Ori and the Will of the Wisps is the much-anticipated sequel from developer Moon Studios, the creator of Ori and the Blind Forest. Ori is a platformer in the mold of Castlevania and Metroid game. The game starts off where Ori left in the Blind Forest. I have been personally waiting for this game for a long time, and as a fan of the original game, I wonder what improvements were made and are this game better than the original? This review is based on the Xbox One X version, post day one patch on Hard Mode.  Ori and the Will of the Wisps are available now on Xbox, Windows PC, and Steam for $30.00. It is also available on both Xbox and PC Game Pass with a subscription.

Story (Spoiler Free)

The story starts off with Ori and his new family at his home in the forest of Niwen. Ori’s new family consists of Gumo, Naru, and Ku. While together they try and teach Ku (the baby owl) how to fly. They eventually get Ku to overcome his fear and fly with Ori. While flying, Ori and Ku get stuck in a storm that emerges. As a result of the storm, Ori and Ku get separated and it is up to Ori to find Ku. Throughout the story, it is up to Ori to save the forest from decay as well as search for Ku. Without giving spoilers, simply put the story is moving. It will make you feel emotions, it will surprise you, and frankly, the ending was unexpected.

In addition to the story, you have access to side quest which is new in this game. The side quests are given from NPC’s which were not in the original game. These NPC’s are often in areas where decay was in effect. After achieving the side quest you are then taken to a newly formed community. By completing side quest and finding new currency in the world, this will help develop that community. It is a nice touch to the game, and as you progress with the story the more access you will have to the side quest.

Graphics

Graphics is where Ori shines real bright. The colors are vibrant and with HDR it looks like an immaculate painting. The different areas in Niwen are vibrant. The colors fit the mood of the area you explore as well as the backgrounds are alive.  A big difference between Ori and Blind Forest and Ori and the Will of the Wisps in the graphics department is 4K HDR. As well as vibrant backgrounds, you will notice the backgrounds constantly move and sway to Ori’s movements. It is not a static background. The different areas feel alive, and as a platformer, Ori makes platforming an Art.  

Audio

The sound is what separates Ori apart from rival platform games. The music, composed by Gareth-Coker, is simply a masterpiece. The music from this game is fantastic. The chase scenes evoke the emotion of raising pulses as you escape enemies. The Boss fights evoke intense music, and narrative pieces evoke sadness and seriousness. Audio is simply fantastic. 

Gameplay

Before we discuss gameplay. We must discuss some of the issues I have had while playing this game. The gameplay bug is what stops this game from being perfect. While playing and finishing this game, I have encountered approximately 10 game freezes while jumping in midair. The freezes don’t break the game for me; however, it does become a nuisance while exploring different areas of the map. It does break you away from the experience. This game was played with the day one game patch and it has not fixed everything. Other than the random freezes, I have not encountered any other issues. However, this does not mean that others will not face other bugs. From my personal experience, I have only faced random freezes while jumping. The freezes never happen during the chase sequence or during a boss fight. I hope Moon Studios releases further patches to deal with the freezes that occurred in my gameplay.

Platforming is King

Like Audio, the gameplay is where Will of the Wisps shines. The gameplay is not only different from the original it is far greater and better in every way. First the platforming, Ori is known for platforming. And in the sequel, it is front and center. The platforming is flawless; the movement and chase scenes are not only enthralling but seamless.  Nothing better than maneuvering and dodging a boss and just when he is about to you get you, you perform a series of moves that enable you to escape. Brilliant stuff. Another thing of note is when exploring the different areas; there are multiple ways to go about achieving an objective. You can either wait for an ability (more on that later) or use your platforming to get to areas that otherwise you wouldn’t be able to.

