When we got to play Ori and the Will of the Wisps at PAX 2018, we fell in love. Instantly we were brought back to the Ori world that Moon Studios has so beautifully created, and we quickly learnt that the gameplay had changed for the better. From new spirit shards and abilities to new world building features and challenging bosses, Ori and the Will of the Wisps improves on Ori and the Blind Forest in every way, while staying true to its core platforming elements. Bring your emotions and empathy, because this sequel will hit you hard with both.
The game starts much in the same way as its predecessor, throwing you into a beautiful forest as Ori, a Spirit Guardian who has learnt some tough lessons from its first adventure and now has an arsenal of light weapons. While you start with just a sword, you can soon purchase and unlock new weapons such as a bow and arrow and a hammer allowing for diverse attacks, though the powerful attacks come later in the game as Ori learns to throw spirit orbs and bounce off every available non-spikey surface. At its heart, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is an amazing platformer; at skin level, the game is a stunning representation of what is possible in the world of 4K 2D games.
At the start of the game, Ori can do little more than jump around. In the first couple of hours of gameplay though, you’ll soon be double jumping, sticking to walls, and working your way around previously unreachable areas. It’s not until the end of the game though when Ori really starts to move like a true Spirit Guardian. Swimming, diving through sand, using its own glow to light dark areas of the world, every ability that you unlock in Ori and the Will of the Wisps plays an important role in reaching new parts of the map, which is significantly larger than its predecessor (three times larger according to Moon Studios, though you do move through it a lot faster).
The game isn’t exactly what we would call a vast open world. It’s a great platformer that has a beautiful blend of environments, but there’s no large sense of openness. Often Ori is caught between a rock and a hard place as you work out how to get past the next section of thorns or bubbling toxic water, and there are plenty of situations where you need to revisit the same location to progress to the next area. Considering the game only takes 10-15 hours to beat, the fact that you’re revisiting areas a lot of the time makes the world feel smaller than it necessarily is. Combining that with the save points which also act as warp points, Ori can quickly jump around to points on the map to progress through the story.
Ori eventually finds a near-barren town that needs to be upgraded, and the head of the clan is eager for your help. It requires items scattered all over the world, some of which can’t be reached until you’ve almost finished the game, so this new feature certainly adds an end-game element that we were happy to see. Side quests are also scattered around the world, although most are found in the town hub. They usually just require you to find an item somewhere in the world though, and barely added anything to the make-up of the game other than the rewards you get for completing them.
Speaking of which (as we mentioned earlier), as you play through the game you unlock new abilities, but you can also upgrade these abilities, as well as apply three upgradable passive skills known as Spirit Shards. There are a couple of dozen different Spirit Shards that players must choose from, ranging from sticking to walls to having orbs move towards you instead of having to pick them up off the ground. Some of the more useful combat Spirit Shards are earned by completing Spirit Trials which either involves combat or a race, and a fun addition to the game which helps break up the chaos (or adds even more, depending on how you look at it).
Unfortunately, we experienced several bugs whilst playing both the review build of Ori and the Will of the Wisps and the post-launch-day-patch game. It appears Moon Studios struggles to make Ori a smooth experience as we also reported on this in our review of Ori and the Blind Forest five years ago. Bugs included framerate and freezing issues, as well as some core bugs such as the game taking longer than usual to load, switching off the Xbox when doing a fresh load, and life cells no longer being able to be picked up. We worked around the bugs though and for the most part still enjoyed our first playthrough of the game.
The boss battles of Ori and the Will of the Wisps deserve a specific mention because they were far more challenging than we had expected. Typically, you can see them coming, but being just a tiny little white Spirit Guardian going up against some of the monsters you come across in the game can be quite daunting. Most of the time all that is required is to smash them in the face which sounds simple enough, but the bosses often move around as fast as you do and sometimes change the environment around you, forcing you to think and adapt. Though there are three difficulty settings, they are not interchangeable throughout a playthrough, so we can see casual gamers getting stuck in some parts of the later game.
If the forest was blind in the first game, then the forest becomes dead in this one. The gorgeous graphics really makes Ori and the Will of the Wisps. With fluid motion, everything feels alive including objects in both the fore and background. Though it’s just a 2D platformer, we felt every part of the world as if it were a 3D game. The greenery at the start of the game quickly turns to dark and dead shades however, water turns purple, light turns to darkness, and everything around you comes to a halt. The beauty of the game is that it’s your role (or will, shall we say?) to bring everything back to life, first by getting an old windmill moving again, and then eventually by gathering the wisps and defeating darkness itself. Without going too much further with potential spoilers, the environment and graphics (and music to an extent) once again plays its own role in the storytelling.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a step up on its predecessor. We’re excited to see what Moon Studios does next with the franchise given the way the game ends, and hopefully they can smooth over the technical issues that have plagued both games at launch. If you’re looking for a heart-wrenching game that will test your stress levels while bringing a tear to your eye, then this game is for you. We also want to point out that although it’s a sequel, it can be played on its own. In spite of the fact that the game offered plenty of new ideas, we still feel there are plenty of ways it could have been better.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps in 4K on an Xbox One X console, it is also available on Windows PC. For more information, head to the official website.
- Platforming at its best - Heart-wrenching, memorable story - Building on the success of the original Ori.
- The game freezes or gets jittery for a second every now and then - A couple of major bugs that will hopefully get patched out soon.