori and the Will of the Wisps, but we think it’s best for players to find out themselves. If you have any particular questions, let us know in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer them. The game releases in two weeks, so it won’t be much longer of a wait. Ori and the Will of the Wisps launches on Xbox One and Windows 10 on March 11th, 2020. We’ll hopefully have a review of the game around that time as well.