It’s that magical tingle we all got when we were kids on Christmas day, or that first time when we drove our first car. You will never forget your first time on those rare and special occasions. I got the same feeling when I first played Ori and the Blind Forest back in 2015. It was an amazing game that was full of wonder and had outstanding beauty, and still has to this day.
Now 5 years later we finally get a new Ori title from Moon Studios and it is well worth the wait! From that beautiful intro with birds chirping, wind blowing across the trees, the sun peering over the mountain top and the hypnotic melody at the start, you can feel the tingles back again. That very first moment you start your journey with Ori, you are mesmerised by the beauty, the ambience of the world and how fluid everything moves and reacts to you as you traverse over obstacles and avoid hazards.
So, what happens next? Well, the Will of the Wisps starts off where the last adventure ended. We meet up with Ori and a newfound feather friend Ku after he recently hatched from their egg. From here we are treated to a short intro showing Ku growing up and trying to learn to fly. We also see a bond developing between Ori and Ku, almost like siblings.
In the world of Niwen you will meet all manner of creatures, from those that want to hurt you and those that want to help you. Moki are creatures that kind of resemble a split between a Meerkat and a Lemur. These little creatures aid you in your journey across Niwen and will often offer you guidance or give you access to an area that you could reach before. Some of these Moki will also have quests for you to complete and these can range from helping them to build a house to asking you to pick up a hat for them, since they prefer the shade away from the sun. You will also get other characters you meet giving you hints or rumours and these will lead you to Shrines. These Shrines act as challenges that you can take part in, like speed runs in certain areas where you compete against the clock and see where you stack up against the rest of the world!
Ori has always been about agility and quick reflexes when playing, it’s gameplay is probably closest to that of Rayman Origins/Legends. As you progress through the story, you will unlock newer abilities that will let you access areas that were inaccessible at the start of the game. So, when you come to an area and struggling to reach that all-important Life/Energy cell or even a Gorlek Ore (more on those later), you will be able to jump back later once Ori has picked up some valuable upgrades. When it comes to the upgrades, you will come across the Ancestral Trees just like in the first game, that will give you valuable upgrades like the wall climb move or double jump. You will also come across a merchant of sorts named Twillen. He will convert your energy orbs that you have collected across the game into abilities and upgrades, with some being more powerful than most. There are also those that will give you an advantage but at a cost, for example, the ability that will allow you to deal up to 30% more damage, but in return you will take 30% more. This is where you are left with a choice of what abilities you want Ori to have. Thankfully you can switch them out when you feel the need to change your playstyle a bit. I personally loved the ability to stick to walls, which makes timing jumps a little easier, when you are on a flying run and of course, the Flash, which lights the way at the darkest of times.
While you are going around picking up orbs, you will come across another curious stone, the Gorlek Ore. Now at the start you are unsure what you will need these pink triangular shaped stones. When you venture further into the game you will come across a curious creature by the name of Grom. He will use these stones in several way, like building homes for the Moki that need shelter or fix an ancient Spirit Well. These are handy little things as they can warp you around the map saving you time. Especially if you need to travel back to a previous location to reach those inaccessible areas that now should be readily accessible thanks to some new upgrades. You may also meet up with Opher, who is a warrior monkey-like creature. He will teach you some new moves that you can equip to make Ori stronger and adding more power to your abilities and giving you the enhanced version of breathing underwater (no more searching for air pockets).
There are plenty of other creatures you will meet on your travels, some will be friendly and give you side quests to complete for them, something done for them in return for a reward. It’s great way to earn some extra rewards to aid you in your journey to find Ku, and they can be quite lengthy quests too. There are others who will want to kill you on sight and there are plenty out there waiting for you, from Ori eating plants that spit poisonous balls at you to leaping spiders that lay down fire as they try to scorch you! Beware of vanishing scorpions!
Then you will have huge beasts looking to devour you like the Howler and Mora (a giant spider looking to snare you in her web). All the while Shriek will be watching you from the skies looking to pick you off at any chance she gets, so try to avoid her at all costs, if possible.
When it comes to the game’s mechanics, Ori can run, jump, glide and twirl her way across each of the 5 locations that are on offer in the Will of the Wisps. Ori will also unlock more moves to add to her repertoire, like using dash to achieve greater leaps across ledges, walls and over obstacles. You will also be able to use the lights hanging from vines to dash jump and reach further heights and distances like you could in the Blind Forest. At certain parts in the game you will be able to grab on to moss and climb using it, whether its stuck on to walls or on the ceilings of caves, and even later in the game unlock the ability to lasso this moss from a distance so you can traverse through some of the levels a lot quicker.
