With a number of video games looking toward hyper-realistic graphics, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a breath of fresh air. Its poetry in motion, something that should be hailed as one of the most beautiful games developed this generation. There are a number of times where I put my controller down to soak in its gorgeous vistas because these titles rarely come along. It also just so happens that the game is a ton of fun to play and is one that fans of the metroidvania sub-genre shouldn’t miss.
It had been five years since the release of its predecessor, Ori and the Blind Forest. A great game in its own right, but if played side by side with the Will of the Wisps, its clear that the latter is superior in every way. Platforming feels tighter, combat is far more diverse and satisfying, and the showpiece moments are more fun to play through and are far more forgiving. This is a title that has few flaws and is one that I thoroughly enjoyed playing from start to finish.
As in the first title, you control Ori, a guardian spirit who must undertake a perilous journey to revitalize the forest of Niwen, which acts as the setting for the game. You’ll explore different biomes that come with their own obstacles and puzzles to navigate. Upon completing the first section of the game, players are free to explore the forest of Niwen as they please. But as in most games in the genre, there are going to be areas that cannot be explored without unlocking special abilities. These can be found throughout each area and can assist in finding hard to reach areas.
The Will of the Wisps excels in level design, there are always instances where you’ll question if you can reach that platform or area and if you utilize your abilities correctly, you can. Chaining these abilities together is immensely satisfying and doing so in some of the most difficult areas can provide a sense of accomplishments that most titles rarely provide. The Will of the Wisps does an excellent job with making the player feel empowered.
Combat in the game is vastly improved over the original. Ori is given a plethora of weapons and abilities to help disperse enemies. As in the platforming, these can be chained together, as they are mapped to a button and can be interchanged at any time. You can also select these from a radial menu during combat if you wish to experiment and optimize. While you’ll be quick to find your weapon and ability layout, mine always included the hammer because of the damage output, you’ll find that all of them have their uses.
Players are able to optimize these builds by acquiring and equipping skill shards that can be find through exploration or by purchasing in the Wellspring Glades, which acts as the hub world. You can maximize damage output while sacrificing defense or increasing the effectiveness of a particular ability you happen to fond of. You’ll start out with three upgrade slots, but this can be increased through the completion of battle shrines. These tend to be fairly easy to complete, with the difficulty lying in actually finding these as they are well hidden.
The hub world of Wellspring Glades serves multiple purposes. Players can interact with the different inhabitants for upgrades, side quests, and hints to their next objective. Upgrades are not restricted to just weapons and abilities, you will be able to upgrade the hub world to access areas that were previously blocked. But the best part is that you’re able to teleport back to the Wellspring Glades once you unlock the fast travel ability which occurs during the first part of the game.
One of the biggest issues with metroidvania games is that their fast travel system requires returning to a certain area to do so. Ori and the Blind Forest did this and it felt at times that it elongated the experience. In the Will of the Wisps, you can fast travel home from anyway and from there you can take a gate to an are that you’ve discovered. Also, you’re now able to save anywhere without wasting energy cells as in the first game saving came at a cost. These small quality of life improvements makes the Will of the Wisps accessible and fun to navigate and explore, because back tracking can be a pain in the ass.
Another new addition to the Will of the Wisps is the introduction of boss fights. In the first title there were grand escape sections that signified the end of a level. These weren’t necessarily replaced by the boss fights found in the sequel, but it combines escape sections and combat in unique, layered boss fights that are all really enjoyable to play. These fights require players to utilize different abilities to not only deal damage but to outmaneuver attacks. The end of boss fights can be particularly thrilling because they can completely remove the ability to self-heal which means you have to be at your best to succeed.
Visually, I can’t say enough good things about this game. The art style is phenomenal, the world and its inhabitants are animated beautifully that it will leave you in awe of just how Moon Studios was able to craft this world. Seriously, there are moments where I died because I was wondering how they were able to make the game look so damn good. It is a testament to the talent of the developers because it made me want to see how their next project will turn out.
Not only is this title superior to its predecessor, but its evident that Ori and the Will of the Wisps is one of the best titles of the year. It is one of the best metroidvania titles currently out on the market and is one that I highly recommend you pick up and play. If, for whatever reason, you don’t feel like purchasing the title at full price, pick up the Xbox Games Pass, then you’ll be able to dive right in and experience this gorgeous game for yourself. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is masterful.