- Total Score - 9.5/109.5/10
“More than a mere sequel, Ori and the Will of the Wisps innovates and excels in creating a bigger and bolder adventure in every way imaginable.”
Developer –Moon Studios
Publisher – Xbox Game Studios
Release Date – March 11th, 2020
Platforms – Xbox One, Windows 10
A sequel to a great game must be a difficult job. Do you try and enhance what you had, at the risk of being called more of the same?
Do you completely innovate and perhaps disrupt a delicate balance that will alienate fans of the original?
Sometimes the right answer comes out of nowhere, and what ends up working is something fans of the original may not have even known they wanted to begin with.
Gaming has seen many successful sequels and many more that just failed to hit the mark. One hit wonders are not just a musical phenomena, as gaming history is littered with games that could never recapture the original games magic.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps thankfully avoids that problem entirely.
Will of the Wisps actually reminds me of Super Metroid. No I don’t mean to make the same Metroidvania comparison that’s become so common, I mean in terms of how they approached Ori and the Blind Forest and how to follow it up.
The opening of Will and the Wisps will quickly remind players of everything they loved from the original. The absolutely stunning music and visuals, the adorable characters, it’s emotional story and tight controls.
Not long after the opening moments, Will of the Wisps finds Ori lost deep in a new world, separated from Kuro’s child Ku, and once again a new adventure starts.
Despite seeming similar on the surface, Will of the Wisps quickly moves to differentiate itself from it’s predecessor.
In a brilliant move, the very first ability Ori gains isn’t anything from the original game, instead it’s a sword. Right away the inclusion of a more direct form of combat really sets the mood and changes the moment to moment encounter design through the entire experience.
Shortly after that, you come across some NPC’s. Then slowly you gain new combat abilities, vendors, side quests, and a whole slew of new items, upgrades and mechanics. Each area you visit through most of the games first act carefully adds another layer for players to experience.
The various abilities add some nice wrinkles to Ori’s arsenal, and a couple of styles are reminiscent of some of the genre’s best. Dead Cells and Hollow Knight for example, influences from the modern age of this genre are all seen and felt in Will of the Wisps without it feeling derivative.
All of these additions wouldn’t be much to speak of without this genre’s most important feature. The map and level design have to be exceptional for any game like this to stand out, especially as we’ve seen some true classics mixed in with the dozens of forgettable titles tossing their hat into the ring over the last several years.
Each new section is completely breathtaking. Moon Studios finds a way to create absolutely stunning locales and always keep the action presentable. Carefully designed visuals make sure area’s with tricky platforming or heavy combat aren’t obstructed with heavy foreground elements.
Like wise they build with such care and finesse, each area seamlessly bleeding into the next. The layout also impresses, as even without the map the various environments are easy to remember because they are built so well together.
The plot also picks up the themes from the previous Ori and moves them forward in some spectacular ways. The amount of new characters and enemies you will encounter are all unique, and I don’t want to spoil anything here.
One of the best new features is a hub that you can slowly build out as the game progresses. This new home will be the centerpiece of your travels, as every new ally you make will come and make it a base of operations.
It all comes together to make Ori and the Will of the Wisps a much bigger and better game in every conceivable way. The only issue I was running into was some odd performance bugs. As of March 9th, the day one patch has eliminated the issues I was having with it on consoles.
One final element I must speak on is the excellent composition by Gareth Coker. Every song from the main theme to the somber’ pianos help score each scene and story beat to perfection. The rise and fall of percussion when the tempo ramps up and little flourishes abound really help complete this package.
Ori and the Blind Forest was a breath of fresh air when it released, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a tremendous achievement. It’s bigger, better, with more nuance to it’s story backed up with tons of depth to the platforming and combat systems. An easy recommendation and a sure fire Game of the Year candidate.
**Review code was given by publisher**