Ori and the Will of the Wisps Has Me Ready to Buy Some Tissues

I can't wait for my return to the gorgeous forest of Nibel when Ori and the Will of the Wisps drops on March 11.

Six years ago at E3 2014, we were first introduced to Ori and the beautiful forest of Nibel. The original trailer for Ori and the Blind Forest perfectly foreshadowed the game’s emotional tone. It was clear, from Naru’s loving relationship with Ori, Gareth Coker’s divine composition, and the few platforming segments presented in the trailer, that Ori and the Blind Forest was going to be a special game. On March 11, 2015, Ori launched to critical acclaim, winning Xbox Game of the Year at the Golden Joystick Awards, while we gave it a 9.5 and our Platformer of the Year award. Exactly five years later on March 11, 2020, Moon Studios will be looking to repeat their success when Ori and the Will of the Wisps finally releases.

Back when Ori and the Blind Forest released in 2015, I was out of the gaming loop. I had never heard of the first game but ended up stumbling on it during the summer Steam sale, and boy am I glad that I did. Ori’s hand-painted art-style instantly drew me in, while its fun-filled, challenging platforming and magnificent soundtrack kept me playing until completion.

As an artist myself, I know exactly how difficult painting is, which infinitely increased my appreciation for the artists at Moon Studios and what they were able to accomplish. Meanwhile, I loved the game’s platforming mechanics, specifically the ability to use enemies to launch Ori higher into the air and over obstacles. Gareth Coker’s score is another highlight for me from the original game; to this day, I still regularly listen to the Ori soundtrack while reading, writing, or trying to sleep.

Honestly, I only had a few issues with Ori and the Blind Forest, most notably not being able to return to my save file and explore more of its world after beating the final boss. This issue and others were fixed in a Definitive Edition which also included additional content. Heading into its sequel, I’d certainly recommend the Definitive Edition to anyone who’s never played Ori. To this day, Ori and the Blind Forest is my favorite Metroidvania of all time. I’ve beaten the game multiple times, roaming through Nibel, and restoring life to its withering scenery. Therefore, it should be no surprise that Ori‘s 2020 follow-up is my most anticipated game of the year.

We got our first glimpse at Ori and the Will of the Wisps at E3 2017 when Microsoft shared a trailer. The brief footage introduced two possible bosses; a massive glowing spider, and a gigantic muddy frog. The camera also landed on a large abandoned-looking water mill, hinting at the possible presence of another species. Finally, we got an emotional scene where Ori comforts Kuro’s child while the two stare out at the remains of large owls. Ori and the Will of the Wisps appears to be built with the same care and love that made Ori and the Blind Forest an emotional masterpiece. However, leading up to Moon Studio’s March release for the game, we haven’t received all good news.

Following another E3 trailer in 2018 announcing a 2019 release date, Ori and the Will of the Wisps has been bombarded with delays. It was first delayed from 2019 to February 11, 2020, and then again to March 11, 2020; exactly five years after Ori and the Blind Forest released. However, I don’t think these delays are any reason to worry. With each delay, we’ve received a new trailer, some presenting new gameplay elements, while others show off beautiful new areas to explore. Additionally, Moon Studios strikes me as a team that would utilize a few extra months to transform their game from amazing to a masterpiece.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps appears to be built with the same care and love that made Ori and the Blind Forest an emotional masterpiece.”

What is most exciting to me are the possibility of boss fights in Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Boss fights can be some of the most challenging, and therefore rewarding, parts of any gaming experience; God of War‘s brutal Valkyrie Queen is a perfect example of this. However, in Ori and the Blind Forest the challenging boss-like-segments were difficult auto-scrolling platforming sections where any hit killed you, similar to Celeste or Super Meat Boy. Including some challenging boss-fights that could be interspersed with the auto-scrolling escape sequences of the first game would add some nice variety to Will of the Wisps.

Meanwhile, part of what made Ori in the Blind Forest so different from other Metroidvania and platforming games was the deeply emotional content of the story. Despite the game’s short prologue, you could see how Naru was deeply important to Ori as a parent-figure. Watching Naru give their remaining food to Ori before passing away was an extremely powerful moment that brought countless players to tears (Myself included). Ori and the Will of the Wisps appears to continue this tone as Ori and Naru will likely help raise Kuro’s child, all while Gareth Coker’s undoubtedly mesmerizing and tear-jerking score echos within the wooded forest of Nibel.

Fortunately for Moon Studios, releasing in this year’s previously-packed March won’t be as competitive following delays for Cyberpunk 2077, Marvel’s Avengers, and Final Fantasy VII Remake. However, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is still set to release around several big games including DOOM Eternal and Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

Surprisingly, after Ori and the Blind Forest was ported to Nintendo Switch–probably finding a brand new audience in the process–it’s strange to not see Will of the Wisps coming to the Switch at launch. After all, it’s not like anyone will be purchasing an Xbox One for Ori when Xbox Series X will likely launch this holiday season. Ultimately, I can’t wait to jump back into the forest of Nibel and help guide Ori through all challenges that await when Ori and the Will of the Wisps launches this March.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps, and a special edition, will release for Xbox One and PC on March 11, 2020, you can pre-order either version right now over on Amazon.

Josh Starr

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