Game Review: Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Release date: 2020
Version played: Xbox One in 2020

A direct sequel to Moon Studios’ 2015 Ori and the Blind Forest comes the 2020 action-platformer, Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Players once again take control of Ori, a guardian spirit of light, as they traverse a sprawling, varied landscape of frozen wastelands, tangled jungle vines, desert sands and more, with a new slew of movement options including an air dash, multi-jumps and a new grappling hook. Combat has been wildly improved, with multiple new weapons available, and unlockable abilities to change the way Ori behaves in combat or movement.

+ the environments are absolutely gorgeous, with almost every single screenshot you take being worthy of a computer background, if not framed on your wall. The varied locations are all unique, but always maintain the flow and ‘movement rhythm’ to keep players moving with subtle detail clues, and returning to a previously completed area to seek out secrets using new abilities is a genuine joy
+ similarly, characters, both friend and foe, are detailed and feel alive. The character’s all fit into this same art style, but the differences between an adorable giant bear and a terrifying spider are immediately apparent from the animations (and, as mentioned below) their audio motifs
+ much like the first game, the soundtrack is phenomenal, with emotional moments accompanied by a heartbreaking score, before the intense chase sequence or harrowing boss battles ramping up the intensity
+ the plot is enthralling, and you’ll have run the gamut on emotions by the time the credits roll. I legitimately teared up a few times in a way that games rarely make me feel
+ the addition of side quests makes the game feel even larger than the sum of its parts, and fleshes out what may otherwise be one note background characters. A Link’s Awakening style trade sequence was a personal highlight
+ a small detail, but the new checkpoint system is wonderful for someone like me, who never really got my head around the ‘make your own checkpoint’ system in the original game

– played on the original Xbox One, there were severe performance issues, such as lots of framerate drops in combat, and taking nearly 10 seconds at times to open the map. These would be acceptable if the game did not also randomly crash almost ten separate times sometimes resulting in a loss of progress

> I am hesitant to call it a negative, because in a way it was just another difficulty option for me personally, but there is no colour-blind support. This means that as gorgeous as the art is, I often found myself confused on where to go until a friend told me there was a grapple point right in the middle of the screen

Should you play this game: This is exactly what a sequel should be. It builds upon everything from the first game, and continues the story in a way that never loses sight of the basics that made that first game so enjoyable. The combat, movement, soundtrack, level design and story are all some of the best you’ll play all year.

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