I sat in silence for the first thirty minutes of Ori and the Will of the Wisps, just admiring and appreciating everything happening on screen.
From the sentimental, creeping symphonies, to the subtle touches happening in the background, causing my television to feel alive, I was genuinely spellbound.
I played Blind Forest and I appreciated what Moon Studios accomplished – it’s a great game – but Will of the Wisps somehow manages to take things further. This feels like newform art, the passion and drive of an aspiring independent studio looking to make a mark, but with the budget and resources of one of the world’s richest companies. A match practically made in heaven.
It feels like we’re entering a new age of gaming, where indies have taken centre stage, creating the experiences people want to play, and the big studios fully recognise that and are willing to give them the budget needed to realise their true vision.
If that’s true, and Will of the Wisps is anything to go by, then Microsoft’s acquisition of some of the hottest studios in the world just became a whole lot more exciting.
Ori just dazzled me, time after time. Whether it was the use of lighting when moving between areas, the fluidity of platforming by clambering up walls and sailing through the air, or the action-packed, cinematic like boss battles which felt like they’d been plucked out of an old Disney movie.
I kept smiling, I coo’ed and caw’ed, stopping to watch the bushes shake in the background and the leaves bristle in the wind. I gasped as huge creatures seemingly pounced out of trees and smashed the branches around me.
And all throughout, went along with story-telling that’s well-paced, with newly acquired abilities that keep the action fresh and interesting. Everything feels so purposefully done and expertly directed, I just wanted to keep peeling back the game’s every layer.
Will of the Wisps is alive and fulfilling. True, Moon Studios haven’t drastically changed the formula from the first game, the main exclusion being the portable save system replaced with an auto-save system – something I miss terribly – but it’s mostly the same game.
In a ‘Metroidvania’ style, you gradually open up the map, acquiring new abilities to help you out on your journey as you travel through murky forests, and alongside glistening sunsets, grabbing keystones to open up new areas and reaching new heights using changes in the environment.
All throughout, you still play as a tiny little white spirit that seems outmatched in every possible way, yet hosts these amazing abilities which can get you out of any scrape, fighting back fearsome foes of all shapes and sizes.
And through it all is a game that just continues to take your breath away with every little thing it sets out to do. This is a game that dazzles, excites, inspires, and exhilarates.
So much of that is down to how Moon Studios sets the initial tone. From that charming opening sequence, you want to help Ori find little owlet Ku, and protect it from any and all danger, fighting back against everything that wants to hurt you and your friends.
This isn’t just a simple 2.5d platformer, it’s one that asks questions of the player. Will of the Whisps makes you think, but also lets you sit back and appreciate the incredible attention to detail at every corner. All while soaking in one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard this generation.
Will of the Whisps is a rare sequel that is so much better than its predecessor. Everything that made Blind Forest so special has been amplified here and given a new lease of life. An experience so precious, you won’t be able to forget it.
This is a game that gives you more of the same, but also enhances what was already there to begin with. Moon Studios have outdone themselves and proven what amazing things can be accomplished, even when you’re not all based in the same room, working from all corners of the world.
There are glitches, technical holdups, and frame rate drops, so it’s by no means perfect, but Ori and the Will of the Whisps is an incredible swansong for this generation of Xbox and reminds you of the type of first-party quality Microsoft has for the generation ahead.
Ori and the Will of the Whisps is now available on Xbox One and PC