The original Ori is one of the most captivating, moving and downright brilliant experiences on Xbox. There was no doubt that sequel Will of the Wisps had it’s work cut out for it – but really, did any of us doubt Moon Studios? While the wait has felt like it lasted a lifetime, the end result more than makes up for it.
Immediately apparent is, of course, just how stunning it looks. The wizards at Moon have managed to craft a fantasy world that practically jumps out of the screen and pulls us in. While I’m still relegated to an OG Xbox One, the use of vibrant colours, stunning attention to detail and design and layered elements result in one of the best looking titles I’ve ever seen. No matter where I explored, my jaw was constantly dropped by yet another stunning landscape or intricately designed area. Our hero Ori is wonderfully animated – as is the rest of the cast – and the little touches, such as trees gently swaying under his weight or the way water ripples as he dives in, create the illusion of a living, breathing place, despite the fantastical setting. Each unique area has a distinct look and feel to it, and my mind kept changing on what was my favourite each time I re-entered a section. This immaculate work does come with a slight price mind (those on an OneX/S are much less likely to finds these issues); while a day one patch improves things massively, I still found a few instances of slowdown or freezing as I traversed the landscape, or occasionally in the middle of boss battles. Nothing game breaking, but it did pull me out of the experience at times.
Which, when it happened, was a shame because for 99% of the time Ori is simply brilliant to play. He controls much as we remember from Blind Forest, though his powers have been stripped back to the basics once more. We can regain these and more by finding or purchasing orbs and shards around the vast map. Some offer up permanent upgrades – such as being able to drill through solid rock or grapple onto certain objects – while others are equip-able for different situations, such as gaining some extra life points, or an extra attack. It’s also possible to upgrade the majority of these too using the currency found dotted around and granted for completing quests. The basic elements allow us to get through the game, but it’s nice to have that extra little boost to help out. Traversing the world is consistently fun even when back tracking – of which there’s plenty if 100% is your aim. A fast travel system allows us to bypass some of this, but more often than not I simply enjoyed moving around and would often find new nooks and crannies that recently acquired upgrades make possible to reach. Respawning enemies allow us to grind for currency, though I did find this to be a little annoying at times f I was just trying pass through somewhere, not really looking for a fight. By the end of the game I ended up with more than enough currency anyway from completing quests and the like that gaining a few measly extra from a fight proved worthless.
Combat is almost as fun as the traversal too. Almost. Our basic abilities allow Ori to jump around, but the first, a sword attack gained early on is one of the equip-able abilities. I wouldn’t recommend removing it, though of course you could focus on more magic orientated attacks as long as your magic meter can sustain it. Ori is a tough game though, and often I found even a few enemies at once would do me in, especially early on. There’s a much more deliberate rhythm to combat than you may expect gong in. It’s all about taking your time and picking the right moments to attack. Go charging in head first and you’re gonna have a bad time. It’s been a while since I played Blind Forest, but I feel like the combat was a little more forgiving there and the challenge came from the traversal puzzles. Get in to the flow though and it’s very rewarding to tackle a full room of enemies successfully, especially once later abilities such as the burst come in to play, allowing us to fire back projectiles or even entire smaller enemies.
The handful of boss battles along the way are a another level mind. Here, the challenge is cranked up, almost to a ridiculous degree. It can be too hard to determine exactly where you can and cannot hit them, as well as what part of their being is safely in the background and which will harm us should we touch it. I found myself needing to step away on multiple occasions after dying yet again, often out of nowhere. That’s not to say they aren’t fun; the encounters are smartly designed and are a visual spectacle. The arenas are often large, with plenty of manoeuvrability allowing that excellent traversal set to really play a part in winning. A couple even have mid-point saves, mercifully. But there’s no denying it can get frustrating to die repeatedly to overwhelming odds before we can figure out the best plan of attack. I played on the default normal difficulty too, with easier and harder options available at the start of a new game (though I don’t believe it’s possible to alter mid game unfortunately).
Challenging platforming sections in the vein of the infamous water tower from Blind Forest also feature; lessons were clearly learned as these feel much more manageable now, though they will still test the reflexes and skill. One later example had me close to feeling that same rage, but I was able to maintain a cool head long enough to clear it somewhat quickly. Dotted around the map are challenge rooms, offering further upgrades and abilities providing you can beat an ever more difficult procession of enemies in combat or win a tricky race. While optional, I’d highly recommend searching these out as the not only will the rewards be beneficial, but it helps train the reflexes for the bigger battles.
We can pick up side quests along the way that fill in extra world lore and detail and add a great little incentive toi fully explore the world. While the descriptions are often vague, such as search for someone that needs a hat that we picked up, completing one ususally leads into another. Following this bread crumb trail is fun and can be mostly completed simply by exploring along the way. A central area features several characters that can upgrade the zone with certain items, again encouraging exploration and rewarding us with currency, upgrades and more side quests. There’s certainly a lot to keep us going in Will of the Wisps, but rarely does it feel like busy work or a hassle.
You may remember that Blind Forest wasted no time in pulling at the heart strings, with a powerful but subdued tale of loss and redemption. Will of the Wisps doesn’t quite have the same impact, but it’s still a touching tale and one that, while sporadic in it’s exposition, keeps the interest held well. The emotion is helped by a frankly incredible soundtrack that is going to be added in to my rotation as soon as I can get a hold of it.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps had some lofty expectations coming into it, and it’s safe to say that it more than met them handsomely, Some difficulty spikes can frustrate, but overall it’s a charming, beautiful, brilliantly fun title. Gamepass subscriber or not, you absolutely need to experience this game.