Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a game that defies expectations in the best possible way. The sequel to the 2015 puzzle platformer Ori and the Blind Forest, Will of the Wisps bests the original in terms of graphics and gameplay. Developed by Moon Studios, it’s a game that proves you can change the original formula and still surpass the expectations of the most ardent fans.
It may seem shallow to start with the graphics. But make no mistake: the jaw-dropping art is the first thing players will notice about Ori and the Will of the Wisps.
The first game (Ori and the Blind Forest) was already a graphical masterpiece. But Will of the Wisps takes the painted quality of the original and turns every dial to “11.” That means more animations, more vivid levels, and an even more stunning color palette throughout the game.
Whether you want to prove that games can be art or just show off the HDR settings on your new TV, this is the showcase game you’ve been looking for.
A New Spin on a Classic Format
One of the big changes in this sequel has to do with Ori. Basically, he’s lost all his powers at the beginning of the game. Over the course of your adventure, you unlock new attacks and abilities that help open up the rest of the map.
Basically, this is a new spin on the classic Metroidvania format. And it makes this sequel even more addictive than the original. You’re going to spend plenty of time poring over the digital map and making sure that you haven’t missed any big secrets.
That sense of joyful exploration adds to the game’s replay value and also goes hand-in-hand with the childlike wonder of the narrative.
Thrill of the Chase
Someone who only sees the opening cinematics might think Ori and the Will of the Wisps is going to be a very mellow game. And while much of the platformer action is pretty chill, the game is filled with some very intense moments.
Some of these moments come from combat and boss battles. And others come from the insane chase sequences throughout the game. While those chases were a staple of the original game, the sequel chases are that much bigger and that much scarier.
In a way, this serves the themes of the game quite well. If players get too lost in the beauty of the game, they might easily forget how many different ways Ori can get killed while wandering the jungle.
An Emotional Story
Part of what makes Ori and the Will of the Wisps stand out from other platforms is its heart. This is an emotional narrative, and it wears that distinction with pride.
The core of the story involves Ori’s quest to rescue an owl named Ku. And the opening of the game lets us see their relationship develop so that by the time Ku gets lost in a storm, you feel the emotional gut punch just as Ori does.
Fortunately, the story showcases an entire range of emotions. We get the saccharine sweet of Ori and Ku and the fear that comes from fighting Howl. And the supporting characters and quest-givers throughout the game provide much-needed doses of comedy to balance everything out.
You Against the World
Ori and the Will of the Wisps often reminded me of a fairy tale as I played. Looking back, it’s not hard to see why!
Fairy tales and many classic epics follow what Joseph Campbell called “The Hero’s Journey.” And part of that journey involves the hero being thrust out of his comfort zone and into a wider and more dangerous world. This applies whether we’re talking about Bilbo Baggins, Luke Skywalker, or even Simba from The Lion King.
At first glance, Ori seems very small and childlike. But he eventually takes on the role of a mentor to Ku. When the two are separated by storm and thrust into a strange land, Ori must grow up very quickly to become the hero Ku needs. His “hero’s journey” has begun.
And Will of the Wisps reinforces this with the spacious level design and occasional giant foes. Everything underscores that Ori is small and squaring off against the entire world. This makes each threat seem more intimidating… and, after you beat the challenge, it makes your triumph that much sweeter.
Nice Difficulty Balance
While the Metroidvania genre is great, many of its games are very difficult. One reason for this is that it is difficult to find a balance between “easy and accessible” and genuinely rewarding difficulty. Amazingly, Ori and the Will of the Wisps seems to have found that sweet spot.
The core gameplay can be fairly difficult at times. It’s quite easy to die to environmental obstacles and even easier to die to bosses. Especially that first encounter with Howl where you are armed only with a torch. At the same time, the game has a generous checkpoint system which is tied to its auto-saving mechanism.
That means if you run into a real challenge, you can quickly respawn next to it and try again. Or just power down and try it again the next day.
Short and Sweet
At the end of the day, Ori and the Will of the Wisps only has one weakness: it’s a bit too short!
Most players can tackle all of the main challenges and complete the campaign in about 10 hours or so. And while there are many secrets to go back and explore, it won’t take you that much longer to explore to your heart’s content.
Personally, I always prefer a game that is high-quality and short than one that is mediocre and drawn out. But I can’t deny being a bit disappointed at how quickly the credits started rolling on this title.
So, should you play Ori and the Will of the Wisps? Absolutely. I’m amazed you’re still reading and not playing right now!
This game is worth every penny. And if you’re an Xbox player, don’t forget that the title is available to play via Game Pass for a limited time!