I am enamoured with Ori and the Will of the Wisps. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone vaguely interested in Ori’s latest adventure because, as most people should be aware, Ori and the Blind Forest is arguably one of the best games of the past decade. It’s gorgeous to look at, listen to and play through, like a series of blind dates with The Rolling Stones back when they were young and didn’t resemble dried biltong. Predicting the trend in indie games when it was first released, Ori and the Blind Forest stands out as a particularly memorable metroidvania before the genre became so saturated. It’s a formula that Will of the Wisps leans into once again, this time expandeding the original game’s mechanics out like an umbrella.
Nearly every facet of Blind Forest has grown and blossomed for Moon Studio’s follow up and while I’ve still got a decent way to go until I see the end credits rolling, from the first handful of hours alone it’s clear that Will of the Wisps is a sequel designed with a clear vision and intention in mind. If I may summarise my current feelings on Will of the Wisps in but a single line:
It is utterly phenomenal.
If you’re not completely captivated by the prologue of this game alone, I’m afraid we’re going have to call your parents to come and collect you because I very much doubt your mental well-being. Moon Studios have once again shown off their ability to captivate through minimal writing and dialogue, peppering in narration like a spice that’s unnecessary in your bowl of pesto pasta but it certainly makes the already established flavours sing a little clearer.
There’s an element of reserved storytelling that just makes everything feel…cosy. Sure, it’s not exactly subtle but Ori and the Will of the Wisps is unapologetically genuine in its delivery and maybe I’m just a sucker for watching a baby owl try to fly but fail because she hurt her wing. It’s a simple premise of two friends attempting to find each other and make it back to safety, and while one might cynically point at the beautifully tranquil music and big sad animal eyes to proclaim that the game is trying too hard to “make us feel feelings”, I doubt there’s a single cynical polygon in this game’s code.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps oozes a passion you just don’t see in many games these days. There’s a love not only for the world and characters but for how the actual game itself plays. The movement in Blind Forest was one of that game’s biggest strengths and the sequel only builds upon an already solid foundation, turning a very pleasant apartment above a coffee shop into a full-blown penthouse built over the city’s most prestigious restaurant. Ori’s controls feel meticulously designed with every jump, dash, landing and projectile bash seemingly handcrafted from the ground up. It’s the sort of platformer that feels so good to play that you could spend hours just zipping around one of the game’s arenas just for the sheer joy of how fluid every action is. In the hands of someone who knows what they’re doing, I could see speedruns of this game where Ori never touches the floor. That’s hyperbole but it’s the best way of describing just how sleek Will of the Wisp’s controls feel. It feels like that could be a possibility.
The only thing I’m vaguely disappointed in at the time of writing is the fairly uninspiring power-ups. In classic metroidvania style, Ori will pick up a bunch of upgrades that will unlock new areas to explore. While the ones I’ve unlocked are still enjoyable to use (who doesn’t enjoy a double jump or an air dash?) I was certainly left feeling like they were somewhat…stale. Plenty of Metroidvanias have come out since Blind Forest and many of those games threw in some wild and original power-ups, so seeing Will of the Wisps largely just double down on the clichés was a touch disappointing. That being said, there’s still a whole lot of game to play through so it’s possible that this disappointment is fleeting at best.
So far, Ori and the Will of the Wisps has taken my breath away. It’s possibly one of the most aesthetically gorgeous games I’ve ever played, even if some parts do feel like they’ve been ripped straight from the first game and the soundtrack is masterful in every sense of the word. I need to keep reminding myself that I can’t drop a score for Will of the Wisps until I’ve actually finished the game because, honestly, I feel like my mind is already made up on what kind of rating it deserves. You’ll just have to check back in a couple days to see if that gut feeling of mine holds any water.
Last Updated: March 10, 2020