When Ori and the Blind Forest came out back in 2015 it enchanted players with outstanding visual design, animation, fluid platforming gameplay and an emotionally impactful soundtrack that still sits in the hearts of many who had a chance to play it. It’s an understatement, to say the least, that Ori and the will of the Wisps had big shoes to fill if it wanted to live up to it’s predecessor, but it manages to go above and beyond in many ways.
The prologue of the game introduces us to a cute new addition to Ori’s family, an owl named Ku. Teaching Ku how to fly turns from heartwarmingly beautiful to alarmingly tense, as Ori and Ku land in a new region because of a raging storm and this sets up the metroidvania style location for the new game.
The new region is jawdroppingly gorgeous, with Moon studios having somehow improved in Will of the Wisps what was already perfect in the Blind Forest. The environments are full of life and energy, this coupled with the amazing background music makes traversal of the map an ASMR session.
The creatures are all beautifully animated whether friend or foe and speaking of friends, the game introduces a variety of new quirky NPC’s each with their own unique and endearing aesthetic.
The gameplay can be broken down into platforming, combat and platforming puzzles. Talking about the platforming first, Ori’s movement is immediately familiar to the players of the previous game, the little spirit moves with the same fluidity as the prequel and is a joy to control and it only gets better as we unlock new abilities such as the dash, double jump, light rope and much more.
There is a unique freedom to controlling Ori as we utilize all the abilities the spirit has to reach collectibles and solve puzzles. during my play-through there was a section where we had to make some wheels turn to unlock a door but i wandered to a location where there was a purple pool of death blocking my path to a collectible, part of me knew i had to wait to get the wheels turning so I could latch onto them to reach the collectible but a gut feeling made me try anyway and through some max jumps and movement I actually managed!.Platforming is definitely the gameplay’s strongest and most enjoyable aspect.
Moving on to combat, early on we are given a torch with which to fend off the forest creatures and later transition into a stylish and cool light sword. Ori also gets access to a skill wheel of sorts with swappable skills and then there are also spirit shards which can augment skills and abilities Ori acquires.
Utilizing all this, players can comfortably setup and customize Ori for however they like to approach combat, for me just jumping over enemies and down slashing them to death with an occasional bow shot from afar was enough. Fighting mobs does get tedious however and I found myself mostly avoiding them through platforming maneuvers.
The game does force you into combat sequences and this part i’d rather get over with quickly, not because combat is bad but because it’s just the same enemy mobs i’d been avoiding all this time now coming at me in a gauntlet style fight. So there is some tedium to be found in the combat but it does offset all the platforming although i’d rather not take a single moments break from it.
Combat also includes boss battles to shake things up and although they’re pretty generic mechanically they’re aesthetically brilliant, an example of this is an early game sequence that sets up a chase with a wolf that we have to first avoid then fight when cornered, it seemed daunting at first until i realized i just had to hit him, back away and repeat.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps follows traditional metroidvania layout with puzzles,map sections and collectibles locked behind an ability barrier. Some places and some puzzles won’t be solvable until we get a certain ability like for example the double jump or the dash or the projectile bounce but it’s all layed out masterfully and it feels intuitive to know how to continue to the next portion of the map.
The puzzles are fun to attempt as they mostly involve Ori’s fun movements and jumps and it feels super rewarding getting to collectibles with perfectly timed jumps and other maneuvers. The puzzles aren’t all easy but they’re not unbelievably difficult either, the game manages a sort of sweet spot for those looking to put their platforming to the test and those just wanting to score some extra shards.
There is also a small village building mini-game in Ori and the Will of the Wisps. It’s pretty heart warming to start building up the village dotted with eccentric NPC’s and gives you a sort of HUB area, kind of like the Dark souls HUBs like Firelink shrine or Majula but this is certainly not Dark Souls.
There were a few technical issues i encountered whilst playing Ori and the Will of the Wisps, whilst it was majorly fine i could sometimes hang onto objects that disappeared. Saving in the previous game meant expending some energy and creating a save point anywhere in the game but in Will of the Wisps there is an autosave feature and checkpoints dotted generously around the map but, I’ve experienced some points not registering the save and sending me further back making me lose out on some progress.
These issues for me were not an overall deal breaker however and the majority of the game was great and free from hiccups.
Ori and the will of the wisps has a lot of heart and once again proves beyond a shadow of the doubt how video games are art in their own right. Will of the Wisps is everything i’d wanted in an Ori sequel, it’s bigger in scope, broader in world building and simply awesome in aesthetics.