Ori and the Will of the Wisps immerses the player in an unforgettable fantasy world filled with peril and excitement throughout. Every facet of the game invites exploration, and the dangers lurking around always keep the player on their feet. The world of Ori and the Will of the Wisps is the first aspect that needs be discussed. The efforts of Moon Studios are apparent from the moment you boot up the game, with each and every design choice-big or small-coming together to create a truly magical setting for this 2D platforming adventure. The art style is a gorgeous convergence of an animated Disney film and a surreal landscape painting, and this creates an atmosphere that is unlike any other game. The whimsical world defines much of the game’s early moments. For the first hour or so, I found myself simply roaming Niwen, the main setting of the game, and admiring its varied aspects. Miniscule details, such as the leaves swaying in the wind and the slight luminescence of Ori and his surroundings, immersed me in Niwen, and I almost forgot I was playing a game and not watching a blockbuster animated feature.
Aside from its unique eye-candy, the world’s design also struck a mystical mood for the game. While one area might be filled with golden rays of sunshine and vividly blue water, the next area could be gloomy, stained by polluted water and corruption. This duality in the backgrounds progressed the story masterfully; the player develops a unique connection to this world. These constant shifts in mood kept the game fresh throughout the hours I spent in Niwen, and boredom never once crept into my experience. As a game though, there must be more to Will of the Wisps’ substance than just whimsical eye-candy. Fortunately, Moon Studios continues to shine in the title’s fantastic gameplay features.
Regarding the platforming, Will of the Wisps follows in the steps of other MetroidVania games in terms of progression. While the player begins the campaign with only a simple jump command, Ori will very quickly introduce additional options for traversal.. This has always been my favorite part of these MetroidVania games, and Ori and the Will of the Wisps did not disappoint. A standout example of this progression comes in the form of lanterns around Niwen. At first, the lanterns’ functions seem limited to just lighting, and they past into the background. As soon as I got the bash ability, however, these lanterns emerged as my favorite parts. With the bash ability, you can launch yourself off objects, projectiles, and enemies and speed around the map, and the lanterns that I previously ignored became a key part of the rest of my journey. Other abilities, such as the dash, grapple, swim dash, etc., serve a similar purpose. As much as I want to describe my time with every single movement ability, I’ll just include the one and allow you to explore the others yourself. I will say this, however. By the end of my playthrough, it felt like I was playing a completely different game thanks to these abilities. These factors contribute to the impressiveness of the platforming, which is easily the most enjoyable aspect of the game.
Smoothly integrated into the platforming are the game’s puzzles. While puzzle titles rarely charm me, whether it be because of my short attention span or because the puzzles are just not fun to me, Ori’s puzzles were delightful. Even now, a good while after I finished my playthrough, I still vividly remember most of the puzzles that I completed in Ori and the Will of the Wisps. This is for a reason, however, and it can be directly linked back to world building by Moon Studios. Moon Studios, in their continued genius, created puzzles that interacted with the world around them, changing the mystical environment notablyFrom destroying mounds of Decay-the evil force threatening Niwen-on gears and allowing pure water to flow back into the forest to bashing bells in a certain order to open hidden passages, the puzzles directly affected gameplay following their completion. With the gears, for example, once they were turned on, they would keep spinning and open up more areas of the map for you to explore. This just further proved the care and attention that Moon Studios put into the game.
While the platforming was the most enjoyable part of the game, Ori and the Will of the Wisps’ combat is nothing to scoff at. It follows a similar progression system as the platforming, reaping the same advantages for players. Starting the game with a small spirit blade, Ori begins to hack away at enemies that stand in your way. From there, players are presented with a myriad of combat options that can drastically change the way one can approach fights. Does the player want to stay at a distance and space out their enemies? Equip the Spirit Arc, Spirit Star, and Sentry to launch a volley of projectiles at their enemies. Does the player want to get up close and personal? Use the Grapple ability with the Spirit Smash to crush everything they see. These descriptions shallowly explain how satisfying combat feels. The fluidity keeps the adventure action-packed for the most part, and the different enemies have different patterns that are fun to fight against and rewarding to learn.
The first fault I ran into across my playthrough were the basic enemy encounters. Enemies can be found all over Niwen: crawling, flying, and waiting to kill you at every turn. I was excited every time I found new enemies to fight, as new enemies meant new patterns to learn and more combat styles to try. At times, however, I found myself mindlessly slaughtering enemies, and the cruel drudge felt like I was forcing myself to keep mashing the Xbox controller. This complaint didn’t last long though, and its remedy came in the form of the boss fights. This traditional feature, which is new to Ori and the Will of the Wisps, added variety in the gameplay. Each boss fight is different in mood and gameplay. While some may require a flight in the rain in terror and grief, others may require you to fight the enemy head on, filling you with determination. This addition is a large improvement on the absent encounters in the previous gameand the boss fights are some of the most memorable parts of this game.
However, flaws still plague many elements of the title. While the list does not extend far, there are still a few that must be discussed. Ori and the Will of the Wisps added numerous features not present in Ori and the Blind Forest. While this makes the game seem more packed with content, it also detracts from the focused and polished feel of its predecessor. Ori and the Will of the Wisps can feel overly ambitious at times, resulting in an overwhelming sensation. The world is also confusing to navigate at times. However, these criticisms pale in comparison to the amazing aspects of the game, they most certainly do not warrant ignoring this 2020 hit. While the game did feel less focused on ideas than the first game, I was more than satisfactory with the new elements added-boss fights, expanded skill trees, etc.-and would prefer them being present than not. It was a beautiful experience throughout, and the issues were small road bumps rather than actual hurdles.
Ultimately, Ori and the Will of the Wisps was a magical journey through and through. From its intricate design choices to its masterfully crafted gameplay elements, it is apparent how much effort Moon Studios put into the game. I can wholeheartedly recommend this game to everyone reading this: an adventure that no one should skip.
The little spirit Ori is no stranger to peril, but when a fateful flight puts the owlet Ku in harm’s way, it will take more than bravery to bring a family back together, heal a broken land, and discover Ori’s true destiny. From the creators of the acclaimed action-platformer Ori and the Blind Forest comes the highly anticipated sequel. Embark on an all-new adventure in a vast world filled with new friends and foes that come to life in stunning, hand-painted artwork. Set to a fully orchestrated original score, Ori and the Will of the Wisps continues the Moon Studios tradition of tightly crafted platforming action and deeply emotional storytelling.
ORI AND THE WILL OF THE WISPS is Available for Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC