Review – Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Anyone that knows me could tell you about my love for the Ori and the Blind Forest, a fantastic metroidvania title that managed to have some of the best level design and platforming in years mixed in with a surprisingly emotional story that made anyone with a heart weep right from the getgo. Could Ori and the Will of the Wisps even come close to living up to the original?
Set immediately after the events of the first game, with the sympathetic villain Kuro sacrificing herself to restore light to the world of Nibel. Ori and friends have adopted Kuro’s son named Ku. After setting out on an adventure together Ku and Ori are separated by a devastating storm in a new unexplored land. After a awe-inspiring opening sequence, we are dropped into a new dangerous world of Niwel in a desperate search for Ku. Once again, Moon Studios delivered a powerful and emotional story full of hope whilst also delving into a surprisingly rich history of the Ori universe. It hits just as hard as the original with some truly dramatic scenes and great world building.
All of this is helped along by a much bigger cast of interesting characters. The new villain Shriek is just more terrifying than Kuro, with an even more interesting backstory that gets uncovered throughout the game. Not only that, but the world of Niwel is also host to a vast array of colourful and friendly characters who will share their insight of the world as well as assist Ori on his journey.
Will of the Wisps stays very true to the formula of its predecessor but it’s much larger and more ambitious. Ori is still as nimble as ever and you will of course be battling, jumping and exploring through the vast interconnected open world, with new movement abilities that allow Ori to grapple to certain ledges and burrow under sand. Platforming is a breeze thanks to the excellent level design and controls. However it doesn’t just retread old ground and some huge changes have been made to the gameplay.
Combat is where the biggest changes lies. Replacing the spirit orbs as your primary weapon, Ori’s first weapon will be a Spirit Sword, an incredibly fun melee weapon that changes behaviour depending on where you are looking. As you progress through the world, you will gain access to more weapons and gadgets for Ori’s arsenal: hammers, bows, spears, among some more, all have their own unique purpose in gameplay. You can effortlessly swap these out in game by holding the Left Trigger to bring up a radial menu and assigning your abilities to the face buttons (X, Y, B). The game pauses while you’re doing that, so you don’t need to worry about accessing the menu while in the middle of a fight.
Ori’s combat is at its very best when you are stringing abilities together in fun and creative ways. Using the grappling hook to dodge out of the way of an attack only to throw a spear at a distance and then ground pound only to finish them off with a sword combo was incredibly satisfying. This combination of platforming and combat is intuitive and doesn’t require too much effort to be worthwhile. Eventually your skills will grow enough that you can complete entire battles without even touching the ground.
We also now have a sort of central hub where different characters you will meet throughout your journeys will return to. You have your standard array of merchants who will give you new skills and upgrades, but also characters who will give you side quests. These will often revolve around simply delivering or collecting items to upgrade the hub, but they are well worth doing, further encouraging exploration. Seeing the hub grow and react to my actions felt rewarding in its own right.
Niwel is packed with tons of areas that are all interconnected in a wonderfully designed world. The scorching desert and the underwater paradise have a completely different look and feel whilst all still feeling like a part of the same world. Within all of these areas, lie a ton of secrets and collectables to find. Health and energy upgrades are scattered all throughout the map whilst currency is hidden around almost every corner. I often found myself revisiting every area later just to make sure I got everything.
Then you have Spirit Shards, which are basically perk points. These are modifiers used to upgrade Ori’s weapons and abilties, ranging from a simple double jump and wall hang to a faster firing bow and explosive spears. At the start of the game you can only equip three of them, but as you complete combat shrine challenges you will be able to equip ten by the end of it. It’s a lot of fun to mix and match these shards and build Ori the way that you want to. Will of the Wisps as a whole does a great job of making Ori feel more powerful as the game progresses.
At the end of every area there is always an incredible escape set piece that requires you to use everything you’ve learned in said area. These are exhilarating moments that will require near perfect timing for you to get through them. Then we get boss fights at the end of each set piece, a brand new addition to the series that makes great usage of the game’s overall combat and platforming.
Remaining true to the original, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is still challenging, brutally punishing you for every single mistake you commit. By the end of my first playthrough I had died over 120 times. Most of them felt fair, and often a result from me mistiming a jump or getting too greedy in combat. The original game’s spirit link mechanic is gone and has been replaced by a dedicated checkpoint system. It was a big part of the original’s identity, making the sole act of saving more of a strategical choice. Checkpoints are placed just well enough you won’t feel too punished for dying a lot whilst not being often enough to feel like a crutch.
As you have seen by the screenshots, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is absolutely beautiful to look at, with a great and varied colour palette with superb character designs. Considering it is a 2D game, Ori makes great use of a 3D space filling in the background and foreground with gorgeous scenery that background characters and weather effects interact with. Often times throughout the journey Ori will actually look into the background making the world feel infinitely bigger and more alive. The attention of detail put into this game really is impressive.
Then we’ve got the soundtrack. What Gareth Coker did for the original game was nothing short of amazing and it’s no different in here. Each and every moment has so much more impact thanks to the music propelling it to the next level. Whereas action heavy moments ramp up the music to be more exciting, quieter and more dramatic moments bring things way back down. I did notice some issues such as a slight buzzing when loading is taking place or certain environmental sound effects not triggering. Though this wasn’t common enough to really become an issue, at least in my experience.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps not only managed to live up to the original game, but also expand on it in almost every way you can imagine. The new combat system, boss fights, story, music and world design all come together for an unforgettable experience that I would recommend to anyone.
A visually stunning 2D adventure that makes excellent use of colours whilst giving the game world some depth with clever use of the background.
From tight platforming to addictive combat. Ori and the Will of the Wisps manages to improve on the already sublime original entry.
Gareth Coker returns to once again deliver a powerful soundtrack that elevates every single moment to the next level.
With its fantastic story and equally fantastic gameplay, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a total blast from start to finish.
Final Verdict: 10
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is available now on PC and Xbox.
Reviewed on PC.