Title: Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Developer: Moon Studios
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Genre: Platform-adventure, Metroidvania
Available On: Xbox One, PC
Version Tested: PC
Official Site: OriTheGame.com
Release Date: March 11th, 2020
Ori and the Will of the Wisps contains adorable characters, a story that tugs at the heartstrings, as well as numerous bugs and hiccups. It also has what it needs most, enjoyable platforming and exploration, and it has it in droves.
The core of Will of the Wisps is its ability to keep players delving deeper into its intricate and cavernous world. Many times in my journey through the land of Niwen, I felt lost, often like I was going the wrong way completely. The developers at Moon Studios never lead me astray, however, with something new to find nearly everywhere.
Every path I went down led me to progress in some way. Whether that was to a combat shrine requiring I defeat a series of enemies to unlock a new skill slot, or to a new ability entirely. I often felt lost in Ori and the Will of the Wisps, but never without hope.
Skills and abilities
Skills in Will of the Wisps are passive modifiers that can be changed from the menu, such as gaining additional life cells, sticking to walls, or allowing an ability to deal more damage. Abilities more directly affect how one plays the game. Many abilities can be changed out on the fly between three of the controller’s face buttons, whether it’s to give Ori a new combat move or a new way to navigate the world. Other abilities are permanently tied to a button, such as the ability to dash in mid-air.
The abilities that increase Ori’s maneuverability are particularly good at giving a feeling of infinitely more freedom, allowing Ori to reach new or hidden parts of the map. Many of the abilities are made particularly fun by the fact that they’re something completely unexpected.
For example, at one point nearing the late-game, I found myself consistently missing jumps as I fell farther and farther into a cavern. With hope dwindling, and the feeling of going the wrong direction increasing, I couldn’t even get back to where I started. That’s when I reached the location of a new, unexpected ability that completely changed the way I moved about.
How fun ability is to use increases dramatically the more of them Ori gets. Stringing handfuls of different moves together in order to reach an unexplored location or escape a frantic chase scene is exhilarating. It gives me a sense of mastering the abilities I’ve acquired.
Mastering abilities doesn’t come easily, however. Much of what I learned in Ori and the Will of the Wisps was learned through trial and error. Trial and death is a more accurate phrase.
Are you ready to die?
I died hundreds of times in my playthrough on normal difficulty . Dozens of those deaths came from the combat shrines mentioned above, which got significantly easier as I unlocked more skills, abilities, health, and energy. But many others came from boss fights or races, which require speedy reflexes and luck to respond to their often unpredictable events. Whether that’s a log falling as I’m in the air with plans to jump off it, or an unexpected second part of a boss battle, I found myself repeating a lot of sections over and over before succeeding.
While many of the new abilities gained throughout Ori and the Will of the Wisps make traversing or combat more manageable, some of them rarely get used outside of the area they’re awarded in. This makes for an unfortunately underwhelming reward at the end of a difficult section of the game.
Will of the Wisps’ Story
Having not played Ori and the Blind Forest since I reviewed it five years ago, it was difficult for me to reconnect with any of the characters. None of them get a proper introduction at the start. When tragedy struck toward the beginning of the game, I had a hard time feeling a need to get the gang back together.
Later on, I gave in and read up on the plot of the original game. Reminding myself how moving the original’s story is and knowing a bit more about the characters really lends itself to caring about them this time around.
Unlike the original, the emotional hook in Will of the Wisps doesn’t come at the beginning of the game. It wasn’t until nearly halfway through that my heartstrings were tugged at. But once the story and characters hooked me, I stayed hooked for the rest of the ride.
There are definitely parts of the story that land flat, however. Besides it getting off to a slow start, characters outside of the main story were very light on backstories. While there are many more characters to interact with than in the original, many of them seemed to exist solely to give another side quest while being very one dimensional.
Side quests are another letdown of Ori and the Will of the Wisps. While there’s an abundance of them, the objectives and rewards are often disappointing. One of the side quests put me in search of six seeds found throughout the map. I ended up getting most of the seeds by merely exploring like I usually would. By the time I turned them all in, my reward was an easier way to navigate the hub area. The problem is, I had already unlocked so many movement abilities that this more straightforward navigation method was redundant.
Another series of side quests are just a bunch of fetch quests linked together. As in, the reward for finding a hidden object, and locating who it’s supposed to go to, is getting another object that needs to be given to a different character. A fetch quest being a reward for a fetch quest is bad enough, but I’m stuck seven layers deep into it and cannot figure out who the next character I’m supposed to give this new object to is. I’ve come back to the game multiple times after finishing it with the sole purpose of finding this character and still cannot. The only thing worse than a monotonous series of fetch quests is a dull and frustrating series of fetch quests.
But navigating throughout the game world is so fun it makes this frustration easy to forget about.
Will of the Wisps’ Bugs
The only thing more irritating than that particular side quest was some of the bugs I encountered throughout my time with Ori and the Will of the Wisps.
One such bug had me respawning in an inescapable little room just to the side of where I wanted to be. I had to teleport back to the beginning of this large, maze-like area and fight my way back to where I had been. Another bug caused a rotating cog-like structure to spawn facing the wrong direction toward the beginning of a race, completely impeding my progress. I died probably a dozen times before shutting the game down and coming back the next day to the issue having fixed itself. I also had the game client crash once on my PC and had a separate race randomly restart in the middle of it.
Verdict: Despite the issues Ori and the Will of the Wisps has, it’s a great platforming game with a cute art style and adorable characters that is simply fun to play. Because of the fun I’ve had with it, I plan on going back to it to find every hidden nook and secret cranny and giving it a second go-around on the hard difficulty. I recommend anyone with a slight interest in platforming games play Ori and the Will of the Wisps.
- Platforming has rarely been more fun
- Upgrading powers gives a feeling of accomplishment
- Many weakly written characters