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Ori and the Will of the Wisps

by The Media Diorama

Available On: PC, Switch, and Xbox One.

Developer: Moon Studios

Ori and the Will of the Wisps whimsically consumes the forestry strands of its predecessor and grows a new majestic world that manages to improve on every aspect that made its antecedent an acclaimed piece of art.

WHAT I LIKED

+ Light versus dark. Life versus death. Growth versus decay. Moon Studios wrote a renowned tale of natural melancholy when creating Blind Forest that made players break down in tears within the first ten minutes. Obviously, this thematic presence would continue into its sequel, and it is relentless. Whilst the glimmer of hope shines throughout Ori’s second quest into saving a new forest, with the assistance of Kuro’s last baby owl Ku, it is not a happy tale. Not. At. All. But that’s the beauty of Will of the Wisp’s narrative. It never sugarcoats the natural order of life. It flourishes when it is at its most heartless, but consistently makes an impression upon the player. When those final ten minutes play, your heart will either be empty or flooded with salty tears. Masterful direction!

+ Corruption and decay has withered the forest. Much like Nibel, Niwen centralises itself around a colossal tree, this time a willow. However, a core concept within this sequel’s art design is the alteration the growing decay makes on Niwen’s luscious areas. The polluted waters of The Wellspring. The eternal darkness of Mouldwood Depths. The degradation of Silent Woods. Ori, being tasked in finding all five wisps to reignite the willow’s spirit light, can restore Niwen to its former flourishing state once obtaining each of the wisps. For example, granting Mouldwood Depths an abundance of light once more. These small details grant Niwen a brand new life of its own as the journey progresses. Yes, the art direction is just as masterful as Blind Forest. And yes, it is one of the most gorgeous experiences to be had. But these changes in geography and natural state enhance the Metroidvania style that Moon Studios have lovingly embraced. Niwen truly felt interconnected.

+ Slash through the tainted wildlife. Unlike Blind Forest which predominantly focused on precision platforming over combat, Will of the Wisp progresses the base gameplay mechanics even further by fairly balancing the two styles. Ori is equipped with an array of abilities, with three being assigned at any one time, that grant him new combat and traversal powers. Launching speared projectiles at enemies. Smashing the ground and pulverising the indigenous fauna. Each of these abilities can be upgraded and can be switched out at any time. This grants the player further strategy when encountering a combat shrine and/or a tricky path of traps.

+ Hollow Knight makes an impression once again. “Soul Links” and the previous sequential upgrade system have been abandoned, with Moon Studios adopting the charm system that Team Cherry’s masterpiece Hollow Knight had strategically employed. Ori can now attach several shards to him that gift him with several bonuses and curses, such as increase in defence or triple jumping. The gimmick here is that Ori can only have a a certain number of shards attached to him at any time, therefore the player must strategically grant Ori the appropriate shards for the appropriate situation. Several shards, and the total capacity, can be upgraded to further Ori’s skills when encountering the dangers of Niwen.

+ The beasts of Niwen will strike Ori down. The trial and error escape sequences that Blind Forest haphazardly introduced have been dialled back somewhat in this sequel. Sure, they do exist, but they are far more forgiving. Instead, thanks to the focus on combat, boss battles make an appearance. And boy oh boy are they tough! A colossal arachnid lurking in the darkness. A corrupted giant toad. An enormous sandworm. There’s plenty of beasty boys to test the player’s combat initiatives, and they all have multiple phases to them.

+ Fear not though, as there are plenty of collectibles scattered throughout Niwen that can assist in besting those beasts. From energy and life cells to hidden shards, every collectible is necessary to make Ori as strong as possible. Another new addition to Will of the Wisps is a central village that hosts all of the different vendors needed to upgrade Ori’s abilities. Gorlek Ores are also secretly positioned throughout Niwen and are used to help rebuild the glades. There’s also an abundance of sidequests that will reward Ori handsomely. So if you ever find yourself stuck against a boss battle, there’s plenty the needs to be done and explored in the forest of Niwen.

+ A symphony of art. Composer Gareth Coker certainly made an impression with Blind Forest’s composition, but he outdid himself with this game’s soundtrack. It is unequivocally beautiful. Every single facet of Niwen’s sprawling landscapes were accompanied by a score that supplied even more life to the artistic visuals. From the gentle violin strings of Mouldwood Depths to the grandiose tapestry found in Willow’s End. This soundtrack needs everyone’s attention!

+ Will of the Wisps is bigger, better and braver with its storytelling, world-building and integral gameplay. Everything a sequel should do!

WHAT I DISLIKED

As seen on the poster and the vastly detailed promotional material, Ori is accompanied by a friendly owl named Ku. From the introductory prologue and a segment in the Silent Woods, the player can control both Ori and Ku together as they traverse the desolate intricacies of this newly discovered forest. Ku can glide, flap her wings on the ground and has an increased walking speed. The only issue is after a not-so-minor plot detail unveils itself, this partnership ceases to exist and the player can no longer control both Ori and Ku. Considering the possibilities of new traversal mechanics, this felt like a wasted opportunity to add some more flavour to Ori’s traditional gameplay style. Had Moon Studios extended the Silent Woods segment, and/or chose to include Ku in more of Ori’s initial journey before their separation, Will of the Wisps may have been the perfect varied Metroidvania title.

VERDICT: 9/10

Gorlek Ores