‘Ori and the Will of the Wisps’ hands-on preview

Ori is back and ready for a fight in ‘Ori and the Will of the Wisps’

Ori and the Will of the Wisps Merchant

‘Ori and the Will of the Wisps’ hands-on preview

“’Ori and the Will of the Wisps’ is another gorgeous and tough Metroidvania.”
  • Gorgeous, vibrant art design
  • Richer combat
  • Fun traversal abilities
  • Tough platforming may not be for everyone

Ori and the Blind Forest, a deceptively tough puzzle platformer released exclusively on Xbox One and Windows, was one of the best-looking games of 2015. Utterly gorgeous, it looked like an art house game, but was actually unforgivingly difficult in many places. The sequel, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, was announced last year at E3 2017, we only have only just now got our hands on the game. Based on a quick demo, Ori and the Will of the Wisps seems to carry over and expand upon everything we loved from the original.

Perhaps the most striking aspect about the original Ori was its art style, and Will of the Wisps looks just as good. Every environmental element and character has a rich, hand-painted quality to it. There’s a breathing quality that permeates everything — trees and vines sway in the background, sandy platforms crumble under your touch. Everything meshes together into a living, coherent whole that had a magical sense of place. We found ourselves poring over every detail of the screen.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps looks like it carries over and expands upon everything we loved from the first game.

Will of the Wisps does not change too much, mechanically. If you played the original, Ori’s distinctive approach to navigating his world should be feel very familiar. As a glowing little forest spirit, Ori feels appropriately light and nimble, double-jumping off of walls and dashing around levels while dodging spikes and blasting enemies. The art of Ori’s platforming is in dexterity and timing, as the environment often demands skillful, multi-step jumps and enemies are tough enough that you can’t just plough through and tank their damage — this is a game of finesse.

That said, developer Moon Studios has promised that Ori will have a wider range of new skills this time around. Even in the abridged demo we saw, Ori not only gains some interesting new traversal skills, like the ability to dive and “swim” through sand, but features a number of action-RPG style combat and utility skills, indicating a greater emphasis on combat than Blind Forest. Ori can manifest its light as several weapons, such as a quick slashing sword, a ranged bow and arrow, and a hard-hitting hammer. He could also heal himself — very useful for keeping your health up after miscalculated jumps — and several passive skills that offered more incremental bonuses than the first game (20% reductions on damage and energy use, respectively).

Ori and the Will of the Wisps Merchant

Puzzle platforming was Blind Forest’s primary focus, and its combat was a bit more of an afterthought, bordering on tedious at times. Will of the Wisps seems to be enriching that area of the game with a greater diversity of abilities with only combat applications that work quite differently from one another. This should give players that are more interested in combat greater ability to find their own play style.

We only had a brief taste of one level, but we already feel confident that fans who have been waiting to see more of Ori will fall in love all over again with this beautiful, imaginative world. A hybrid of beautiful artistry and refined genre gameplay, it embodies a lot of what Microsoft is pushing for the Xbox brand to become, as it expands the range of games its bringing exclusively to the platform.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps will launch on Xbox One and PC in 2019.

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