Five years ago, Moon Studios released Ori and the Blind Forest, a beautiful Metroidvania style platformer that became a classic. Now, the team is set to release Ori and the Will of the Wisps, a bigger and bolder sequel. With such a high bar to reach, does the sequel live up to the original?
Ori and the Will of the Wisps takes place immediately after the original game. After a wonderful introduction, the spirit Ori and his new friend Ku make their way out to a new region in Niwen. Unfortunately, a storm separates the two, and Ori is now on a quest to find his friend. This takes him all over this unfamiliar territory, but luckily, he’ll meet many new friends and allies. On the other hand, this also means he’ll meet plenty of new enemies and adversaries. The story keeps a great pace, and uses narration at just the right moments. It’s fairly minimal in its approach, but incredibly effective in the execution.
Being a Metroidvania style game, Ori will have to find new abilities so he can reach new areas. These abilities will range from skills like grappling vines to swim boosting. Some of the abilities from the previous game return as well. Overall, there’s an impressive amount of abilities, and they never feel overwhelming to use. Some of these skills will be passive, being assigned automatically to the controls. Other skills must be equipped, Ori having three slots to assign to the X, Y and B buttons. It works surprisingly well, and gives the player a lot of variety in their traversal. These abilities also give them a lot of options when it comes to the combat.
Combat is a huge focus for Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Unlike the first game where Ori had Sein to help him fight his battles, the sequel gives the player a more direct approach to fighting. This will become apparent the moment the player picks up a torch and realizes they can swing it as a weapon. The torch eventually gets replaced by a sword, and over time, Ori will add even more weapons to his arsenal. Combat feels satisfying, giving players the capability to combo their attacks while also staying defensive. With that in mind, this game doesn’t hold back the punches. During my playthrough, I died several times, whether it be from enemies, environmental hazards, or even the various bosses.
Boss battles are a big part of this sequel as well, and they all bring something interesting to the table. All the bosses feel larger than life, imposing a threatening aura while also having unique phases. One moment, you’re fighting a giant spider, and the next, you’re escaping them to make it to the next part of the fight. These transitions feel natural and work well to make the player feel like they’re making progress. No boss felt the same, and the final adversary was truly an experience that put all my skills to the test. Interestingly enough, some of the bosses aren’t even fights, but escape sequences. Think the Ginso Tree escape sequence from the first game, but several unique experiences.
To help Ori with many of these experiences, players would be wise to utilize the new shard system. Shards are special items that players can equip to upgrade Ori and even customize his repertoire. Perhaps you’ll want to add a third jump? Or maybe you’ll want to stick to walls? Several of the shards have their use, and players can complete combat shrines to earn more slots to equip them. This allows players to play the game the way they want, while also adding a new collectible in the mix.
The visuals take a big leap from the original game, and it shows in practically every way. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is absolutely beautiful, like a moving painting the player can control. The use of 3D models and layers give the game life, as well as depth. The camera will zoom in to show details in the animation while the depth of field gives great visual techniques. Particle effects are gorgeously on display, adding whimsy and magic to every scene they appear in. This is especially notable when gaining a new ability from a spirit tree. If playing on the Xbox One X or a solid gaming PC, players can even enjoy the visuals in stunning 4K resolution and 60 fps.
Musically, Gareth Coker knocks it out of the park with this amazingly beautiful score. The music uplifts you in the right moments, but doesn’t hold back the more somber tone in others. Some of the music will even feature a choir to bring more expression to the song. It acts almost dynamically, following the player in every event and feeling like a living entity in this beautiful world. Tension rises during fights and escape sequences while safe areas maintain a sense of tranquility. Arguably the most effective moments are the melancholy scenes, where you can practically feel your heart shred to pieces. Gareth definitely hasn’t lost his touch, easily helping Will of the Wisps to gain new heights.
When it comes to length, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is roughly three times bigger than the original game. It took me roughly nine hours to finish the game, though this doesn’t count the many deaths and repeat attempts to pass various obstacles. An achievement in the game can be claimed for finishing the game in under four hours, but it’s clear this will require a deep knowledge of the game layout. Thankfully the level design keeps things fresh and interesting, adding new ideas and exploits with each new area. This will surely be a game for speedrunners to explore for years. The game even includes fun little time trial challenges all over the map, having the player race an Ori ghost for rewards.
Finally, given that this game goes above and beyond to expand the setting, this means a lot of new characters. There are several charming characters that players will come across. This includes Lupo the mapmaker, Tokk the wanderer, Kwolok the guardian, and many more. These characters all add more life to this world, helping to improve the scope of the game. It helps that they all have such great character designs too, all feeling like denizens of this sad yet hopeful setting. As Ori, you remain as their hope to set things right, and you can’t help but want to do what you can. This also means many of these characters will offer sidequests to give the player more to do.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a truly gorgeous spectacle of a platformer. The level design is fantastic and the variety in the gameplay keeps things fresh and invigorating. Gareth Coker’s music sets the mood perfectly, making the experience much more emotional and endearing. The combat keeps things challenging and allows for plenty of experimenting, and really feels like a progression to the Ori formula. Overall, this sequel reaches the bar the original game set, and climbs even further to make an incredible journey.
Final Score: 9.5 out of 10
A digital copy of Ori and the Will of the Wisps was provided to GotGame by Microsoft/Xbox for this review.