Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Release Date: Sept. 17, 2020

About Andreas Salmen

I'm sure this is all just a misunderstanding.


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

Switch Review - 'Ori and the Will of the Wisps'

by Andreas Salmen on Oct. 14, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Embark on an all-new adventure to discover the mysteries beyond the forest of Nibel, uncover the hidden truths of those lost, and unravel Ori's true destiny.

Buy Ori and the Will of the Wisps

It's been a year since Ori and the Blind Forest debuted on the Nintendo Switch. As the result of a fruitful partnership between Microsoft and Nintendo, the Switch hybrid console was able to net two ports that were previously hailed as Microsoft exclusives: Cuphead and Ori and the Blind Forest. Its sequel, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, which was released earlier in 2020, seemed to be out of reach for a port, which isn't that surprising since it even brought the Xbox One to its knees. It's a great surprise that Will of the Wisps was recently released on the Switch, and it's a surprisingly potent port.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps continues where the previous entry left off. The little spirit creature Ori and its friends have successfully returned light to the forest, and they now enjoy life in harmony — or so it seems. Before long, Ori and his new friend, a tiny owl, venture too far from home and wind up in an unknown forest during a storm. Separated and lost, Ori must reunite with its friend and find a way back to safety. This installment of Ori's adventure is similarly heartfelt and evokes familiar concepts of good and evil, but Will of the Wisps embraces the story far more than the previous game did. The Blind Forest felt like a Metroidvania title first and foremost, with sparse story segments and an emphasis on exploring the hostile environment. In Will of the Wisps, there is more emphasis on spectacle and interactions with a considerably bigger pool of NPCs.

Where Ori would previously tumble between checkpoints with few interactions or ways to break up the action, there is much more to see and do this time around. Some characters may sell maps or equipment, and yet others might offer quests for extra rewards or to advance the main story. It also relies much less on chase sequences and introduces plenty of boss fights. At a glance, the game may look and feel somewhat the same, its approach to storytelling and gameplay has noticeably evolved. I don't necessarily prefer it over its prequel, but the gameplay is executed to an incredibly satisfying degree.

That means Will of the Wisps is still a 2D open-world experience that gates its different areas behind certain skills that we must acquire throughout the game by exploring and completing quests. Ori had special light orbs that fired projectiles in the first game, but the second title open things up considerably. Instead of a basic attack that stays with you for the entire game, Ori can equip and swap between an arsenal of abilities. At any given time, three abilities can be equipped to the face buttons. They're still light-based attacks, but they can take the form of a bow, hammer, orb, spear, and sword. Most use energy, which must be restored and isn't always plentiful, so it can be a vital resource to manage in addition to your life orbs. Skills have a variety of benefits, such as ranged attacks or area effects; some can set enemies ablaze, and others practically attack on their own.

These active skills are acquired over time and can be enhanced by passive ability shards that are found throughout the world. They range from attack benefits to other handy skills, such as triple-jumps, running along walls, or being able to magnetically attract dropped orbs from enemies. The result of these systems is that the player has a degree of freedom to customize their play style. Even when you are not paying too much attention to your equipped skills and shards, you'll likely be fine, but using them to your advantage can make certain encounters easier to solve.

What made The Blind Forest incredibly fun was its depth and level of control. Ori is very nimble and reactive, which plays into both traversal and combat. Within the first few hours, you'll have a myriad of ways to fight enemies and move through the environment: shoot arrows to activate switches, use enemies and projectiles as jumping-off points, or use your light lasso to reach moss and other interaction points. By stringing together layers of abilities, you'll traverse the world at unthinkable speeds while you take out an army of enemies, redirect projectiles, and jump across the screen to dodge and attack your way around the room. Will of the Wisps features some of the tightest controls in an action platformer that I have experienced in quite some time, making the gameplay a joy to experience. There are occasional issues with different skills being mapped to the same button; you can activate the incorrect skill at an inopportune time, but we rarely ran into that issue where it became detrimental to the experience.

Expect a much more combat-focused experience on top of an excellent platformer in Will of the Wisps, so the game feels much denser and the overall experience is more engaging. Encounters are more frequent, there is much more dialogue, and there are optional combat trials that offer neat rewards. There are highly diverse biomes that sport a range of enemies and friendly NPCs, all with slightly different appearances and attack patterns. When you're thrown into a room of several different foes, things can quickly get challenging. This entry's focus on combat means a reduction in the exploration aspect, and although that streamlines the experience and makes it more accessible, it also means that the title loses some of its original appeal.

The title features a rudimentary base-building exercise, which I am not sure I have fully embraced. It was likely meant to see your own progress in the world as you build a sanctuary in this hostile forest, but it essentially became another collectible to me, and that seems like a missed opportunity.

Will of the Wisps is packed with content. There are lots of side-quests along the way, and there's plenty to do if you're achievement hunting. Expect about 12 hours to complete the story and a few more hours if you'd like to cover the whole map and its collectibles. There are even a few trials that can be played outside of the regular campaign.

A huge part of what makes the Ori games great are its soundtrack and visuals, and they definitely do not disappoint. The Blind Forest was almost strictly a 2D platformer, but Will of the Wisps has much more depth. Models are noticeably 3D, and there seem to be a ton of hand-painted 2D layers stacked and parallax scrolling in the background. The game also adds an impressive lighting engine to the title to enhance the mood of a scene. It comes together in a satisfying way, especially since there are many more visually distinct areas on offer this time around.

On paper, the Switch version of Will of the Wisps seems like a great way to experience the game in smooth 60fps. That isn't entirely true, since there are obvious corners that needed to be cut. The game has some form of resolution scaling and, depending on screen size, it can be quite noticeable once the resolution drops to a low level. There can be a few stutters and hitches, and the game did crash on us a few times — usually during long load times when opening the map — but overall, it's a commendable and well-executed port.

The last puzzle piece is its musical score. If you liked the first game's music you'll adore this one, too because it retains the same core elements but often amplifies them with an even richer orchestral score that is dynamic enough to blend with what's happening on-screen at any given moment. It's one of the few games where the music seems to become a part of the overall experience, greatly enhancing its visuals and gameplay and evoking emotions on its own.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps manages to be more than just a plain old sequel. It changes just enough and introduces great new mechanics and characters to truly feel like a completely separate game while being unmistakably Ori at the core. More importantly, it runs perfectly well on the Switch with only minor visual adjustments. Will of the Wisps stands as tall as its predecessor as a beautiful action-platformer that everyone should try.

Score: 9.0/10

More articles about Ori and the Will of the Wisps
blog comments powered by Disqus