Time Trials Adds Competition

In addition to the platforming, they have added time trials. These time trials are in various areas and regions of the map. It is basically a race against the developer, your friends, and anyone who has completed the race. This adds a new dimension to a platformer. You can test your skills among your friends or anyone on the leader-board. This added addition is addicting and will have you repeat the time trials as you perfect your run. While playing the game I have noticed one of my Xbox friends constantly on top of each race. I had to take time away to just beat his score. I’m a competitor and I could not let him have the best time for every race. I’m vain I know, but I just couldn’t leave his score at the top of my friend’s list. Furthermore, a neat thing that they added was the ability to watch a person’s time trial. This enables the person to learn and gauge how they did it. This enabled me to perfect my platforming and to improve my time overall.

New skills with the use of Spirit Shards

New to Ori is the different abilities and different weapons. In Ori you can find spirit shards, which enable you to customize your tool-set. For example, there is a shard that you can equip that will grant you the ability to stick to walls. The spirit shards, are in essence skills you can attach to Ori. Each one differs from each other, and depending on your playstyle you can shape Ori to how you want to play her. At the beginning of the game you only have access to a couple of slots. In order to increase the total slots, you will have to find more spirt shards in the game via platforming, or simply purchasing them.

Weapons and new Abilities

In addition to the shards, are the abilities. Ori can only attach three abilities at once. You can, however, change them on the fly. At the start of the game, you get a chance to unlock the Spirit sword. This is one of the main melee’s that does not consume the blue essence. There are other abilities in the game that does consume it. Like the shards, you will unlock these abilities by either buying them or by finding them in the game. The abilities in Ori and the Will of the Wisps are another way of it separating itself from Ori and the Blind Forest. In the Blind Forest, the game was heavily focused on just platforming. There were no boss sequences and it was strictly platforming and escape sequences. In this game, however, combat is also a focus. And the combat is smooth, it is fast, and it is fun. The spirit sword that you can equip, is a fast pace weapon that I have used in many of the encounters in the game. If the enemy is flying I can use another ability that you will find later in the game, to deal with damage to that enemy.  The combat fits with the game and is a focus rather than an addition. It simply fits.

Boss Fights

Another difference in this game is the boss fights. There were no boss fights in the original game, as combat was not the focus. In Ori and the Will of the Wisps, combat is not only the focus but is an important aspect of the game. I played the game on hard mode to get a challenge, and hard mode did not disappoint. I have died countless times to bosses as I had to not only learn what weapons were best used but also I had to watch the bosses’ move-sets. What Ori does great is take the combat of a Hallow Knight, and fuse it effortlessly to the Will of the Wisps. In this game, platforming is still important throughout the boss fight. There are times where you will need to dash to a section of the map to avoid damage, while also damaging the boss. Other times, they will mix an escape sequence in the middle of a boss fight. In short, the boss fights are simply amazing. With the newly focused combat, the platforming in the boss fights, while also having your heart pump due to the epic music that you hear in the background simply makes fighting bosses fun.

Auto Saves

The last welcomed difference, are the autosaves. In the original, there were no autosaves. If you forgot to save while getting to an area, the game will take you back to your last saved point. In the sequel, the game saves the data for you. This is a much-needed change.

Verdict

I highly recommend playing this game. The original game was Xbox’s best game in my opinion. In order for Will of the Wisps to dethrone it, it must achieve greater than what the original did. And Ori and the Will of the Wisps have done it. As a gamer, I rarely see sequels of games that are drastically better than the original. Often times games are a little better, and some of the times the sequels are worse. In the Will of the Wisps, it has surpassed the game in every way.

The story is frankly heartfelt and emotional just like the original. But this time, you have a family, a community to look after. This game grabs your heart and you feel for the characters. The combination with the audio and the story makes it for one heartfelt experience. The changes to the gameplay take the game to another level. The combat is rewarding, the boss battles are fun and challenging. The time trials are exciting and it enables you to replay sections just for bragging rights.

Simply put, this game is a must-play. The game is gorgeous, it is great, it is nothing short of a masterpiece. However, due to the issues that I have come across, mainly freezes. I cannot give this game a perfect score. That is not to take anything away from the brilliance of this game. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is the new platforming king.