Ori and the Will of the Wisps review: An essential experience for the Xbox One

Ori and the Blind Forest is one of the best games in the Xbox ecosystem, and ahead of WIll of the Wisps launching, everyone knew it would need to be something really special to top it.

The first game showcased sharp platforming, considered level design, a beautiful world and a surprisingly emotional story, elements that were expertly woven together to create a Metroidvania experience unlike anything else out there.

Will of the Wisps systematically takes every facet of what made the original game unforgettable and elevates it to an even higher level.

Everything – everything – in Will of the Wisps works. And works so very well, to boot.

The connection you have to the characters fuels you as you pick at the world the developer has laid out for you, too.

Fans of the genre will be aware of how gating and progression works in this sort of experience, but if you're new to it, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is laid out so intuitively and so intelligently that you can read the game like a Choose Your Own Adventure book.

Glimpsing snatches of future levels before you get there, following the trail of breadcrumbs the game teases out, chiseling away at progression one ability at a time… its a rewarding, specific cadence that you only find in these sorts of games, and Will of the Wisps nails the rhythm of it.

Rhythm is also important in the more moment-to-moment aspects of the game, too.

Similarly to the first game, Will of the Wisps requires timing, patience and skill to overcome the myriad challenges it throws at you.

Ducking and diving between sadistic platforming sections, forced combat encounters and tense boss fights, Will of the Wisps forces you into learning all of its mechanics quite early on, and spends the (slightly formulaic) latter parts of the game levelling you up to take on more intense versions of those initial trials.

With the 'golden path' forcing you to jump, dash, burrow and fight your way to the secrets in the middle of the forest, players that have a hankering for the unexplored can test their more advanced skills by sniffing out health, energy and ability upgrades tucked into the darkest recesses of each level.

It makes for an addictive gameplay cycle – even backtracking to previously explored areas has its fun as you breeze through once-tricky areas with your new abilities, laughing at the creatures that once impeded you to nab that last health upgrade you need to 100% the area.

Again, Will of the Wisps plays to the strengths of the genre in the most satisfying way.

What is Ori and the Will of the Wisps?

  • Developer – Moon Studios
  • Release date – 11 February 2020
  • Format – Xbox One and PC
  • From the creators of Ori and the Blind Forest – the acclaimed adventure game with more than 50 awards and nominations – comes the highly-anticipated sequel, Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Embark on an all-new adventure in a vast and exotic world where you’ll encounter towering enemies and challenging puzzles on your quest to unravel Ori’s true destiny.

    The most notable way the game improves on the foundations its predecessor laid out comes in terms of the boss fights.

    The infamous 'escape sequences' from the first game make a return, but they're not folded in with encounters with larger creatures, forming one part of a larger whole.

    Though not quite as devilish as the first game's high-end platforming challenges, these marquee sequences are the standout sections of the game – riveting set-pieces that really put the world in scale, and show off how far Moon has comes as a studio.

    With the refined combat (which feels in no small way inspired by genre stablemate, Hollow Knight) underpinning each of these momentous boss fights, Ori and the Will of the Wisps proves it knows how to tick off every item in the checklist of gratifying game design.

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