When the release of Ori and the Blind Forest was almost upon us, there was some hype but little evidence on just what the developer could produce. That title ultimately being viewed in very high regard, including in my review of it, meant that there was no chance that people would be as forgiving towards a sequel. Luckily for everyone involved, Moon Studios has knocked it out of the park once again.
One of the biggest highlights of the original was the emotional complexity that was weaved into the simplistic storytelling. In my opinion, Ori and the Will of the Wisps falls just short of its predecessor, however if compared to almost any other game on the market it would easily be viewed as the top of the spectrum.
The journey sees Ori, Naru and Gumo working desperately in an almost parental role to save Ku. The emotional attachment portrayed between Ori and Ku ultimately becomes the source of the connection the gamer feels with the adventure. I won’t say more about the story beats as it should really be experienced firsthand but I love the use of perception between the games. Karu was the main antagonist because of the lengths that she would go to in order to protect her egg, while now Ori is doing the same but in the protagonists’ role.
The biggest change to the storytelling is that while Ori is still voiceless, now there are characters with dialogue. I wouldn’t call it better or worse but it does allow a different level of freedom for providing lore and more prominently, side quests. Ori will mostly be granted quests to obtain different key items that are rewarded with spirit light, the currency used to purchase maps, abilities and upgrades from other NPCs.
This is all tied together with the one small nitpick I have. It’s a personal peeve with the genre but there is no story explanation as to why Ori lost all of the powers he had at the end of the first title. It can be overlooked but you know once that happens that the majority of your initial exploration and upgrading will be to re-obtain things you know you already had like dodges or glides.
Once you get passed that first hurdle, you will find that there has been a vast expansion of the combat and traversal abilities that Ori has access to. You will be able to compliment your standard dashes and double jumps with new skills like digging, grappling to enemies or using wind to clear debris to find hidden collectibles.
There are also passive enhancements like the ability to increase the radius of orb collection, a self heal or even a triple jump. Keep in mind however, that there is a limit to the number of optional upgrades, or spirits, that you can have equipped but the new combat based spirit shrines, which can be found around the map, will grant you additional slots upon completion.
Traversal already felt great therefore the biggest benefactor of this new customization and upgrade system is the combat, which was admittedly the weaker point of the original. You can now equip up to three abilities that can be used such as melee or ranged attacks, proximity sentries or the previously mentioned gusts of wind for more crowd control. The improvement is a more than welcome change as this time around the adventure is a lot more difficult, at least on the normal setting, and will definitely put you to the test. Don’t let it deter you as if you are just interested in experiencing the campaign, there is an easy mode.
When it comes to the presentation, the graphics are a joy to look at. We are once again met with landscape artistry that has the bold and vibrant imagery of a moving painting. Not many games can deliver this level of varied landscapes that are each as beautiful as the last. From the lush forest that Ori calls home to the desolate wastes of the desert or the aquatic depths hidden below sea level, everything looks and feels like it belongs while being able to catch the eye.
The music is both haunting and beautiful. Like the first game, its serves as almost its own character being used expertly to emphasis the emotional transitions. Moments of sadness or loss are heightened with light somber tones while action segments like boss fights and chase scenes are complimented by more fast paced, heart pounding pieces. It more than likely won’t garner the attention it deserves because of just how many positives reside in the title but those who appreciate a good soundtrack will have this one burned in their memories in all the best ways.
There aren’t a lot of people that I would not recommend Ori and the Will of the Wisps to, that list almost entirely starts and ends with ‘those that have not played the first game yet.’ In that situation, I would tell those people to go play the first one and then pick this one up immediately after. Moon Studios has managed to bring out two masterpieces back to back.
Review copy of ‘Ori and the Will of the Wisps’ provide by Microsoft/Xbox