Ori and the Will of the Wisps competently builds upon everything that its 2015 predecessor, Ori and the Blind Forest, laid down as a foundation. Ori and the Will of the Wisps feels like a true advancement of the first game merged together with some of the best parts of the plethora of metroidvania style games that have released in recent years with a spice of some quality of life improvements.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps also continues the beautiful minimalist storytelling that Moon Studios is known for. Shriek is a terrifying antagonist that you feel your heart pounding against your chest every time you encounter her. The music of the game is just as important to the story as the written word is. It builds perfectly as your heart is racing in the most intense moments of the game, it accompanies you in the slow moments, and adds even more impact to the emotional moments of the game.
Design is Key
The design of the game is extremely tight with almost everything fitting into place near perfectly. The skills and abilities you gain throughout allow for you to traverse the sprawling world of Niwen in meticulous and fluid ways that you can string together to pretty much fly through the world. The precision platforming is showcased perfectly with the return of the intense chase sequences from the first game. One slip up can cause you to have to restart the entire sequence over no matter how close you are to the end of the chase. Thus, it makes you learn exactly how precise you must be with your movements while you try not to die if you’re caught.
Even though there isn’t an insane amount of enemy types, combat itself is action packed. Enemies can easily break through your attack patterns and drain your health quickly if you aren’t prepared and paying attention. However, the fluidity of traversal allows you to approach enemies in a variety of ways depending on the situation and how many of them there are. Going from swiping with the Spirit Edge to jumping and dashing away to boost back and hit enemies with a burst of fire or a hit with a Spirit Smash felt incredibly satisfying.
The boss battles are the most thrilling and exceptional hard parts of the games. Each boss is an adrenaline pumping battle with each having multiple stages, and, as you progress through the fights, they get insanely tougher usually forcing you to put your platforming and traversal skills to the test all while continuing the fight. Thus, when you are finally able to beat them, you get a real sense of accomplishment just from how much you had to do to beat a boss.
Some of the best parts of Ori and the Will of the Wisps are the quality of life improvements Moon Studios made over the first game. The decision to focus on autosaving instead of only being able to save at Soul Links allows for players to jump back into the action without the need to backtrack from their last save at whatever Soul Link they had visited. Then, what sets Ori and the Will of the Wisps apart from other games in the genre is the ability to fast travel/warp to different locations just from the map unlike many other games where you must go to a specific point or room to fast travel around. Thus, you’re able to move from area to area easily without having to traverse long distances over and over.
A Fleshed Out World
The world of Niwen steals the show in Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Niwen itself is artistically designed and is much larger than the Forest of Nibel from the first game with plenty of nooks and crannies for players to explore and find the plethora of secrets hidden about. From the beautiful waters of the Luma Pools, to the terrifying and deadly darkness of Mouldwood Depths, to the frigid landscape of Baur’s Reach each of the game’s biomes you visit feeling distinctly different than the others.
Niwen is also full of great side characters that Ori will meet along their journey such as the wise giant toad Kwolok, the mapmaker Lupo, and (my boy) the the intrepid traveler Tokk. Not only are these characters charming and a source of insight for Ori’s journey, but they also give a wide variety of side quests for players to go on. These side quests help flesh out the lore of the world and sometimes award Ori with a new ability or challenge to face.
Variations of Play
Ori and the Will of the Wisps also allows for much more variation in how you play than its predecessor. Gone is the linear ability tree of the of the first game now you can purchase new skills from an NPC Ori meets alongside the the ones you naturally earn through story progression. Additionally, the game implements a shard system which allows for Ori to gain new passive abilities, like the ever useful triple jump and stick to walls ones, that can help you in a plethora of ways. Starting with three slots for these shards, which can be increased, you can mix and match these different abilities on top of your wide variety of active skills to find out which playstyle fits you best or gives you reasons to replay the game in a brand new way.
All in all, Ori and the Will of the Wisps shines in a wide variety of ways. From its beautifully crafted world, intense encounters and boss fights, and wondrous soundtrack, Ori and the Will of the Wisps encapsulates a lot that is great about modern hardcore, metroidvania style games, and it’s all tied together with a compelling and emotional story.
Score: 8 out of 10
Reviewed on Xbox One X *Review Copy Provided by Microsoft