The Story Begins
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is finally here. The eagerly awaited sequel to the multi-award-winning game Ori and the Blind Forest. I think it is safe to say that fans can rest assured knowing they are getting a well-deserved and highly crafted sequel. Moon Studios has pushed the title in the proper direction. Xbox has a franchise that easily makes its mark in the gaming world. Until now, I have never really been a fan of side-scrolling platformers, no matter how much I have tried.
Knowing the game was coming out soon, I dove into Ori and the Blind Forest. It’s always nice to have a fresh memory of the story before diving into a sequel. I now knew what to expect, and understood all the acclaim of the first game. Let me tell you, Ori and the Will of the Wisps exceeded my expectations. I’m a believer in platformers.
Title: “Ori and the Will of the Wisps”
Availability: March 11, 2020
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Developer: Moon Studios
Platforms: Xbox Game Pass, Xbox One family of devices, Windows 10 PCs, Steam
Pricing: Standard Edition – $29.99US / £24.99 / €29.99
Collector’s Edition – $49.99US / £39.99 / €49.99
Play Anywhere Title? Yes
Before we fully dive into the review, there is some information that you should know. Ori and the Will of the Wisps was primarily played without the day one patch, but final scores will be adjusted accordingly. It is important to review and score the game as it should be, this is including a day one patch. A full replay of the game is not needed since the patch is simply a quality of life improvement. Here are the current and adjusted scores for the game. This title was played on the Xbox One X.
Post-patch notes: After extensively playing the patch for the game I feel it is safe to say fans are going in for a polished experience. The minor random frame freezes still occasionally happen as you are playing. Outside of that, I have done my best to recreate the issues during the first playthrough. Nothing has come up, but of course with more people playing the game the higher chance of people discovering an issue.
You can currently purchase the title here: Store Page
Story: (Pre-patch) 9.5 / (Post-patch) 9.5
Gameplay: (Pre-Patch) 7.8 / (Post-patch) 9.2
Graphics: (Pre-Patch) 8.5 / (Post-patch) 9.5
Audio: (Pre-Patch) 9.8 / (Post-patch) 9.8
Story: A Heartfelt Struggle
If you have played the first game, you already know how Moon Studios likes to play with your emotions. This is no different in Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Once you dive into the sequel, you get this feeling that the first game was really just a prologue. There is a much larger, more vibrant world to behold and explore. This begins with a whole brand new start for our loveable friend. Welcome home Ori, you finally have a family to call your own and one extra to care for. Your little feathered friend, Ku!
Unfortunately, Ku was born without a proper wing and is unable to grow feathers on one side. This is debilitating for an owl that is dependent on flight for survival, so Ori and the family try to teach Ku how to fly. Seasons roll by and time passes along. Spring to summer, summer to winter, winter to spring. No matter how hard they try, it just doesn’t seem to work. There finally came a time where Ku had just had enough. After a potentially hopeful attempt, Ku came crashing down to the ground. Defeated, discouraged and feeling hopeless, Ku ran off into the woods.
As the family looked on, Ori couldn’t help but run after the poor owl. I can’t help but feel absolutely devastated for Ku. In what seems like a bright and vibrant world, death and sadness play such a large role. Ori had to go comfort Ku for a night, staying nearby just in case. A sense of guilt hanging over Ori. An idea chimed into Ori’s mind though. What about the feather? The last gift Ku’s mother left behind before her passing. Maybe this time with the help of her mother’s feather, Ku will be able to fly! Let’s give it another go.
They couldn’t wait, they got it fitted to Ku’s wing and off they went! As they take off Ku seems to falter and flutter then, drops to the ground. At least that is what it seems. The feather works! Ku and Ori take off on an exhilarating flight and enjoy this massive achievement. After a period of time, and a good distance away from home a storm rolls in. Things do not turn out well as they both get caught up in the storm. They both fall and get separated, a long way from home in a dark and terrifying wood. This is where your journey begins.
There will be no story spoilers about the game from here on out. The Friday before launch streamers and YouTubers were able to showcase part 1 of Ori and the Will of the Wisps. The story though has a total emotional wow factor. There really has only been two other games that have made me emotional. Red Dead Redemption 2, and Ori and the Blind Forest and Ori and the Will of the Wisps is number three. It is not easy to portray strong emotions with little dialogue and mostly visual and audio feedback. It is easy to say Moon Studios are masters of this craft. The amount of raw emotion packed into the story is fantastic. A simple story, yet powerful. There is a lot of meaning behind a lot of the story, and I hope people can find some solace in it.
One of my favorite additions to the game story-wise is the addition of more unique characters. The world is vast, and meeting these new characters feels like your head is finally out of the sand. Ori and the Blind Forest in comparison is simply just a prologue. There is so much more to this story and this world than was lead to believe. The addition to these characters also helps flesh out more of the story. It gives the game a much broader stroke to write with, allowing for multiple branches of smaller stories or backstories. It did not feel rushed, it paced out well and I couldn’t wait to find out what happens at the end. I’m a sucker for good fantasy stories, and this would be a brilliant book.
Gameplay: A Platformer For Everyone
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a precision platformer. Being able to do what you need to do, and properly is important. Being able to provide the proper set of tools/abilities in a game like this so everyone can play is not easy. Moon Studios achieved it though. The biggest take away right off the bat is having some of the better traversal abilities given to you early on. In Ori and the Blind Forest, it took you basically the whole game just to get all the good stuff. Very different this time around.
