Ori and the Will of the Wisps (XB1) Review

Full of spirit

Ori and the Blind Forest is still one of the first games I recommend to anyone new to Xbox consoles or new subscribers to Game Pass. It is by far one of the most beautiful and challenging games of its type. When Moon Studios announced a sequel was in the works I didn’t feel like we truly needed one. The first game is almost a perfect experience in itself. Sequels are messy. Sometimes they don’t recapture what made the original so good, or they change things up so much that it feels like it could have been a new game. Ori and the Will of the Wisps manages to circumvent these issues by keeping what made the original great, and sprinkling in enough new twists to make it feel fresh.

One thing the original game excelled at was making maximum emotional impact with minimal effort. There is not a lot of spoken dialogue. Instead the game relies on “moments” to tell its story. I got more out of the silent opening than I do most dialogue-heavy movies. Ori and his companions are just adorable on so many levels. I feel for them, I like them, I feel their pain. It is hard to describe, but the combination of gorgeous hand-painted artwork and outstanding music combine to create one of the most emotional tales currently of any game.

MSRP: $29.99
Platforms: XB1 (reviewed), PC
Price I’d Pay: $29.99

While the first Ori game excelled at what it set out to do, the sequel offers up so much more. Will of the Wisps adds a new focus on combat. The first game was littered with platforming puzzles and the sequel continues this trend, but it also adds more combat options and enemies to take down. There are boss battles and a host of attacks and abilities at the player’s disposal making it a much more involved game.

The world is also a lot more open than its predecessor. There are sidequests to complete that unlock new items and upgrades along the way. There is a character that sells maps for the world ala Hollow Knight. Will of the Wisps seems to take the approach that bigger is better, as the game just feels like a fleshed out version of the original game. There is just so much more to see and do. The world is bigger and more vibrant.

Combat feels just as good as the platforming already did. Ori starts off with a simple attack, but with the new abilities system there are a host of new ways to dispatch foes. Heavier attacks, sentry guns, and more are unlocked as Ori progresses through the game. Equipping these is as simple as holding the left trigger down and assigning them to a face button. I found that as I gained more I would gravitate towards a few, but always had some that I would swap out on-the-fly when the situation called for it. For example I had the sentry and my regeneration ability constantly switching on the Y button. It can be cumbersome at first, but the game does pause when assigning so it can be done even mid-combat.

There is also a new shard system that gives Ori some passive abilities. I started off with just a few slots, but finding and completing challenge missions would unlock more that I could equip. These run the gamut from adding more health ticks, to making orbs magnetize from across the screen. These shards can also be upgrades throughout the game at certain places in order to really deck out Ori’s abilities.

Ori is once again using the blueprint of the genre that defines it. As I progressed I gained new abilities that would allow me to access new areas of the world. Some of these are entirely optional, but digging into the secrets was always worth it. With each new ability comes a sense of discovery. New areas would become open and I almost always found myself heading to places I could not go before as soon as I obtained them. That is good design and it made me appreciate all the little nuances the game laid out for me.

Now this does come with a few caveats. For starters I found myself stuck on some areas far too long. I would get frustrated as the answer was not always cut and dry. The game also adopts some shortcomings from the titles it mimics. Direction is not always there. One example is later in the game I was tasked with finding various objects. I would head in the direction of one of them only to get stumped by a puzzle or obstacle. It took a while to suss out some of these obtuse solutions and the game didn’t do a great job of conveying exactly what you are supposed to do.

Controlling Ori is nearly flawless. The moves obtained slowly become muscle memory. That said it is a game that if you are going to play, play it to completion. I feel like taking a sabbatical from it would lose a lot of how it ramps up Ori’s movement over time. I could not imagine coming back to some of this after months of not playing. The dance of movement in this game is just so intricate that it has to be built over time.

The biggest thing that Ori retains from the original is its sense of style. The hand-painted visuals are still stunning on every level. The world is much more vibrant this time around and each area feels unique and gorgeous. The added 4K resolution mixed with HDR just makes it pop even more. The game is absolutely stunning to look at. The music is equally impressive as it swells during certain scenes. The way the visuals and audio mix together truly make this indie title feel like it had a truly triple-A budget. This is some of the best music in a game to date and it really impacts the overall experience.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a game I might not have felt we needed, but could not stop playing once I dove in. It retains what made the original special while also adding enough to warrant a sequel. Moon Studios truly has carved out a spot for themselves among the pantheon of indie developers. I cannot wait to see what they do next and as for this title, there is simply no reason not to dive in. It is included in Game Pass and even at its asking price, it is more than worth the price of admission.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

  • Gorgeous world and visuals
  • Outstanding score
  • Platforming and combat feel so good
  • Exploring the world is a treat
  • Lack of direction at times
Written by
Ken is the Editor-in-Chief of this hole in the wall and he loves to troll for the fun of it. He also enjoys long walks through Arkham Asylum and the cool air of Shadow Moses Island. His turn-ons include Mortal Kombat, Metal Gear Solid and StarCraft.