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Ori and the Will of the Wisps Continues Switch's Legacy

Ori and the Will of the Wisp
Courtesy of Moon Studios

Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Developer: Moon Studios
Publisher: iam8bit
Release Date: September 17, 2021
Available as: Digital and Physical

Ori and the Will of the Wisps Continues Where Blind Forest Left Off

There’s a saying that I may have repeated several times already writing these and it goes “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This was the motto when it came to developing Ori and the Will of the Wisps, the sequel to Ori and the Blind Forest, the highly acclaimed debut game from Moon Studios. First announced at E3 in 2017, the game was released on PC and Xbox on March 17th, 2020 with a Switch port released later down the year on September 17th.

This was due to an agreement between Nintendo and Microsoft, one that would give Nintendo Banjo and Kazooie an appearance on Smash as well as several exclusive titles from Microsoft including Cuphead and Ori and the Blind Forest. While the former would make its way to the PlayStation 4 eventually, Blind Forest was and would remain a Switch exclusive, making the sequel another Microsoft exclusive on a Switch console.

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Ori and the Will of the Wisps - Nintendo Switch Direct Capture

Ori and the Will of the Wisps Is A True Sequel

Many of the same elements that made Blind Forest a stellar title transitioned over to Ori and the Will of the Wisps, though there are many improvements both graphically and gameplaywise that set the sequel far above its predecessor. From the opening prologues, WotW incorporates 3D polygonal models, altering the perspective to a 3D plane during certain cutscenes for an added impactfulness. This also allows scenes including travel and flight from one area to another possible, showing Ori and their new companion fly off to an unknown island.

The gameplay is heavily improved from Blind Forest in many ways yet is also a bit of a downgrade in other measures. Getting the subjective criticisms out of the way, I liked the “spirit orb” mechanic from the previous game that allowed Ori to drop a spirit orb at any location. This would allow players to save their game as well as upgrade their stats and serve as a checkpoint system, meaning that players could manually save their progress while also strategize the best locations to do so.

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Ori and the Will of the Wisps - Nintendo Switch Direct Capture

Ori and the Will of the Wisps Is Action Packed

In Ori and the Will of the Wisps, the entire gameplay system was overhauled in that Ori no longer upgrades at any spirit orbs or spirit wells. That’s because there aren’t anymore, instead the amount of experience Ori earns through combat and other means is now a form of currency. Ori can talk to friendly NPCs to exchange this currency for useful items and upgrade their abilities this way. Due to this, abilities that were once a part of Ori’s skill tree are now either augments that can be swapped at any time, or learned by interacting with spirit trees that will teach Ori new abilities.

Combined with generous auto-save checkpoints, this eliminates most of the difficulty in Blind Forest as players not only keep the progress they made without risk of losing it, but they also don’t have to worry about choosing when’s the best time to save their progress. It’s streamlined, eliminating most of the guesswork, but for most players, it took away from the challenge.

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Ori and the Will of the Wisps - Nintendo Switch Direct Capture

Will of the Wisps Is A Bit Linear From It’s Predecessor

These 'issues' become a non-issue once the player begins unlocking abilities naturally, as Ori feels less restrictive in Ori and the Will of the Wisps than they did in the previous game. Within the first half-hour, they can double jump and cling onto walls, eliminating the finicky jumping animations that made clearing gaps a risk. The game also provided Ori with a method of self-defense, giving them the ability to attack with a melee weapon starting with a torch at first.

In the beginning, the player is left defenseless, however, they quickly come across a torch that they can use to swat away at enemies and attack. This torch is also used to fend off a large and hungry wolf that decided Ori would be the next snack. It’s here that another mechanic was added, known as “chase sequences.” Occasionally Ori will be cornered by a larger beast and will need to evade the beast, or the hazard, finding a way around them. Ori keeps the large wolf at bay with several strikes via their torch, causing the wolf to flee.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps gameplay
Ori and the Will of the Wisps - Nintendo Switch Direct Capture

Ori and the Will of the Wisps Connects With Its Environments

Shortly after that, Ori gains access to using their spirit energy as a blade, meaning that for the first time melee combat is incorporated in the series. Ori fights enemies that are smarter and formidable than the previous game, but the generous range of their blade coupled with the ability to attack in the air, directly above, and below, makes combat fluid as ever. Ori will also get to know the wildlife through means of taking on mini-quests, which rewards them with beneficial items that are needed to progress through to the story.

From the first hour alone, I felt that Ori and the Will of the Wisps was more of a complete gameplay experience than Blind Forest, which felt more like a movable painting, or artistry in motion. WotW doesn’t cut corners nor eliminate what made Blind Forest a cult classic, it simply improved upon what made the game feel slow, quickening the pace and making the gameplay feel more like a solid “Metroidvania” game rather than a mere passion project.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps is available on the PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, and Switch

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