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- Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Ori and the Blind Forest was one of the most beautiful Xbox One console exclusive platformers. Beautiful described the colorful visuals, yes, but also the touching, speechless narrative and tough, but fluid platforming controls. A true work of art. During the presentation and hands-on demo I had at E3 2018 of the game’s sequel, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, it’s readily apparent that this game is carrying the torch. But it’s not just carrying the torch; it’s moving forward with it.
Combat is much different in this sequel. It’s no longer just haphazardly mashing the attack button until your homing lasers finish the job. Ori now has access to a whole swath of options that you can experiment with. There was a melee sword, bow, hammer, and more and all of these different moves can be swapped in at any time into three spots, even during combos. Special magic moves add even more options, but those devastating attacks consume mana.
All of these unique weapons and the ability to customize your Ori made combat a deeper, more enjoyable experience. Enemy encounters now have some sort of depth associated with them and it’s satisfying to execute combos and air juggles. More options and customizable loadouts turn combat into a gameplay facet worth engaging with and not avoid when given the opportunity. It’s hard to say if the combat will stay fresh for the entire game or if the lack of visible defensive options will be an issue, but this is an undeniable leap forward from the first game.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps Preview: Play it Your Way
Combat is not the only customizable aspect of Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Shards act as some sort of a perk system where abilities can be slotted in. The few I saw in the demo allowed the player to take less damage while one showed an on-screen mission location indicator that pointed to the objective. These options are meant to flatten out the difficulty and give players a chance to seek help where they think they need it, as Executive Producer at Microsoft Studios Mark Coates explained.
“We feel like that with a different loadout that you can create for your character at any given time, you can have a much different play experience depending upon what feels right to you,” said Coates. “And in that way, it makes the game a little bit more accessible and a little bit easier to solve some of the puzzles depending on what might be challenging for your individual kind of playstyle.”
The game’s platforming, however, will probably be challenging no matter what your playstyle or loadout is. Ori and the Will of the Wisps still requires you to have a delicate touch and decent reflexes, as evidenced by all the tricky sections during the demo. Chaining wall jumps and air dashes with the brand new grappling beam and drill move felt incredibly smooth and appropriately difficult like it ought to.
Its trademark smooth feel made it all a joy to control and offset any potential frustration. Like any great platformer, it does what you want, when you want. Frequent checkpoints were littered throughout the demo to help preemptively block irritation, but Coates said the team at Moon Studios still hasn’t decided whether or not they are going back to the old controversial manual save point system.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps Preview: Stori Time
The checkpoint system in the first game was divisive but the characters were not. It had a small cast and each was memorable and contributed to Ori’s tale. Moon Studios is expanding on this for Ori and the Will of the Wisps by adding more character throughout the world. These characters add flavor to the world along with new side missions. I saw a cartographer willing to sell me a map along with a traveler who had lost one of its tools.
While most of these new characters probably won’t have an impact on the story, it was pleasant to see more quirky faces along the journey. Senior Producer at Microsoft Studios Dan Smith said this was all in an attempt to give fans what the wanted.
“We listen to the community heavily,” he said. “Fans of the original title had a strong affinity to the characters. So if we were gonna make another one, why not take some of the best elements of the first game and go crazy?”
For as open as they were about these new faces in the world, everyone at both Microsoft and Moon Studios was mum about the actual story. However, it does pick up right after the events of the first game and is about Ori finding out its true mission in life. They’re aiming for the same type of touching narrative and it “might be even more emotional in some ways than the first game” according to Co-Founder of Moon Studios Gennadiy Korol.
It may seem hypocritical to harp on Shadow of the Tomb Raider for being almost too similar to its predecessor while fawning over Ori and the Will of the Wisps, given its visual similarities to Ori and the Blind Forest. But the difference here is that Will of the Wisps is adding to the game’s original formula and actively improving it. The tight platforming controls are more expansive, the vibrant visuals are still gorgeous, and the new combat system adds depth to where there previously was none. Keeping up with the level of quality from the first entry is a tall task but Ori and the Will of the Wisps is showing all the right signs.