When I first played Ori and the Blind Forest, I was caught off guard by just how good it was. Above all else, it was beautiful, both visually and thematically, and the entirety of the design let me enjoy that beauty while also having a ton of fun. At the time, I considered it the best Metroid-style game I had ever played.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps surpasses its predecessor in almost every way. The visuals are more dynamic, the gameplay is more varied and polished, and the world is bigger (but not too big). I give a slight edge to Blind Forest’s narrative, however, only because it was so simple yet so well executed, while Will of the Wisps has a broader story that doesn’t quite hit all the notes with the same level of perfection.
The story continues where Blind Forest left off. The great owl’s only remaining egg has hatched, and Ori has befriended the young owl, Ku. Threatened by a deformed old owl, Ori and Ku are separated, and Ori sets out to find his friend. I won’t spoil the twists and turns in the story, but it generally hits the same heart-crushing and heart-warming notes as the story of the first game, only to a lesser degree. Honestly, I wanted to feel as heartbroken and hopeful as I did while playing the first game, but that didn’t happen despite the masterful craft of the story’s visual presentation.
The visual style is similar to that of Blind Forest, but all the elements are more dynamic and layered. Moving through the world feels like moving among a set of interactive paintings in which you’re rewarded with perfectly framed shots of beautiful landscapes at every major step of Ori’s journey. Ori slows to a walk, the camera pans out, the music flourishes. I can’t overstate how incredible this game looks, with artful purpose—not just being pretty for the sake of being pretty, but to let you feel what the artists want you to feel. Backed by an orchestral soundtrack that matches the tone of each scene, the entire presentation comes together wonderfully.
The gameplay is just as well tuned as the presentation. Although the world is bigger than in Blind Forest, the map retains the same fluidity of easy navigation. The way forward is never as obtuse as more maze-like entries in the genre, such as Hollow Knight or Axiom Verge or even Super Metroid, but the abundance of secrets and shortcuts keep navigation interesting throughout, especially as you regularly discover more mobility options. By the end of the game the simple act of moving around the world is seamless and incredibly fun. Even combat, which is greatly expanded from its predecessor, encourages you to ease into a stylish state of flow between all the different ability combinations. Enemies often become tools to get around the world even more easily, by launching off their projectiles or grappling to their bodies.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is as fun to play as it is beautiful to look at. I rarely have no critiques of a game, but this one is as good as I could imagine, aside from the aforementioned story beats that could have been a little more affecting. Moon Studios has proven themselves to be a talent worth watching for whatever they may do next.