Ori and the Will of the Wisps Review

Stunning visuals, outstanding soundtrack and precise platforming

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Written by Josh Humphriss

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Posted: 19 Jun, 2023

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Modified: 19 Jun, 2023

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Ori and the Will of the Wisps

A beautiful metroidvania platformer

15 Outstanding
Rank: #7
Tech Score: -1

Awards: Best Visual Style, Best Soundtrack

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12 hours

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July 2021

Introduction

On the surface, Ori is a metroidvania. A visually appealing one at that. However, only once you play it do you realise how well every aspect of the game comes to together to deliver an experience that is more than the sum of its parts.

This game has the single best visuals and soundtrack I have ever experienced. The platforming and combat are precise and feel good. The story is impactful and memorable. While the game isn't perfect, by the end I didn't even care about any of my initial frustrations. While individually strong, each of the aspects of the game come together to deliver an overall experience that is even better than the sum of its parts. Whether you like this type of game or have never played anything like it before, you must not skip this game. This is easily one of the best games in its genre and one of the best games ever made.

Visuals & Soundtrack

I have the opinion that if a game has good visuals and good soundtrack, it's already halfway there to being a great game. This isn't to downplay any of Ori's other aspects, but WOW THIS IS THE BEST LOOKING GAME I HAVE EVER SEEN. You could screenshot this game at any moment, frame it and put it on your wall. I know you can already see this by the screenshots in this review but I think it's worth emphasising how genius the use of colour and framing of all these shots - I simply don't know how they've done it.

The obvious question if a game looks incredible is "does this get in the way of gameplay?". I'd go with a "maybe" - it's clearly not a functional aesthetic so it can occassionally be unclear if something is foreground or in the level, or where you are actually meant to go (more on that later), but I wouldn't say this was ever a significant issue. For such a visually appealing game, it is very impressive that it is clear enough to facilitate great gameplay.

Before I got the game, I had looked at the screenshots so I knew how great the visuals would be. But I was completely unprepared for the quality of the soundtrack. I was expecting it to be good, but wow. The soundtrack is simply incredible. It always seems to perfectly compliment what's onscreen to convey exactly what it wants to. The combination of visuals and soundtrack are able to perfectly manipulate your emotions so that you are always feeling exactly what is intended, making key story moments so much more impactful. If you appreciate visuals and soundtrack, you cannot miss this game.

Progression

Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a metroidvania, meaning much of the progression is locked behind obtaining new abilities which allow you to go back to old areas and explore new places. While I enjoyed it towards the end of the game, at the beginning I actually found this model of progression quite frustrating. Particularly annoying was when it wasn't clear whether I was able to clear an obstactle yet, or if I needed a new ability to do so. Sometimes it was very unclear what I needed to do or where to go. Overall, this became a minor issue, but towards the opening I did find this quite frustrating.

Platforming

The platforming is precise and well executed. Something interesting to note is that Ori has health points for platforming, giving you chance for a few mistakes. While I personally prefer faster paced precision platforming with 1 life, Moon Studios have done a very good job at making the platforming precise yet also allow for mistakes in exchange for hitpoints. Initially, the platforming is fairly standard, however there are lots of unique mechanics that you unlock which are really fun. The bash ability is a real highlight as it allows you to plan a route and stay airbourne for an extended period of time. The decision to allow bashing of enemies is also genius as it has applications in both platforming and combat, and it makes enemies useful to reach new locations.

A particular highlight for me was the high-speed platforming segments running away from a boss or similar. These were so much fun, no doubt augmented by the incredible soundtrack in the background. These were geniunely my favourite moments in the game, which is why it's a bit of a shame that Will of the Wisps chose to pivot towards boss fights primarily instead of these segments. The previous game, Ori and the Blind Forest, used only these segments and I think that is better as I absolutely love these segments.

