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Xbox One has arguably had lesser clout this generation when it comes to console exclusives, but that’s not to say it didn’t have its gems.
2015’s Ori and the Blind Forest is one such gem: this beautiful Metroidvania adventure is one of the finest games in the genre, and a particularly sturdy string in Xbox’s exclusivity bow until it was ported to the Switch in late 2019.
Five years to the day since Ori released, its sequel is now with us, and if ever there was proof that lightning can indeed strike twice, this is it.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a simply gorgeous platformer that builds on the original without ruining what made it so special. While at first glance the sequel appears similar to its predecessor, it’s actually been significantly overhauled in terms of structure and general feel, but fans of the original are still sure to be delighted.
The first big change is a stronger emphasis on combat this time. Early into the game Ori discovers the Spirit Edge ability, which lets players swing a sword made of light at enemies. Shortly after that you’ll find the Spirit Arc, which lets you fire arrows from a distance.
Combined, these new abilities give players a far greater repertoire of attacking moves, though enemy aggression has also been tweaked accordingly. You can expect to stumble into far more skirmishes than in the previous game, but thankfully combat is enjoyable enough for the most part, even if it does maybe take a little too long to dispose of certain enemies.
Melee isn’t the only area that’s been revamped: Ori’s general agility has also been improved greatly with the addition of a new dash roll move (a variation of which was only found in the Definitive Edition of the original game). This lets Ori roll out of the way of enemy attacks – useful given the greater focus on combat – but crucially also gives it the ability to briefly shoot to the side while in mid-air.
This move alone completely transforms the way you navigate the enormous world map (which is said to be three times larger than that of the first Ori game). Combined with Ori’s ability to double jump (and later triple jump) as well as the optional skill that lets it climb walls similar to Knuckles in Sonic 3, your ability to efficiently traverse the land is much greater now.
There’s an immense satisfaction in effortlessly running up a wall, jumping off it, hitting a triple jump then air-dashing to reach a vine at the other side of the screen when it previously would have been considered miles away. As much as the game now focuses on fighting, Ori’s obviously been practising its parkour skills too.
“This is one of the most gorgeous platformers you’ll ever play. Lighting is spectacular, the extra foreground and background details are jaw-dropping and the incredible orchestral soundtrack puts many Hollywood movies to shame.”
Speaking of skills, these too are now handled differently. Gone is the ability tree that saw players working their way through a sequence of skills by unlocking them with ability points. Now you instead collect Spirit Shards, each of which provides a new ability (like the aforementioned wall-climbing).
Some of these Shards can be found while exploring, whereas others can only be purchased (or upgraded) by finding a merchant called Twillen, There are a huge variety of Shards – ranging from the ability to attract collectible orbs from a distance, to the addition of a compass that points to where you need to go next – but the twist is that you only have a limited number of slots to equip them, so you have to choose carefully which ones to make active at any time.
All of the above combines for a notably different experience to the first game, but there should also be no doubt that this is still an Ori sequel at its heart. Fans of the original aren’t exactly going to be rocked to their core and complain that this isn’t the Ori they know and love: it’s still very much Ori 2, it just places more focus on different elements of play.
Crucially, one of the main things that made the original so well-loved remains: this is one of the most gorgeous platformers you’ll ever play. Lighting is spectacular, the extra foreground and background details are jaw-dropping and the incredible orchestral soundtrack puts many Hollywood movies to shame.
One thing to bear in mind: we did notice a few stutters and bugs here and there, even when playing on an Xbox One X. We’ve been assured that there’s a day one patch that may address some of these, but it’s hard to tell exactly what will be fixed until the game is released. These aren’t game-breaking by any means but it’s something to keep an eye on at launch.
This aside, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a truly breathtaking Metroidvania that’s significantly larger than its predecessor and builds on it in every way imaginable. It isn’t perfect – the combat may become a little too much for some – but there can be no denying that it’s an incredible technical and artistic achievement.
A gorgeous platformer that builds on the original without ruining what made it so special. If you have Game Pass, there’s no reason not to play this.
- Looks astonishing
- One of the most accomplished soundtracks in gaming
- An enormous world map and a huge number of skills to unlock
- The new focus on combat may annoy some platforming purists