When Ori and the Blind Forest first released, hardly anyone had heard of the title or knew what to expect. It didn’t take long though, for the stunning quality of the game to shine through and for Ori & Naru to win over gamers’ hearts the world around. Word of mouth traveled fast and within one week it already became a profitable investment for Moon Studios. It kept on winning awards and it soon became one of the Xbox One’s highest-rated titles.
No surprise then, that this sequel was so wildly anticipated. Will it live up to the high standards or could we even dare dream that it surpasses the original in both execution and scope? Let’s find out!
What we liked!
- Gorgeous Visuals: Rarely do we get to experience a game so stunning, so picturesque as Ori and the Will of the Wisps. You could quite easily frame every single screenshot you’d take in the game and decorate your walls with them (as a matter of fact, I’ll go and order a few right now!)
- Phenomenal soundtrack: It’s impossible to listen to Ori’s score and not feel anything. There are quite a few new tracks that will play at key moments in the game, instantly making me care about what’s unfolding to the characters. Ori and the Will of the Wisps would still be a great game if you’d add in a lesser soundtrack, but this key element undoubtedly plays a role in making it an instant classic. Promise me you’ll play this with a headset (and keep the tissues nearby!)
- Emotional Story: Cute, likable characters, dramatic music and bad stuff happening to them: it’s easy to shed some tears when playing this game. There’s a lot more exposition than before through the various NPCs you’ll meet and this really helps with the world-building and emotional investment.
- Plenty of things to do: Ori has always been a completionist’s dream with plenty of collectibles and Metroidvania-style exploring, but new to the game is the multiple side-characters and quests to complete. Restore life to a tree that’s been turned to stone, bring sad news to one of the monkey-like creatures that you’ll befriend during your playthrough or collect seeds & ores to help build a new home for the Moki, the monkey-like creatures that populate the world. You can also farm and spend Spirit Light (the game’s currency) on abilities, spirit shards or even on buying maps from Lupo the cartographer as to not miss a single thing and get that desired 100% completion.
- Tight Gameplay: It’s always a bit odd to play a sequel to a Metroidvania-like game and having your playable character basically reset without any of its abilities. But it’s this feeling of progression that makes the genre so satisfying. You start off just having some difficulty getting over a high ledge, but before you know it, you’re zipping through the level while hardly setting foot on the ground. It’s a sensational feeling of accomplishment that you can only get from playing games.
- Deeper combat: Ori’s offensive arsenal has also received an upgrade. You can equip multiple melee or ranged attacks and upgrade them. While you start the game feeling threatened by even the weakest enemies, at the end of your adventure, you’ll be powering through like a furry Goku (analogy courtesy of Jez Corden).
- Enemy health: While it’s okay to have challenging combat, the enemies do feel a bit bullet-spongey at the start, taking just a bit too many hits to actually defeat them. Especially when you’ve already got their pattern down but are just going through the motions, it becomes noticeable. This issue resolves itself through upgrading Ori along the way through, so perhaps this is simply the desired effect?
- Lots of Backtracking: This is key to the genre, but it wouldn’t have hurt to have a few more save/warp points in the game to make it even easier to move around. I felt like the Definitive Edition of the first game handled this slightly better because of the shortcuts that were introduced. Here, you’ll often find yourself toggling between traversing the world and checking the map to see if you’re not heading back into a dead end.
What we disliked
- Performance dips: News of the technical issues plaguing the game quickly flooded the internet even before the game’s release as reviewers were instructed to only play it on the Xbox One X for maximum performance and even then the game stuttered. A day-one patch should have resolved this issue and I indeed didn’t notice it until later in the game and when playing for extra-long sessions, but it’s still something we’d much rather avoid in-game released publically. We postponed the review somewhat to see how this would play out, but we’re sad to say that it’s not yet without flaw.
- Some bugs: On one occasion, Ori’s default attack stopped dealing with damage at all. It was clipping right through enemies. Silver lining: it made me switch to the heavier melee attack and that turned out to be a much more effective way of dealing with enemies. There were also moments where the double/triple jump didn’t seem to give any lift at all. I have no doubt issues like these will get ironed out over time, given Moon Studio’s reputation, but it’s still something to consider at the time of writing.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is nothing short of a masterpiece. From its painting-like gorgeous aesthetic and a soundtrack that will sweep you off your feet to the tight gameplay and addictive progression system. Add some very likable characters and emotional storytelling into the mix and you have a classic that people will be talking about for decades to come. If it weren’t for the minor issues listed above, it could have very easily gotten a perfect score. Don’t let that keep you from playing the game though, this is without a doubt one of the easiest titles to recommend to every lover of videogames as a medium.