Combat

Overall, combat was fine. It's fairly simple but precise and feels good to play. However, I often wasn't sure about what combat was actually adding to the experience. I tend to prefer platforming over combat, and often the enemies just got in the way. It wasn't bad, but I feel like most of the time I was thinking "ah, not some enemies again" instead of "yay there's more enemies to fight". This is compounded by the fact that once defeated, enemies will respawn if you go back to that location. I can understand this decision however I did find it annoying having to kill the same enemies again and again if you keep going through the same area.

The combat and the platforming tend to isolate themselves from each other, however there were some great moments when they come together. This is where the game really shines in my opinion, as both mechanics compliment each other to lead to a great experience. The bash ability, discussed above, is one example of this. Other times, enemies can be present in the platforming course or platforming is required to defeat enemies. This is always fun and makes it clear that combat is a good feature of the game, rather than an unnecessary addition.

Finally, I have to mention boss fights. While I have already mentioned that I do not agree with the change from the fast-paced platforming sequences, I will admit that the bosses are pretty incredible. The visuals are particularly stunning for the bosses - which is great as if you're like me you'll be looking at them for a while! When I came into this game I saw the art style and thought the combat would be fairly simple. Wow, I was wrong. These boss fights are actually really hard. You have to really learn the attacks for each boss and pay constant attention. A single fight can easily take 5 minutes and you only get a few mistakes before you have to retry. I found I rarely used many of the interesting combat abilities and instead opted to wack things with a sword and use the heal ability, partly due to the fact that it is only possible to equip 3 abilities at once! While I know this is fairly typical for a console game, I have an entire keyboard in front of me and I was very disappointed that I was unable to map more abilities to the keyboard. This encouraged me to be less adventorous with the abilities I was using and have a less diverse and less interesting playstyle. Also, I think they could've toned down the difficulty a bit on some of the bosses...

Overall, I am somewhat conflicted about my opinions on the combat. While I think it was well executed, the limited abilities made it feel far less interesting than the platforming. While I enjoyed the boss fights, I didn't like them as much as the fast-paced platforming sequences. And while enemies could sometimes present an interesting challenge, most of the time they were simply an annoyance that was getting in the way of the better parts of the game, namely the platforming. If you typically prefer combat over platforming then you will probably enjoy this, but I found the focus on combat to come at the expense of platforming, which is the part of the game I enjoy more.

Story

If you play the game, you'll probably agree that the story is fantastic. However, when I think back on it, there is actually surprisingly little story present. It's a game that succeeds in storytelling, over the story itself. This is not an issue, as I remember it as one of the best stories in a video game, but it's worth bearing in mind. This is yet another example of all of the aspects of Ori coming together

Changes from Blind Forest

I think it's worth devoting a little section to all the improvements made from the previous game. I played Ori and the Blind Forest after Ori and the Will of the Wisps and the QoL improvements since then are very noticeable. All the changes made really elevate the experience more than you might think.

A more major change is the save system, which I think was a bit strange in the blind forest. Now, you don't have to worry about saving as you will always respawn at the start of the current screen. A downside is that sometimes it was not clear when it has saved, but this wasn't a significant issue as the save points become obvious so you do not have to worry.

There's many more but most of them aren't worth specifically mentioning and instead just fade into the background to deliver a much better experience. This is partly why I'd recommend playing Ori and the Blind Forest first - you will notice the QoL improvements!

Conclusion

As I write this review, I realise the central theme running through. Yes, Ori has great visuals, but if it didn't have brilliant platforming to back it up then it would be boring. The story is great, but without the excellent soundtrack it wouldn't have been nearly as impactful. The boss fights are good, but without the incredible visuals they would not have been as interesting. The platforming sequences are incredible, but without the soundtrack they wouldn't have been anywhere near as fun.

While the visuals and sountrack stand out as groundbreaking, it's the way that all the different aspects of the game come together that is Ori's biggest strength. I cannot guarantee that you will enjoy this game, particularly if you don't like platforming or don't care about visual style, however if you enjoy similar games or haven't played any similar games, Ori is absolutely a genre-leading masterpiece that you do not want to miss.

What to know before jumping in

If you're stuck...

If you're stuck and you've had a good look around, don't worry about finding a little hint to get you back on track. Sometimes it can be unintuitive.