It has been a long wait since Ori and the Will of the Wisps was announced back in 2017, but I can wholeheartedly say that the wait was completely worth it. Get ready to dive back in folks, because things are still pretty emotional.
There is just something that I can only describe as pure and wholesome here, and it soothes the soul.
Once more, (still) with feeling
One of the strongest memories I have of Ori and the Blind Forest was the emotional journey that the game has at its core. Through the use of great animations, music and some awfully cute critters, Ori made you feel for the things around you. Ori and the Will of the Wisps continues on that trajectory as you attempt to reunite your beautiful diverse family unit, all while helping all manner of forest dwellers on your path. I was worried that this aspect of the game might have been overlooked in the sequel, but my fears were set aside in the first few minutes. There is just something that I can only describe as pure and wholesome here, and it soothes the soul.
Ori finds themselves lost and alone in a new location and just like in the first game, something has gone horribly wrong here, but no spirits were around to help repair the damage. The light faded and a horrible blight has wormed into the land, called the Decay. The mountains stay frozen, the water is poisoned and once-proud cities have fallen to ruin. In this world of ash and stone, creatures have started to fall under the corruption of the Decay, becoming monstrous beasts. Get ready to fight, little spirit.
A fresh start
Since the last game, Ori has packed away the many abilities and treasures from the past, so get ready to start from square one. In the beginning, you can barely fight, but you will quickly start to unlock abilities that help you to fight enemies and to navigate the obstacles of the world. Like Blind Forest’s definitive edition, the game has embraced fast travel points for quest hand-ins or to go buy upgrades. Your arsenal quickly reaches the point that you are swapping out passive and active abilities based on what you are currently dealing with, and active ability swapping is so quick that you can do it mid-fight without bringing the action to a halt.
Each new ability will help you reach new areas, or traverse through old areas quickly and easily and the level design is absolutely top-notch. Exploration is always rewarded, and finding a loop that lets you bypass a tricky sequence of platforms sometimes had me utter ‘oh, that is neat/clever’.
Having such tight controls makes the platforming so enjoyable, which is enhanced by the way in which Ori moves.
Masterpiece in movement
A platformer lives or dies by its controls and how it feels to move, and Ori is joy in motion. In all my deaths and yes, there were quite a few in the 10 or so hours, I never once blamed the controls for what had happened. Having such tight controls makes the platforming so enjoyable, which is enhanced by the way in which Ori moves. The spirit darts, dashes, leaps, bounds and glides with playful elegance, making you want to complete that complex platforming section perfectly, just to see Ori’s range of motions.
Just as well those controls are tight because you better believe you are going to use them. Just like Ori and the Blind Forest had its temples that fell apart and you had to rush out of them, there are similar situations where you will need to run for your life through an assortment of hazards. Whether it is a large beast trying to eat you or sand threatening to bury you, sometimes you will need to run through a gauntlet to survive. I don’t think any of them were as challenging as the old temples, which I know were a definite point of frustration for some players. Also, the game doesn’t use these sections as a strict formula anymore, meaning you never know when you might need to scarper off to survive. Let me just say there are a few surprises.
But I haven’t gotten to the music yet!
I have, ever since Ori and the Blind Forest, spent a lot of my time praising Gareth Coker for his body of work. Coker is back for this game and you better prepare your ears for the most exquisite, moving melodies. At 60 tracks, there is a song for every zone and every poignant moment in the game, and it delivers again and again. Whether you are enjoying the playful sounds of a place full of bright lights and colourful pools or the dark, tense music of slowly descending into a spider’s lair, time and again I turned the volume up to just be enveloped in the sounds.
An absolute joy to play.
The boss fights, in particular, are worth mentioning. During the conflicts, the main motif comes through, giving you the strength to continue. There is nothing better than being overcome by frisson mid-fight, giving you the inspiration to keep your cool and continue towards victory.
Ori is that rare calibre of game that you load straight back up after finishing it to play some more. Finding more secrets, doing more quests for the lovely animals of the world and just enjoying the absolute exhilaration of such tight controls and animations letting you zip through areas, a reminder that it is an absolute joy to play. It is also that rare jewel where a sequel builds on the strengths of the original, offering a lot more of the same, but with many refinements and improvements.