Ori and the Will of the Wisps Review
Do you see it? Can you hear it on the wind? Out there in the distance, just beyond the forest of Nibel, floats an owlette on the breeze, a spirit rested on her back. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is here, and the sequel to the meteoric indie hit is every bit as powerful, emotional, and entrancing as you would expect it to be. Moon Studios had a mighty challenge on their hands to create an experience that could rival its predecessor, yet sitting in development for five years has given the game enough time to hatch into a truly spectacular journey.
Will of the Wisps begins with the introduction of a new character; Ku. The little owlette and adopted sister of Ori is sheepish and timid, but her forest family shows her love and support as she grows over the seasons and learns to fly. Soaring high into the clouds, Ku is exhilarated to bring Ori through the sky, only for tragedy to strike. Waking across the sea in a new land, Ori must set out to find Ku and bring her home.
The game is equally powerful in its presentation and its gameplay. Despite being a side-scrolling Metroidvania, every frame comes across like a cinematic experience. The background and foreground are used to great advantage to create depth and alert the player to danger on the horizon. The world feels so incredibly alive with each blade of grass swaying in the breeze, each leaf dancing as it falls, and every part of the screen simply bursting with life. The beautiful color palettes and tones bring this veritable paradise to life with rich hues that turn the game into a living painting.
Masterful Artwork in Motion
When it comes to gameplay, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is in full Metroidvania mode to the best possible degree. It takes little time before you get his basic traversal skills down and soon will be spending more time in the air than on foot. Controlling Ori comes very naturally, and the game is structured to streamline your exploration while still offering the Metroidvania experience. Early on in the central hub of the forest, you’ll encounter a number of impassable objects. Instead of merely backtracking later to uncover their bounty within, the story and quests will send you in that direction anyway so you don’t feel like the winding, maze-like paths are pointless.
Sein – the light and eyes of the Spirit Tree – is not here to help Ori defeat his enemies. Instead, small trees imbued with the light of the forest will offer Ori skills and abilities to survive. For defense, Ori can be equipped with a sword, hammer, bow, and many other weapons. Each weapon and skill can be slotted to three face buttons with the press of LT so it is very easy to change on the fly for the situation at hand. The weapons have an incredible reach and a variety of directional abilities, so experimenting is a joy to see what works for you.
Players can also rejoice that the Soul Links system is gone and has simply been replaced with frequent and effective auto-saves around the world, so take risks and enjoy exploring the forest without apprehension. As the game doesn’t feature a limited number of lives or excessive backtracking, Ori and the Will of the Wisps lends itself perfectly as a game to hone and master the skills for games of the genre. Challenges and battles don’t feel so frustrating because there is nothing lost and everything to gain by persevering to become a better player. Ori wants you to succeed, and it does its best to help make that happen. I encountered a particular escape scene I needed to play through nearly a dozen times for various faults of my own, but at no point was I frustrated or angry, because I could learn and see the process needed to succeed. Overcoming the segment – however small a feat that was – made me feel good that I had the chance to improve my skills without fear of losing progress or currency.
Speaking of currency, various vendors in the world are here to help you out. Whether selling new abilities and skills, offering to upgrade those you have, or simply trying to pawn off a map of the area, there are a number of ways to spend that hard-earned currency. While many games of this kind will have you lose large portions of the hard-earned coin upon death, Ori doesn’t want to hinder you in that way. It encourages you to keep trying without a downside to failure. For those completionists, the denizens of the forest need your help. Side quests abound in Ori and the Will of the Wisps, often having you bounce between adorable NPCs to swap much-needed goods for great rewards. It’s always worth it to keep an eye out for anyone with a smile. Ori did suffer from some issues of lag, occasionally stopping the game for several seconds, but I’ve been assured this issue is being addressed promptly. My only real problem with the game came from the time it took to load the map. Paths are not always clear in the woods, so I frequently needed to pull up my map and get my bearings. It took just a little too long to have it load and then set itself properly, but I’m confident such a minor inconvenience will see itself fixed on day one.
All The Feels
My time with Ori and the Will of the Wisps has been an emotional journey. From watching Ku take her first steps, to seeing her finally take flight. To watching Ori help these new strangers in the face of danger, and seeing the heartbreak on the faces of Gomu and Naru as they search for their lost family. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is indeed a challenging game, but one not so hard as to be rage-inducing. It is beautiful in its aesthetic, gameplay, and narrative. Whether you are coming to this as a seasoned gamer who wants a challenge or someone who just loves the game’s beauty, it is simply a joy to play and will captivate you for hours.
**Xbox One code provided by the publisher**
- Stunning, masterful artwork
- Fluid, natural controls
- Engaging narrative
- Compelling challenge level
- Light-RPG elements
- Occasional lag
- Some bugs that need patching