Ori and the Will of the Wisps is the sequel to 2015’s Ori and the Blind Forest, developed by Moon Studios. The vivid, emotional platformer emphasized brilliance and subtlety and has merit in being one of the few dedicated platformers I thoroughly enjoyed.
Now, here we are 5 years later, and a long-awaited sequel has been released. So how does it stack up? Find out in our Ori and the Will Of the Wisps Review below.
A review copy for PC was provided to Culture of Gaming.
Setting The Stage
As with every game I review, Ori was subject to my litmus test of being able to tweak settings before being pushed into the game. Ori passed the test, and I was able to tweak things like resolution and audio settings, before getting to the actual gameplay.
While we’re here in the menus, I do have to ding points for not having more granular graphics settings. Ori runs at one setting, with resolution really being the only graphical setting one can tweak. Port or not, it’s disappointing to see on any PC game.
Moving on to actually starting the game, Ori and the Blind Forest treated the player to a stunningly beautiful yet heartbreaking intro sequence, and Will of the Wisps is no different. Picking up just about where Blind Forest left off, Will of the Wisps demonstrates an equally beautiful into sequence, but with a milder dose of heartbreak.
Most of it is heartwarming to see, with Naru, Gumo, Ori, and later the owlet Ku living in the rejuvenated lands of Nibel, the direct result of the events of the first game. In true Ori fashion, things turn to heartbreak as Ku and Ori are swept away by a storm to the distant land of Niwen. Hence, the stage is set.
Familiar, But Different
Niwen, and subsequently Will of the Wisps, will feel very familiar to Ori players. The core mechanics are largely the same, the landscape similar to Nibel, and the music familiar sounding. Yet, this isn’t to say that Will of the Wisps is copying or taking too much from the first game, but rather Will of the Wisps will feel familiar to previous Ori players.
Where the differences between Will of the Wisps and The Blind Forest begin is with expansion. The landscapes are more diverse and even more colorful, the landstage greater, and of course a grander soundtrack.
The theme of expansionism continues in terms of actual gameplay as well. While the core mechanics, despite being somewhat overhauled, will feel familiar to Blind Forest players, plenty more has been added. Many more combat abilities like “Spirit Arc” and “Spirit Star” have been added, which contributes to the title’s greater emphasis on combat.
I had already thought that Blind Forest was heavy on the combat, albeit a basic implementation of it. Will of the Wisps turns up the combat to 11. More mechanically complex encounters, more fleshed out boss fights, and even combat trials scattered throughout the overworld. Perhaps the most basic demonstration of the continued emphasis on combat comes from the basic melee light attack the player gets from essentially the get-go: “Spirit Edge”: a relatively short-range attack with the form of a sword. Yes, Ori has a sword now.
Moon Studios took the basis of what worked in the Blind Forest, and further refined and expanded upon it for Will of the Wisps, making it a fantastic combat system in what is already a fantastic platformer.
Truly Alive Landscape
Continuing with the theme of “going bigger”, the land of Niwen is no exception. As previously mentioned, Niwen is more environmentally diverse and physically larger than Nibel, but the largest contributing factor is the feeling of size in all the denizens that inhabit Niwen.
Niwen feels truly organic and alive, in large part due to all the various creatures Ori can interact with. From the adorable Moki scurrying about everywhere, to skilful Gorleks, and of course larger than life characters like Baur and Kwolek. All of these creatures, whose story is told through the beautifully crafted scenery, truly make Niwen feel much more alive than Nibel did during Blind Forest.
These denizens of Niwen task you with various side quests that are of course optional, but often give rewards that the player will most likely want to pursue. Furthermore, there are plenty of trials, both platforming, and combat-based, that offer rewards. If you commit to min/maxing, that is really getting every upgrade point you can and customizing your play style with Spirit Shards, then Ori becomes quite noticeably more powerful.
Expanding The Core
The core platforming of Will of the Wisps is largely the same as it was in the previous instalment, with if anything, more of an emphasis on combat-based platforming and mild puzzle solving. Once in the core loop of the game, which I would say starts when tasked with cleaning The Wellspring, the different subsections of Niwen have what I would best describe as challenging gimmicks interwoven into the platforming.
For example, in Mouldwood Depths, Ori must move from light to light as spending too much time in the darkness will result in Ori’s death. These added aspects serve to break up what could eventually be considered the tedium of just simply maneuvering from place to place with better abilities that further trivialize the sequence.
Last but not least, the story. While occasionally melancholy, the optimism is ever-present, and much like the first game, it all culminated in what is a beautiful and heartwarming, yet also sad and bittersweet conclusion.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a logical continuation of the Blind Forest, and although it carries many things over, what’s added is meaningful, and contributes to an even better experience. Will of the Wisps is an absolutely stunning and gorgeous game, with fine gameplay and a simple yet emotional story. All of this is held together by a powerful soundtrack.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps should be a pick up for anyone with the means to play it.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is available for $29.99 on both Xbox One and PC.
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