Retrospective On Ori & The Blind Forest/Will Of The Wisps

Disclaimer: Xbox Provided Codes For The Purposes of this Article

When I look back at games I’ve always heard great things about but still haven’t played, I usually think of the big hitters such as Bioshock Infinite, Bloodbourne, or the Mass Effect Trilogy (which will change soon with the upcoming remaster). One title that I always see that comes up as a must-play is Ori.

Ori is a franchise that has 2 games to its name with Blind Forest in 2015 and Will of the Wisps in 2020. Both games were received well by fans and critics alike. I know the reputation the series has but I have never played either of the games. It’s not because I never wanted to delve into either title, I just never have.

Coincidentally, both Ori games were released on March 11th in their respective year. I felt it was time with the upcoming anniversary to partake in this series. I was beyond excited to finally sit down and venture into the universe of Ori. I had heard all the praises showered upon this franchise for its art direction, music, and so much more. I’ve spent the last month dissecting every single aspect of both Ori games. I’ve put about 20 hours into Blind Forest and Will of the Wisps combined and I have formed my opinion, I wish I hadn’t waited so long to play Ori.

Both Ori games are developed by Moon Studios and published by Xbox Game Studios. The only games that Moon Studios have developed have been from the Ori series. From a studio that was only founded a little over a decade ago, they’ve sure left their mark in the industry. I wasn’t familiar with the work of Moon Studios but the past month of playing Ori has ensured that I will check out whatever they decided to do next.

If it isn’t clear by now, I absolutely adore both Ori games. There isn’t a single aspect of these titles that goes below average.

I knew I was in for a treat with Ori after the first 15 minutes of Ori and the Blind Forest. From a narrative perspective, this series greatly surprised me. I will say the story in the Blind Forest doesn’t keep a consistent pace in terms of big narrative moments. To me, Ori and the Blind Forest kicks off fantastically and ends the same way, the middle section is a bit dry in this regard.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps on the other hand keeps a consistent pace through its entire narrative. I thought the first 15 minutes of Blind Forest would be the most heart-wrenching moment this series had to offer but I couldn’t have been more wrong. There are two specific moments in Ori and the Will of the Wisps that were by far the best narrative piece in either game from a vigorous perspective.

The soundtrack is an absolute masterpiece in every sense of the word. There’s a bit of debate of how important a soundtrack is to video games these days. A soundtrack can add so much more energy to a game at a given moment. A couple of months ago I played a game developed by Giant Squid called The Pathless. That game had an OST by Austin Wintory that left an impact on me that I didn’t expect going in. Two games later with Ori and the OST made me feel the same way I did with The Pathless. I bring all of this up because this debate over how important a soundtrack shouldn’t be a debate at all. Gareth Coker composed the soundtrack for both Ori games and I can tell you he helped this series a ton with his music and I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who disagrees.

It definitely helps that I used next-gen hardware but both titles are absolutely gorgeous. For a 6-year-old game, Blind Forest olds up extremely well in the graphics department. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is on another level from its predecessor and that’s saying something.

The art direction is a thing of beauty and is something that will shine in each game. Certain decisions such as enemies appearing as large silhouettes moving around on your screen don’t go unnoticed by me. It’s the little things like that I greatly appreciate and Ori has a multitude of that.

Combat in Ori and the Blind Forest leaves a bit to be desired. It’s not bad or anything there just isn’t much to it. You have your primary fire and that’s about all you’ll use for the most part. You’ll use certain skills such as stomp here and there but most abilities will be too convoluted to use in combat effectively and frequently.

As with most games, if there’s a sequel the developer will usually work to improve on certain things, and Will of the Wisps does just that. Combat in this installment is vastly improved from the original. Moon Studios put a lot of focus and effort into making sure Combat flowed more consistently in Will of the Wisps. Instead of a spirit flame for primary fire, you’ll use a spirit sword that you can feel the weight behind with each hit.

Enemies are so well designed and varied throughout the entire duration of each game. From flies to worms to actual living slime, I never felt as though I was fighting the same enemy over and over again. Boss battles aren’t too prevalent in Blind Forest, but it’s one of the best things about Will of the Wisps. Boss battles in Will of the Wisps vary from a Gigantic Wolf to a Queen Spider and these battles are as visually impressive as they are difficult.

I didn’t expect Ori to be of the difficulty level that it was. It isn’t at the level of a Sekiro or Dark Souls, but some sections can be a bit frustrating in their own right. This isn’t a complaint in the slightest, I love a good challenge in video games sometimes and Ori provided that in portions so that the challenges felt more rare and special.

Weirdly enough, it wasn’t the combat that gave me the most trouble it was the platforming components. The Ginso Tree Escape in Ori and the Blind Forest still sits in my mind as the first time I was tested in this series and it escalated from there.

If I was to give you a brief overview of each title, Ori and the Blind Forest is a great game, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a near-masterpiece. Ori perfects the ability to get you to care and feel for characters in the moments you’re supposed to. That is extremely impressive from a game that barely has any dialogue. This series got me to feel for an Owl in ways I couldn’t imagine and pull off an emotional moment not even a full hour into its first installment.

Moon Studios should be proud of what they accomplished with Ori. I never had a single technical mishap or glitch in any of my playthroughs. Combat while not as refined in Blind Forest is more than made up for in Will of the Wisps. Art direction is tremendous and it goes hand in hand with why the graphics pop so much. The attention to detail is something some might not care about but I most certainly do.

As someone who doesn’t usually enjoy platforming, I adored it here because it’s done engagingly. Gareth Coker composed a captivating OST that left such an impact that I looked up old songs so that I could listen to them again which I only do for a handful of games such as Red Dead Redemption 2 or Super Mario Odyssey.

I highly recommend you sit down and play Blind Forest and Will of the Wisps. It’s available on Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and PC platforms, so you have tons of options to choose from. Many might believe that developer, Moon Studios is owned by Xbox Game Studios but they’re not. They’re still independent and their next title is set to be published by Private Division. I think it’s been all but confirmed that their next title won’t be Ori in any capacity. Whatever their next title is, I’ll be certain to check it out.

Over the past month, I’ve delved into Ori and enjoyed every moment of it. No aspect seems like an afterthought and from a small independent studio, they couldn’t have had a better first two games and I’m glad I sat down to divulge in them.

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