Ori and the Will of the Wisps is perhaps the most beautiful game I have ever played.
It’s clear from the moment you begin your adventure that it’s a gorgeous title. Your screen is often full of a whole gamut of colours, drenched with sumptuous lighting. And though there are also plenty of dark areas, they also remain somehow alluring. Foreboding, too. And then there’s the music: Ori and the Will of the Wisps has one of the finest soundtracks I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing along to. The real beauty of Ori and the Will of the Wisps, however, is its story that tugs on your heartstrings. Oh, and its brilliant gameplay.
Picking up where Ori and the Blind Forest left off (go play it if you haven’t already), Will of the Wisps finds Ori enjoying life with his adoptive parents. There’s a new member to the family too, Ku; being a owl, she eventually grows up with the urge to spread her wings and fly. Only she can’t because her wings are a little on the bare side. But Ori has an idea, seemingly a good one, but little does he know that it’s going to land the pair in an insurmountable amount of trouble.
Once again in control of Ori, you’ll be pleased to find that he’s as agile as ever. Ori and the Will of the Wisps has you travelling through yet more locales afflicted with some kind of darkness, and so of course it’s down to you to restore them to their former glory. This time around there’s a lot more to do off the beaten path: there are more upgrades to find, equipable Shards that provide a range of perks, and a whole heap of side-quests. While Ori and the Blind Forest was over and done with in six or so hours, you can expect to spend double that here.
Initially, your exploration options are quite limited. But over time, you’ll unlock a wide range of traversal abilities that allow you to access new areas. These new abilities also make it worthwhile to go back to previous areas to sweep up any goodies that you couldn’t get before. And you’ll need things like health and energy upgrades, because Ori and the Will of the Wisps is not an easy game. Well, unless you play it on easy difficulty, but even than I’d wager it’s no walk in the walk.
Some of the platforming feats Ori and the Will of the Wisps asks you to pull off are fiendish, but even more fiendish are the wild creatures you face. They’re a varied bunch, often looking like strange genetic experiments gone wrong; a raccoon crossed with a crab, anyone? Taken one-on-one, they rarely pose a threat once you’ve got a handle on their moves, but when faced with multiple enemies at the same time things can get very tricky indeed. And bosses? Oh yeah, Ori and the Will of the Wisps has bosses. It has bosses that you’ll remember way after finishing the game.
In terms of combat, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor. The confusing spirit ball attack as your primary weapon has been replaced by a sword of light. It immediately makes you feel more connected to your actions as you slash furiously at enemies in close range. But there are other options in Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Lots of options, in fact. New attacks can be purchased with light orbs – requiring varying amounts of energy to use – and they can be assigned to the face buttons so you have a palette of attacks at your disposal.
There’s a star you can throw, for example, and when upgraded you can even press the button it’s assigned to again to make it spin in place to do major damage to stationary enemies. A giant ball of light also comes in very useful – not only to damage enemies, but also destroy their shields or remove their shells. Ori and the Will of the Wisps‘ combat feels deep this time around. You have a wide range of options, and it’s fast and fluid. It can sometimes feel messy, but it’s only because you allow it to be messy. If you take your time and assess the enemies you’re up against, combat can feel like ballet. A beautiful violent ballet.
It’s just a shame that there are so many abilities and so few face buttons. You’ll frequently find yourself holding the left trigger to assign new abilities that your current situation calls for, breaking up the flow of the action. And for some people, the sheer number of abilities available will be bewildering. In any given moment you might have to use an assignable ability, use LB to catapult yourself off a projectile, dash through the air with RB, use another assignable ability, and then perhaps glide through the air with RT. It requires a lot of co-ordination.
My only real bugbear with Ori and the Will of the Wisps, however, is how it’s sometimes really obtuse. I got stuck in one area for hours, for example, because I really had no idea how to progress and the game offered no advice. In the end, the solution was what I expected it to be, but the game just wasn’t consistent with its approach and led me astray. Chances are you might not have the same issue, but some might spent an our or two pulling their hair out before consulting Google (a luxury unavailable to me playing before launch), or having a Eureka! moment.
I must have put at least 15 hours into Ori and the Will of the Wisps, and I still haven’t quite seen and done everything. Multiple difficulty levels and online leaderboards for race-like trials also provide reasons to go back. Playing on Xbox One X without the day one patch though, I did encounter a myriad of technical issues. Framerate issues, garbled sound, pauses, the game failing to save; such issues made some areas perhaps more frustrating than they should have been. But the day one patch is now live, and having given it a try, it does seem to solve most of the issues I experienced. And no doubt there’ll be a further patch or two to smooth out anything that still lingers.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is game that’s hard to not love. It made me want to scream and shout a few times – a certain chase scene that was truly demanding and a final area that relies heavily on trial and error included – but for every moment that frustrated me, there were ten that amazed me. The platforming is crisp, combat is engaging, and the world just begs to be explored. Mix in drop-dead gorgeous visuals, a score to die for and a story that will break your heart, and Ori and the Will of the Wisps will make you glad to be alive.