By Ronald Gordon
Sometimes, you discover a game that’s more than just a game. Perhaps it feels like a sort of playable movie, or a story that resonates deeply within you. In the case of Ori and The Will of The Wisps, the game struck me as an interactive work of art.
Ori and The Will of The Wisps is a Metroidvania-style Adventure Platformer game developed by Moon Studios and published by Xbox Game Studios, and a direct sequel to the award-winning 2015 game Ori and The Blind Forest. The story of Will of The Wisps begins with you playing as a forest spirit named Ori who, along with two friends, takes up the task of raising a tiny owl namned Ku. Ku is young, curious, and all around just downright adorable, but there’s one thing she doesn’t have: the ability to fly.
Ku was born with a weak wing, so her true destiny of taking to the skies would be forever out of her reach, unless you can find her a large feather from her mother Kuro’s plumage to patch Ku’s weak wing and let her soar with you on her back! However, your flight is cut short by a terrible storm, and Ku gets lost somewhere near Inkwater Marsh, which is filled with flourishing plant life and strange new enemies. It’s now up to you to explore this new land and find Ku before something happens to her.
As in most platformers, the gameplay is fairly simple as well as challenging: you can jump, move objects, and attack, while also collecting abilities like the Dash or the Double Jump along the way. One thing I enjoyed about Ori was the way you could outfit your attacks with different skills. For instance, instead of an ordinary sword, you could have a strong but slow hammer, or a bow that drains Ori’s spiritual power with every bolt. I favored the hammer but often used the sword due to its quick strikes and long combo, especially when it came to one-on-ones or taking on bosses with short vulnerability windows.
Playing Will of The Wisps makes me feel like I’m witnessing the utterly outrageous mind of a passionate artist. The heartfelt story draws you in, while the visuals keep you engaged. The artwork of the game is stunning and the environments you explore are so full of life that you’ll wish the world was bigger.
One of the most fascinating things that the game’s visuals bring to the table is the way Will of The Wisps uses light and glowing objects. As a mysterious forest spirit, Ori has an unnatural glow to their fur, and so does everything they interact with. The weapons and upgrades you pick up exhibit a beautiful white-blue glow, emphasizing that they aren’t commonly wielded items. And Spirit Orbs, which count as in-game currency, have an orange shine to them which makes them stand out in any part of the level. Dangerous things, like projectiles or enemy attacks, glow with an unnatural purple or red light.
The in-game music is often airy and light, making you feel at home with the Forest Spirit vibes present throughout the game. At times, the music shifts to something more action-oriented or dramatic, as when you enter a boss fight or are put into a combat trial, but all in all it’s a joy to the ears.
I’d definitely recommend Will of The Wisps to anyone who wants a quality Metroidvania with dazzling graphics and a fantastical feel, especially if they – like me – have yet to try out Blind Forest, the first installment of the Ori series. Will of The Wisps seems to have some connections to its predecessor, but I never felt lost or out of the loop when the story branched off onto its own path. In Blind Forest you dealt with a powerful recurring boss named Kuro, who fought Ori on many occasions to try and halt their quest. However, at the end of the game when Ori succeeds, Kuro realizes she was in the wrong and wishes to atone for her past deeds to make amends. Now (spoiler alert), in Will of The Wisps, Kuro has passed away and it’s up to Ori to help raise Ku to be good-hearted, as Kuro would’ve wanted.
Indeed, “good-hearted” is the right word for Ori and Will of the Wisps all around. Ori just keeps on going, keeps on finding clues, keeps jumping higher and higher – to do the right thing – even when things become dark and unknowable. He knows full well that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
Ronald Gordon is a senior intern for the New York Videogame Critics Circle. He attends City Tech College.