Ori can do a cool little handstand when climbing up certain wooden poles, showing off her acrobatic skills. Along with some cool backflips at time, she glides effortless through the levels as you make your way towards your current objective. Later in the game there are puzzles that challenge you and to rethink a new path. Once such part early in the game is when you need to use a cauldron of sorts and your FLAP ability which sees you fanning the flames of the fire the cauldron is sitting on. The effect is that a hot ember will fly out of the cauldron and its up to you to get Ori to use the DASH ability to aim the ember at a frozen torch or to reach a higher jump. When completed you will thaw out the ice and open up more of the map that was previously unattainable, brilliant!
Then there are the cool run sequences that will happen, just like in Blind Forest where we are being chased by a boss of sorts. In this instance it’s a giant squid like monster which tentacles have been clogging up the Wellspring and stopping the water flowing through the glades. This was the reason for all the purple water you had to avoid, which by the end of the run, has now become clear and safe for Ori to swim in. Which in turn opens new areas for you to explore and find those all-important life and energy cells that will help improve Ori’s overall health and energy bars.
When it comes the Will of the Wisps graphics and score, it is second to none. Each of the levels have been beautiful crafted, from the creatures that inhabit the areas you visit to the flowing waters and desolated woods that surrounded each objective for you to complete. Light pierces through the trees and undergrowth from the sun/moon as you travel along, or when you land on a branch or tree, you can see it bend and react to the weight of Ori as the two meet. Even how the waters react when you jump in causing a little ripple motion on the water surface and how it shows of the reflection of the landscape in the background given it life, feeling like a babbling brook in a wood. Then there are the snowy tops and icy waters of Baur’s Reach, and the colourful vegetation and clear waters of the Luma Pools, each location has its own unique art style and presence. The art team at Moon Studios have done an outstanding job in create the different and beautiful landscapes that you visit throughout the game.
The music accompanies the game majestically as we travel across Niwen and discover new and more intriguing areas to explore. When confronted by an enemy hell bent on our destruction, the music quickly changes up the tempo and it really gets your adrenaline pumping while you are trying to survive by jumping, leaping and attacking something like the Howler or Horn Beetle. When it comes to certain parts in the story, is slowed down, tranquil and sombre, it fits everything perfectly. Obviously, I can’t go into too much detail due to spoilers and how the story pans out, but it really is a thing of beauty when you see the graphical environments and the score dance together in unison. It must be witnessed first-hand to truly appreciate what everyone over at Moon Studios has achieved.
What I really love about Ori as a character is that their gender is undefined, which means anyone can related to her/him and find apart of themselves within the main character, as they progress through the game. A character filled with purpose, responsibility and courage, while feeling a sense of loss or sadness. Mainly due to part of them not quite feeling a belonging to a world as they look to find their purpose. Also, it was difficult not to spoil the game for you and keep tight lipped about the story, as there are so many memorable moments. So, I’ve been careful not to divulge too much in this review in relation to the story.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps seems like a perfect game, doesn’t it? Well, that’s just what the game is, perfect! It has the perfect balance of gameplay mechanics, art style and an amazing score to accompany you on your journey across Niwen. Ori’s movement throughout the levels is almost like a poetic dance, flowing like an ever-moving river through a valley that is awaken from its slumber. Never has a game before moved me so much in the same way as the Will of the Wisps have. Sure, there are frustrating times along the way when you need make that vital jump or dash to avoid a killer blow from a boss, or dodge the many hazards in your path, but it’s part and parcel of what makes this game so much fun. You get a real sense of accomplishment once you have completed the challenge and that’s what will keep you coming back for more. Pushing yourself to reach that last gem or Golek stone or hitting the Shrines to be the best and top the leaderboards for bragging rights.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a MUST have game for every fan of the platforming puzzle traversing genre! Despite an issue with freezing on the map screen, if you decide to miss out on this gem you are probably missing one of THE best games of the current generation that’s out today. From the first step you take with Ori, you are tantalised and mesmerised all the while being filled with sadness and joy. There is no other title out now that makes me feel over the moon to be an Xbox gamer right now… Moon Studios owns my heart for life! GRAB IT NOW!!
GoG Rating: 10/10