Ori and the Blind Forest was a stepping stone for me, it opened me up to a world that I had forgotten about. Whilst metroidvania is a term highly debated, they were games that I loved as a child. I somehow over my gaming career, got lost in the never ending dribble of Triple-A and shooter games. I’m not putting these games down, but I somehow forgot what I played games for, an adventure. Ori provided a break and a realisation for me, It was one of my early reviews and I will sing its praise forever. When a sequel was announced at E3 2017, I was over the moon! And boy did Moon Studios deliver.
Developer: Moon Studios
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Platforms: Steam, Xbox One
Release Date: 11 March 2020
Ori and the Will of the Wisps picks up after the first game. Your family reunited and with the addition of Ku, an owl with a broken wing (Whose back story I will avoid spoiling because the first game deserves to be played). Ku throughout the opening is shown looking to the sky, watching other creatures with the ability to fly soar. Ku tries and tries but the broken wing will not allow flight, until Ori gift a feather as a gift. Once slightly confident, Ku joined by Ori go forth to explore the sky that was out of reach. A storm, proving too difficult throws them both into a dangerous place, Niwen. With Ku now injured, Ori must face destiny.
One complaint of many with the first game is that the combat was lacking. I never included it in my review but it was something I noticed in my recent playthrough. The game has taken a clear route into exploring combat and it works, with a few different weapons the game feels fluid and combat is nothing but satisfying. The first attacking ability is a sword of light to fight your enemies, which works well and served me throughout the entire game. You can also get a hammer, which I used post-game and I wish I used it throughout my playthrough because it is so satisfying landing hits on fast enemies! There are a few different options when it comes to combat, so when you get the chance I recommend exploring your options and picking what is right for you!
The combat pairs itself very well with your abilities, specifically bash. For those who haven’t played the first game, bash is an ability that allows you to propel yourself off enemies, projectiles and environmental objects. It allows you to fire back projectiles from enemies, gain higher ground, combo enemies or escape if needed. I still vouch that bash is one of the most satisfying abilities of any game that I have played.
Something new the game has added is the use of spirit shards, which allow you to change Ori in a way that will suit you. Are you the type of player that prefers to have a higher defence? Then you can build Ori this way; or do you prefer to out damage opponents? after all, a great offence is a great defence… For me, I had two different styles. One would focus on the ability to move around and explore, I would have a triple jump and climbing that allowed me to move easily. Secondly, I would have an offensive build for big fights, that focused on defence and a few additions to combat skills to help fend off bosses and bigger enemies.
There are however some problems. I did experience some frame drops and stuttering when the game was doing too much, which could be annoying. It was never enough to get me killed or put me in danger, but the game’s graphics and design are so well done, that a small frame drop is unfortunately noticed.
The world in Ori is incredibly well designed, like many other games in the same genre, it uses abilities to lock out certain parts of the world. You have to keep coming back to certain areas to find all its secrets and complete the side quests. The map is split up into a few distinct areas that you have to visit to restore the forest and they do not stray too far from your traditional areas you come to expect in Metrovanias. What is specifically special about the world of Ori is the way the game uses natural hazards to force you to think about what you are doing. For example, spikes and enemies are placed in certain ways to force you to platform in ways you would not have originally thought of. The game trains you to use abilities without thinking, blending your gameplay in a fluid way, unique to the Ori franchise. There is a learning curve present, one that will not hold your hand but will allow you the satisfaction when you fluidly move through areas that once troubled you.
Bosses are again well designed as much as they are difficult! Some bosses you have to fight, some you have to escape, either scenario is satisfying. But the escape sequences are breathtaking, seriously! The way the game uses the escapes to test all your skills and seeing Ori move so fluidly is without equal! The fights usually have stages, which drastically change the way they attack and the area, being able to adapt on the fly is something the game wants you to be able to do. The final fight within the game combines everything in perfect fashion, so pay attention when playing, you may need to call on skills you’ve used in the past to defeat Shriek.
I do want to mention the characters within the game also, there is a clear drive towards community within the game that I feel that it would be unfair not to mention it. You have the option to help build up the Wellspring Glades, which becomes your hub and the living place of all the friendly creatures. You become invested in the creatures living there and genuinely want to help them get new houses to live in or clear out hazards within the Glade. Your not just restoring the forest as you was within the first game, you are actively trying to help others survive what is happening within Niwen.
Ori has a special way of humanising villains. Well since they are creatures I suppose humanising is slightly incorrect, but it works for this point. They are not just evil because they are evil, they have been either corrupted or in terms of the main villain within the game Kwolok, have been rejected by their societies and forced to hate others. One thing that designated with me from the first game is that the main villain Kuru, was not 100% ‘evil’ at all, she was just trying to do what was best for her family. Which tugs at your heartstrings. The game does character well, without over-explaining them, they have their own needs and wants, which sometimes affects others and Ori. You truly empathise with them. Shriek is the same, an owl that was born under her dead parents, born different from the other owl and the elders shun her and leave her to die. The conclusion of her story, whilst admittedly we only see little of it, is heart melting and gut wrenching.
I rarely mention the music to a game within my review because most of the time it does nothing to add to the experience. This is not the case for Ori. The music is well thought out and well placed to help give the place the emotional ques that the developers and story designers were looking for. I do not think I have played a game in which this has been done more successfully. The OST to the game is as breathtaking as the original game, which I never thought could have been accomplished.
Overall, my final thoughts on Ori are simple, if you are on the fence about playing it… don’t be. This game is 100% worth the play through and will easily be the contender to my game of the year, the emotional connection this game conjures is truly special and one you will not want to miss. You can grab Ori on Xbox One and the Microsoft Windows marketplace. It is also available on Game Pass, so if you have it, I HIGHLY recommend you play it.