Xbox One, PC
March 11, 2020
Xbox Game Studios
One of the first things I was blown away by when booting up Ori and the Will of the Wisps was the beauty of the game’s opening sequence. With only a handful of narrative text and some breathtaking animation, the game immediately manages to set the tone, raise the stakes, and get you emotionally invested as a player. Playing as Ori, you start your adventure together with Ku, a small owl with a broken wing. After obtaining a feather to repair Ku’s wing, you take off on Ku’s very first flight together, only to be separated moments later in a violent storm. It’s up to you to find Ku and, in the process, restore the balance of Niwen, the beautiful forest world Ori and the Will of the Wisps is set in.
You’ll explore Ori’s world through different levels, often populated with quirky characters ranging from cute meerkats to intriguing vagabond map sellers. Even though there is little dialogue in the overall game, every character feels unique, as do the different levels and settings. Through its colourful scenery, stunning soundtrack, and beautiful character art, Ori and the Will of the Wisps masterfully delivers a layered and immersive story. It may only have minimal dialogue and cutscenes, but it uses non-verbal storytelling and a beautiful and well-rendered universe to great effect.
If you usually stay away from platformers due to a thin or diluted story compared to an RPG, I believe Ori and the Will of the Wisps should be an exception to your rule. The game’s wholesome story feels akin to that of a Pixar or a Disney movie, and taps into serious themes like family and death while still successfully maintaining an overall playful tone. Each character has a well fleshed-out arc, and it’s clear that Moon Studios have put thought into the character motivations of Ori and his friends, rather than reaching for clichés. Even though Ori’s story is an emotional one, scenes never feel overdone or cheesy. Instead, the game strikes exactly the right chord.
The presence of a layered story doesn’t mean Ori and the Will of the Wisps sacrifices any of its engaging platformer game mechanics, though. Its levels provide enough variety and puzzles to keep things interesting and moving along even for players who just want to fast-forward through the cutscenes. Each level is laid out in an interconnected Metroidvania-style map, which will have you exploring the same area in different ways as you acquire more abilities and powers. Certain areas might only become accessible after you unlock the ability to jump higher than before, for example, or once you learn how to stick to walls. The more areas you can access, the more orbs and keystones you can collect to replenish your health and ability bars, and the further you can progress through the game. Just like in Ori and the Blind Forest, collecting two keystones allows you to open locked passageways leading to different levels, giving players the freedom to explore while also putting clear boundaries in place.
“Ori and the Will of the Wisps masterfully delivers a layered and immersive story.”
While Ori can equip up to three abilities at once, you collect an impressive number of extra standby abilities as you complete more and more levels. The game allows you to switch these abilities around throughout a playthrough. Depending on your preferred playstyle and equipped abilities, your way to complete a level might look very different compared to someone else’s. The way the game caters to these different playstyles with ease is impressive. Ori and the Will of the Wisps exhibits a great amount of flexible level design and includes various obstacles and puzzles that can be solved in a myriad of ways.
I found this an excellent way to keep players on their toes. Rather than have a one-size-fits-all approach, you’ll be able to find a solution that works specifically for your playstyle. In this way, Ori and the Will of the Wisps doesn’t shy away from challenging its players and pushing the envelope when it comes to platformer level design.
While I found the platform mechanics in Ori and the Blind Forest a frustrating experience sometimes, those issues seem to be streamlined in its successor; the keyboard controls are intuitive and easy to remember. Ori’s combat ability has also undergone a makeover, giving him more weapons and abilities than before. This is particularly useful for boss battles, where you now have the option to choose between light and heavy weapons in addition to Ori’s standard bow and arrow ability.
While Ori’s refreshed combat system certainly adds some nice additional mechanics to the mix, its art style and story is where Ori and the Will of the Wisps truly shines. After playing Ori and the Bind Forest, I had high expectations for its much-anticipated sequel, but I was also nervous. Would it be able to surpass the bar set by the original game? The answer is a resounding yes. Ori and the Will of the Wisps doesn’t just surpass the bar set by its predecessor, it obliterates it completely.
- Immersive story and interesting characters
- Gorgeous soundtrack
- Engaging level design
- Gentle storyline which might not appeal to all players
If you enjoy games set in a layered universe and with an emotional story, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is not to be missed. With a gorgeous soundtrack and setting, this game is sure to sweep you off your feet.