Ori now has a wide array of abilities and perks to choose from. This is one of the best additions to the game. Having a variety of perks and abilities to choose and play around with allows for someone to find their own way to play. Precision platforming in a game isn’t easy, so it is better to have more than a few ways to get around. You can also make the game much more challenging if you are up for that. Certain perks will really change up how the game plays, so if you are really looking for something new look no further. This new overall combat system for the game is fantastic. It feels similar to the first game, yet it’s different in a positive way.
I mentioned earlier that side-scrolling platformer games are not my type of game. It’s definitely true, but it’s not because I don’t have a taste in them but for simply not growing with them. I grew up mainly a PC gamer in my younger years. So when I tried getting into platformers recently, I found them very difficult to overcome. Dipping my toe into Ori and the Blind Forest I was surprised as to how enveloped I became in the world. Maybe that’s what I have been missing. A game that had the right setting for me to enjoy. Or maybe the game is just that easy to get used to. Either way, I found a platformer that I can truly enjoy. One that is renowned as a precision platformer. If I can play this game, anyone can!
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is different than the first. With some of the easier traversal moves to be available early on so a player can easily screw around and get used to the mechanics. With the addition of side quests as well, there are more than enough reasons to go out and explore. Go have fun and get used to moving around the world. It’s beautiful and stunning, just go do it. The game plays smoothly and fluidly as it should. If it didn’t Spirit trials would basically be impossible. Spirit Trials are short races you can find throughout the map where you have to beat a ghost version of you in a race. This ghost version of you is played and paced by a developer. This pace is VERY fast. Good luck!
One of my other favorite additions to the game is that you actually get to have boss fights! It wasn’t necessarily something I thought about when playing the first game. Fleeing from these big bosses was all I really cared about at the time. Now with all of these added gameplay mechanics, boss fights are just a blast to encounter. Not too easy, but not too difficult. The escape sequences are tough, but thrilling and fun. I know they are notorious for being tough, and that hasn’t changed this time around. With the combination of both a boss fight and a killer escape sequence, you walk away from a very memorable experience.
Graphics: Moving Art
If you have seen any images of Ori and the Blind Forest or Will of the Wisps, then you know just how colorful this game is. There are very few games that you can call moving art and this is easily one of them. At this point, there needs to be a sub-genre that should be heavily recognized and accredited. The Ori games are watercolored based art with a very wide palette range of colors. The environment and overall aesthetic of the game is a wonder to behold. This is such a unique and creative way to create a game. For the world that is Ori, this art style is a perfect fit.
In a world that is full of spirits, sprites, and creatures large and small you are constantly encompassed by art. The variety of color that is used is great, almost no hue is left untouched. I found myself stopping multiple times to just sit and watch the background. There is movement everywhere you go, nothing is really still in a single frame. The whole world as you traverse it feels utterly alive. If you stop and take a screenshot, just know it will probably look like someone painted it. That alone I feel is a massive testament to how powerful this art direction is.
There really isn’t a whole lot to touch on this subject. The graphics are phenomenal, the use of color is great and Ori couldn’t be made any other way. When you see images or play the game you’ll fully know what I am talking about.
Audio: Orchestrated Emotion
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a game that thrives emotion delivered through the senses. The soundtrack for the game is beautifully done again by an orchestra. It’s important to deliver the proper tone at certain points of a story. It helps make sure that the true feeling of what the developer is trying to portray, is properly communicated to the player. When engaging in combat, traversing to a new area or when a cinematic is playing the music is powerful. It’s engaging, enthralling and emotional. You can tell a lot of passion was put into writing this music.
On top of a wonderful soundtrack, you have great environmental ambiance. Take the music away and you can hear all the little insects of the forest in the background for example. This is an important layer in creating a world that feels rich and alive. From the sound of the trees blowing in the wind, to the waters of the Luma Pools there is no shortage of beautiful environmental audio design. This also includes the voices of the side characters though. They don’t actually speak a language, so you have to create voices that suite the characters. This is another well-executed area, as each character feels unique and stands out.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a sequel done right. As I mentioned at the start of this review the game feels like you have finally opened up the book and started reading it. Ori and the Blind Forest truly was more of a prologue that leads to something more, to something bigger. There are a couple of things I do want to address first. There are some technical issues with the game that will be addressed with a day one path. Ori and the Will of the Wisps will be scored on the full game product, and not what was experienced during the review process. Once the patch is live this article will be updated appropriately and a new “Update” section will be provided if necessary. Issues that I did experience:
- Framerate drops during “intense” scenes, i.e. combat with splashing water
- Stuttering when accessing and exiting the map menu
- Sections of background animation missing.
- The pause menu says “press X to continue” but it’s the A button
Outside of these issues, there was nothing else to fault the game on. The story is well crafted, driving home a very meaningful story that is filled with emotion. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is an art piece that you can control. This feels like more than a sequel to a game, and it is difficult to put into words exactly how. The window of the world that we say in Ori and the Blind Forest is so small in comparison to what I have experienced here. I want more, and I can confidently say I will happily play this game over again once the Xbox Series X is out.
Xbox has another industry heavy hitter on their hands. Everyone says they have the “Big Three”. Forza, Halo, and Gears of War. Well, now they have the “Big Four” because Ori and the Will of the Wisps add it to that collection. It is a must-own and must-play title. I am not a fan of side-scrolling platformers, well I guess that is wrong now. I am a fan. Thanks to Ori and the Will of the Wisps I am more confident in myself that I will enjoy games that are like it. If you want some interesting information on the game, head over to the PAX East interview done by the talented crew here at Lords of Gaming! Link: Ori and the Will of the Wisps PAX East Director Interview.