RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.

Posted on May 24th 2020 at 08:00:00 AM by (Disposed Hero)
Posted under Review, Ori, Moon Studios, Xbox, Metroidvania

After hearing much praise for Ori and the Blind Forest over the last few years, it has been on my radar as a game that I should eventually play. Knowing that a sequel was releasing soon and would be freely available to anyone with Xbox Game Pass, I felt like the time was right to finally dive in. After finishing the game, I came away with mixed feelings and had lost interest in playing the sequel. However, after seeing some gameplay for Ori and the Will of the Wisps, I was intrigued to check out the sequel and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a sidescrolling action-adventure title and was released on March 11, 2020. A direct sequel to Ori and the Blind Forest, it was developed by Moon Studios and published by Xbox Game Studios. Just like its predecessor, it has received nearly unanimous praise from fans and critics alike.

A direct sequel to its predecessor, Ori and the Will of the Wisps takes place immediately following the first game. Ori and his friends Naru and Gumo raise an orphaned owl named Ku, but they are separated by a storm and end up in the land of Niwen, which has fallen victim to corruption and decay. Ori must explore Niwen to find Ku and to restore the land.

Like many games in this genre, the story elements are fairly minimal, although there are times when the game will offer some exposition. What's presented here isn't bad and works well for moving the game along. There are moments when the game will attempt to tug at your heartstrings, and many players have stated that the game has given them 'the feels,' but I was pretty apathetic towards it for most of the experience. It's entirely possible that I'm just dead inside.

In true 'Metroidvania' fashion, Ori will acquire many traversal abilities throughout the game that allow access to previously inaccessible areas. New abilities in the game include a grappling hook ability and a sand burrowing ability, among other things, and these are often fun and satisfying to use. Thorough explorers are often rewarded with extra orbs, health shards, or upgrades. While the first title had a skill tree where orbs could be spent to unlock new upgrades, the sequel introduces the Spirit Shard mechanic wherein shards with the power to increase stats or augment abilities can be equipped to a limited number of shard slots. This is an interesting mechanic that allows you to customize Ori the way you want and tailor the game to your preferred play style.

One of the things I found disappointing about the first game was the lack of options for combat, and I'm glad to say that the sequel has remedied this by adding a variety of new abilities to dispatch enemies. These include abilities such as a bow & arrow attack, a boomerang-style projectile, and a charging smash attack, among others, and many of these abilities have utility outside of combat. However, the most notable of these is the standard melee attack that can be chained together for combos, and this is very satisfying to use. A common melee attack may not sound particularly interesting, but this was sorely missing from the first game and is a welcome addition here.

Speaking of satisfying combat, another improvement the sequel makes over its predecessor is the inclusion of proper boss fights. On occasion, Ori will be locked in an arena with a large opponent, and the game requires you to learn enemy patterns and make proper use of abilities in order to defeat them. These fights strike a nice balance between being challenging but not overly frustrating, and I found them to be a great addition to the game.

My biggest criticism of the game lies with some technical hitches that I experienced while playing on Xbox One X. The game would frequently pause during gameplay, sometimes for several seconds at a time, and issues such as the map not properly updating and achievements not unlocking are fairly common. I have also heard of problems with checkpoints and saving not working properly, but thankfully I didn't experience this during my playthrough. Many of these issues can and likely will be fixed via patches if they haven't been already, and hopefully the game will soon be a much smoother experience.

One of the first things that people usually notice about the Ori titles are the beautiful visuals, and they are among the best you'll find in a sidescrolling adventure game. Where the first game featured a beautiful 2D hand-drawn art style, the sequel moves to fully rendered 3D backgrounds and character models. The aesthetic is similar among both games, but the sequel does look quite a bit more lush and detailed compared to its predecessor. Composed by Gareth Coker, the music in the game is also excellent. From somber piano melodies to sweeping orchestral movements, every note perfectly fits the mood and is a joy to listen to.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps improves and expands on its predecessor in all the right ways and is a title that I can easily recommend. With 2020 being chock full of high-profile AAA releases such as Doom Eternal and Final Fantasy 7 Remake, Ori still stands as my current GOTY pick during the first half of the year. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is freely available to those with Xbox and/or PC Game Pass and otherwise runs about $30 on those same platforms, and it is well worth the asking price.

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I started playing this game in May and I think its a great improvement on the first one. I'm almost finished and I've really enjoyed it. It's well worth the $25 asking price or trying it on Game Pass.

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