Ori is back, in a brand new adventure that introduces a new owl friend and plenty of abilities that you can discover. Just like you would expect in a Metroidvania styled game, you start off with nothing in Ori and the Will of the Wisps and, as you progress, you will get new abilities to allow you to navigate to previously-impossible areas. The world is huge but luckily we have a fast travel system that allows you to teleport to certain save shrines. You can get lost for hours and there are tons of hidden areas and collectibles. Even if you haven’t played the first, Ori and the Blind Forest, it is not required to enjoy the sequel. If platformers are something you enjoy, it’s a must to play through this one.
Here’s what I liked:
Majestic Delivery — There’s no denying that Ori has gorgeous scenery. Vivid and lush environments that make you feel like you’re moving within a painting. There are several areas from a forest, pools of water, snowy terrain, to even dark caverns that require a firefly for navigation. There isn’t a dull area to be found that isn’t rich with detail. Then there is the soundtrack, which has deep sounds that seem to tell a story as if you were watching a movie. Overall, the atmosphere is beautiful and poetic, and will likely win some awards in that type of category.
Extreme Heights — This is the most platforming I have had to do in a while. Getting myself to certain locations was at times difficult, but extremely fun. I loved getting to heights I shouldn’t have been at yet. Working on jumping and sticking to surfaces, falling, retrying, and eventually succeeding was awesome. The movements of the character are truly spot on and once you have obtained all abilities, you’ll be able to get almost anywhere you want to be. It makes backtracking exciting instead of a chore. A lot of times you see something out of reach, but know you will be coming back later to grab it and you’re fine to move on. Unlocking each new ability always made me think “what did I pass up that I can now go grab?”. It kept the game fresh and I never thought it was a drag to explore somewhere I’ve already been.
Upgrade System — There is a system that implements something called Spirit Shards. They act as sort of a buff. There are a total of 30 of them and you can have eight total active at once (once you have earned them). These really change how the game works. You can use it to enhance abilities, give you extra damage, allow you to triple jump, and so on. Do you want more spirit light? It has you covered. Certain combinations can net you a lot of money (what the spirit light acts as) and help you farm enemies to get enough to upgrade and buy everything. If a boss is giving you grief, go for all that damage. The best part is you can change them on the fly. If you get to a boss you can go all out damage since you won’t care about anything else but defeating it. I enjoyed unlocking and trying them all out.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
Control Confusion — Progressing through the story grants you new abilities. A few of these will allow you to navigate the world easier. However, the use of RB and LB can be mixed up quite easily. Many times I had fallen to my doom because I hit the wrong one. Certain interactions demand RB and you might press LB instead, and vice versa. The color is the same when the game shows you can interact with an object or enemy. After more than twenty hours playing, I was still having a difficult time pressing the right command. Also, digging can be a bit problematic, especially very late in the story when you’re running from a giant enemy. You can launch yourself from the dirt but during crucial times you may simply land on the mound instead of digging into it, leading to instant death. It can feel a bit like controls could use some fine-tuning.
Ability Utilization — By the end of the game, I had unlocked every shard available. Out of all of them, I only used a few. There was no reason to use the other attack-based ones, as they used up mana and it was just something else I had to keep track of. Therefore, I only used melee and healing. There were a few abilities that did a lot of damage, but there weren’t enemies that had health I couldn’t deplete with a few normal hits. I was even playing on hard mode. Why waste half my mana bar to kill something a few seconds faster? Even completely maxed out with everything, there was really no need to use anything but the basics. The only time I used the feather and bow was for puzzles, but they were quickly put away afterward. I know it really depends on your preferred playstyle, but after obtaining most of the slotted abilities, I just felt they were for presentation versus utility.
What Bugs Me — Playing for several hours, you might notice a severe drop in performance where the game almost pauses for a few seconds. Not a lot has to even be going on. You could just be moving and jumping with no enemies around. This freeze in action happens often. More bad news, there are several glitched achievements. Completing the game and getting all collectibles did not unlock for me. This will likely be patched, but with how other games have handled this type of issue, it could require me to do it all over again. That’s not something I am willing to do. Another, less important, problem I had was when you are warping to another location. There were some strange color patterns happening. Most often, a bright light making my whole screen white, similar to what happens when playing Modern Warfare and you get flash-banged. It’s bright enough to make me look away or close my eyes because it causes me a bit of eye strain. If it’s planned to be that way, I guess we’re out of luck on it being changed.
The title may come off as confusing, but I think it fits the overall opinion. The game is beautiful but the bugs are a beast. Once the game gets patched, just like the movie with the same name, all will be well and happy. The story was okay but lacked excitement from point A to B. You kind of just knew how it would end. My enjoyment was cut down greatly thanks to the glitches and achievements being messed up. Being a long-time achievement junky, I get annoyed when I earned something but don’t get the reward and the “fix” is just to do it all over again and hope for the best. I actually haven’t played the first Ori so I can’t compare the two nor do I have a bias based on how much I enjoyed the previous installment. I would wait for some patches before attempting this game. It’s excellent, there’s no doubt about it, but when things don’t work you become robbed of the experience. Still, it’s better than most platformers out there, even with the issues.
Score: Highly Recommended
“Ori and the Will of the Wisps” was published by Xbox Game Studios and developed by Moon Studios on Xbox One. It was released on March 11, 2020, for $29.99. A copy was played using Game Pass.