Ori and the Blind Forest Review

August 6, 2019

Ori and the Blind Forest was Microsoft’s answer to the Metroidvania craze in 2015. Fantastic titles such as Dust: An Elysian Tail and Cave Story+ had shown the world what the genre could produce. Even then, though, something was missing. Someone had to step up and showcase the pinnacle of Metroidvania gameplay. That’s where Ori developer Moon Studios stepped in. With gorgeous visuals, a beautiful soundtrack, and a moving narrative, Ori and the Blind Forest has reached that pinnacle.

Visuals

You might expect the best-looking video games to come from huge AAA developers. After all, they throw millions of dollars at their colossal development projects. However, this isn’t the case. Visual appeal in video games truly blooms when an artist is given absolute freedom. Ori and the Blind Forest is a spectacular example of this. Moon Studios has created a world of unparalleled beauty.

The vibrant colors are the first thing that stands out. Serene green meadows, glistening blue lakes, and viscous red magma pools. It would have been easy to take Ori’s theme of darkness and create dim, moody environments. Moon Studios avoided this and have instead made something that looks beautiful and only gets better as you play on. Bringing life back to the forest adds layer after layer of fresh, breath taking colors.

Audio

Composer Gareth Coker is responsible for Ori’s well-crafted soundtrack. Songs make the most out of their powerful and emotive piano segments. Highlights include “Ori, Lost In The Storm” and “Naru, Embracing the Light.” Songs of different genres blend together well during gameplay. The transition between soothing music to a high-paced action rhythm is not easy to execute, but Ori pulls it off.

Gameplay

Ori does little you haven’t already seen from other Metroidvania titles. The plot involves Ori, a Spirit Guardian whose primary goal is to collect three Elements of Light. These lights will restore balance to the forest of Nibel. Most of your adventure involves gathering the light of water, wind, and warmth. You collect abilities, revisit old areas, upgrade your stats, and eventually work your way to the final boss. Very standard Metroidvania gameplay.

The one unique mechanic is soul linking. By using up some of your energy, which is Ori’s mana system, you can create checkpoints. These soul links allow you to save and use up ability points to gain new skills. On higher difficulties, this becomes interesting as energy is limited. It is used to open mandatory gateways, so you can’t afford to waste it on soul links carelessly. With Ori’s resource management, you must use them wisely to make good progress. Otherwise, you cause yourself difficulties down the road.

Accessibility

However, those that don’t like the sound of a difficult playthrough should not be put off. Ori and the Blind Forest makes a conscious effort to be as accessible as possible. The easy difficulty will let most people glide through the story with relatively little struggle. Certain platforming sections can still be somewhat technical, but you have access to a lot of soul links. You are free to explore Ori at whatever pace you desire.

At around seven hours to play through, Ori and the Blind Forest suffers from its depth of content issues. Everything that’s there is extremely high quality, but it can feel somewhat short for its retail price ($19.99 on Steam). Replay ability is present but only for those who are already in love with Ori. Consumers who just want to pick it up for a single playthrough may feel hard done by.

PC Performance

The Xbox One version of Ori and the Blind Forest suffers from some performance issues. In a game this beautiful, that seems nothing short of a tragedy. Thankfully, the PC port is splendid. As this is a mostly 2D platformer from 2015, it isn’t all that demanding. My 1060 GTX easily maintained 144 FPS, 1080p with no notable drops during my entire playthrough.

Strangely, the original Ori and the Blind Forest supported uncapped framerates. The Definitive Edition, however, seems to be capped at V-Sync supported framerates. Of course, playing in either 60 or 144 FPS is hardly a big deal, but it’s something to consider.

Those with less than 8GB of RAM should be aware that this can get surprisingly RAM intensive in areas. Likely due to the superb fidelity of its 3D visual effects, RAM spiking isn’t uncommon. With lower settings, though, as little as 4GB of RAM is enough to sustain a playable experience.

Overall, the PC version is the superior option. But, Ori and the Blind Forest is the kind of game you should experience regardless of platform. A native port to Nintendo Switch is expected soon. Those looking for an alternative handheld take on Ori are likely better off waiting for that.

Final Verdict

As a reviewer, you work your way through some terrible games. Occasionally, you get a chance to play something that genuinely blows you away. A game where you went into it expecting mediocrity but came out realizing you’d played something special. Ori and the Blind Forest is that game. Calling it a Metroidvania almost feels like a disservice, as Ori is undoubtedly superior to both Metroid and Castlevania.

Ori’s state-of-the-art visuals coupled with challenging puzzle segments make for a consistently joyous gameplay experience. The emotive OST and slick platforming combines to create one of the best games of the decade. When people talk about Microsoft exclusives, they no doubt mention Halo, Forza, and Gears of War. While perhaps more ambitious in scale, all these fail to reach Ori’s staggering artistic heights. Do yourself a favor and pick this game up as soon as possible.

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