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Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Moon Studios
Release Date: March 11, 2020


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Xbox One/PC Review - 'Ori and the Will of the Wisps'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on March 10, 2020 @ 3:01 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

Ori and the Will of the Wisps picks up not too long after the previous game, Ori and the Blind Forest. In the sequel, Ori is living with his makeshift family, including his new best friend, Ku the owl. Ku is a timid and injured owl who Ori helps and encourages, going so far as to make a prosthetic wing for Ku. Unfortunately, their first flight together ends badly when an accident causes the two to crash-land on a distant island that's on the brink of disaster. Separated from Ku, Ori must find his friend and save the island before all is doomed.

If you didn't play the original Ori, it's a Metroid-style exploration game where you guide Ori through dangerous situations, gradually unlocking new abilities and new powers that allow you to get into more dangerous situations. It's pretty much an indie take on Metroid, but it's a darn good one.

The core gameplay hasn't changed much from the first game, but there are some new additions. Perhaps the biggest change to Will of the Wisps is the complete restructuring of the save system. You don't have to constantly pause to create save points; rather, the game streamlines the process by basically saving every time your feet hit the ground. You can also manually save at any of the fast-travel points.

The second big change is that leveling has been completely removed. Instead, you can use the spirit energy you gather to buy or upgrade abilities. Greater customization involves slot-based upgrades, as in Hollow Knight. You can find crystal shards throughout the world, and you can equip them in up to eight slots. Each shard grants an ability, and some abilities can be further upgraded. There are platforming-based upgrades, such as a triple-jump or the ability to stick to walls. There are combat upgrades, which can increase your damage output so your bash ability redirects enemies and hurts them in the process. Shards can be swapped at any time, so when you get into a boss fight, you won't be stuck with useless traversal tools when you're in dire need of combat abilities.

The shard system is such an upgrade over the original game's awkward leveling system. You don't feel confined to specific upgrades, and since you can swap out the shards, it's possible to focus on platforming skills for platforming segments and combat skills for combat segments. The one issue I have with it is that it encourages a specific play style. There are certain high-risk/high-reward abilities that boost your damage output while making you take more damage. The ideal way to use them is to equip them, spam a damage spell, unequip them once the enemy's no longer vulnerable, and repeat. You don't have to do this, since the game isn't overly difficult, but if you feel the need to min-max, you might get annoyed by the constant menu-swapping.

Speaking of combat, Will of the Wisps has a fleshed-out arsenal when compared to the first game. Ori's default weapon is a lengthy energy sword that allows for quick combo attacks. As you progress, you can gain a bow, fire burst, giant spear, heavy hammer, throwing stars, and more. Only the spear and the sword are free to use, while the other tools require some spirit energy. Fortunately, spirit energy is plentiful in the game, so while you can't solely use energy weapons, you can use them a lot, especially once you get some upgrades under your belt. By the end of the game, you can rely on energy weapons as your primary tool, while saving your sword or hammer for emergencies.

Combat in Will of the Wisps almost feels optional. You get a ton of variety and tools, but you'll only need them for a few enemies. Indeed, my go-to method for fighting almost everything beyond the early game was to spam the spear at it to inflict a massive amount of damage. As soon as a I found a stone that granted mana regeneration on a melee hit, that was that. It feels good to go from a helpless runt to a glowing buzzsaw of doom, but it also makes it feel unnecessary to focus on combat skills. You choose your favorite, and the odds are fairly good that it'll wreck anything that gets in your way. There aren't many combat bosses in the game, and those that exist are usually a mix of combat and platforming.

Fortunately, the platforming is incredibly fun. The original Ori had solid platforming, but the sequel smooths out the rough edges. Moving around is quick and simple. It feels great to string together various combos. You still can bash, double-jump and wall-climb to gain momentum and height in addition to new abilities, such as the power to instantly burrow through sand and snow. The abilities string together smoothly, so when you're forced to run from a boss, it feels like an incredibly natural dance. There's even a new "Spirit Trials" challenge that lets you compete against other players' times in difficult platforming missions.

The only "problem" with the exploration and movement in Will of the Wisps is that it feels a little too safe. Like Metroid, you spend a good chunk of time unlocking the franchise staples before you reach the cool new stuff. It's a minor flaw, and at worst, it sometimes makes the game feel too familiar. The focus was clearly on making the gameplay smoother and more polished, rather than reinventing the wheel.

Will of the Wisps is a solid 7-10 hours of gameplay, depending on how much time you spend exploring for the hidden shards and upgrades that you won't find on your first playthrough. It's a well-paced game, and no area outstays its welcome. A few times, I was surprised that certain puzzle elements didn't get used more, and at least one or two areas could have used some more time. The experience was mostly smooth, but I did encounter a few annoying bugs, including quest markers that refused to disappear. There is a day-one patch scheduled, so it's hard to say if those issues will be in the final version.

You can't discuss Will of the Wisps without mentioning that it's a gorgeous game. The art style and visuals are absolutely beautiful and striking. Will of the Wisps is significantly better-looking than the first. It makes amazing use of lightning, environment design, and top-notch animation to create a game that is beautiful in motion. The soundtrack is similarly fantastic, and the visuals and audio are complementary. The visuals elevate Ori, and I'd argue it's easily the best-looking Metroid-style game on the market.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps is bigger and more polished than the original title. I can't recommend playing it before the original, if only because the plot relies on you having played the first game. Otherwise, this is an absolute must-play for fans of the genre. Some minor quibbles and a few annoying bugs hold it back, but hopefully, those will be addressed by the day-one patch. If you've been waiting for Will of the Wisps, you'll be extremely pleased.

Score: 9.0/10

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