It’s taken quite a bit for Ori and the Will of the Wisps to come out.

I remember watching it a couple of years back, during Microsoft’s E3 showcase. It look really impressive back then, especially considering I was in the midst of playing the original Ori for the first time.

Months have passed and now…it’s finally here.

So the big question is…does Ori and the Will of the Wisps live up to the hype?

What is Ori and the Will of the Wisps?

Ori and the Will of the Wisps is the sequel to the awesome indie game, Ori and the Blind Forest. It’s a single player, 2D (with 3D visuals) platformer infused with Metroidvania properties, developed by Moon Studios.

It’s currently exclusive to the Xbox One and PC, with both Ori and the Will of the Wisps and the original, available on Microsoft’s Game Pass service.

Players control Ori (the white thingie), one of the last spirits left in the world. In Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Ori is on a quest to reunite with his lost friend, Ku the Owlet. There’s much more to the plot than that, but to say more would be a spoiler.

What entails is a breathtaking journey through some of the most visually impressive locations I’ve ever seen in a video game. From the shafts of light that filter through the trees during sunset, to the mist, gloom and decay of the Silent Woods, there’s a majestic beauty to all the locations. Even the most basic of settings looks ethereal and magical.

That’s due to the incredible musical score as much as the looks of the game.

The music that accompanies the locales perfectly, gently guiding you around as you explore, egg you on as you venture further…and drive you face first into the unknown as you’re hurtling away from relentless adversaries.

Unfortunately, while the game is silky smooth most times, it’s not that way every time. I’m playing on an Xbox One X with a 4K TV with FreeSync and the game still stutters here and there. There are hitches here and there as it streams in new data for upcoming area (the game has no loading unless you’re Quick Traveling).

The frame rate also tends to get bogged down when you’re fighting a ton of enemies at once and/or using your flashy skills at the same time. It’s very noticeable, as the frame rate tanks rather badly to around 20 – 30 frames per second at times.

Thankfully, areas where enemies pile on Ori are few and far between so you’ll encounter these slowdown sections only sporadically and only in certain places.

The slowdown not only mars the action, it also makes the gameplay less responsive which is a double whammy of bad. You don’t want Ori to be responding as if he’s underwater when he’s badly outnumbered do you?

The Day One patch claims to have fixed some of the performance issues but I’ve yet to replay the game to see if that’s true. If it does fix the slowdown, I’ll update the review accordingly.

Slowdown’s not the only issue; I’ve even encountered weird visual glitches that didn’t load the background properly. Just take a gander at the screenshot below.

There’s a silver lining though; I’ve only had the visual glitches thrice and restarting the game seems to fix them.

Nectar for the ears.

This is one of the very few times where I highly recommend you get the soundtrack of the game if you can. The haunting yet soothing melodies are perfect to listen to if you’re reading or simply whittling the time away on a journey.

Ori plays much like the original, or if you’ve not played it, similar Metroidvanias like Bloodstained, Hollow Knight or Salt and Sanctuary. You’ll explore a huge world map that gradually opens up as you discover new abilities.

That means that there’s a ton of backtracking involved in the game (especially early on), which might detract some players unfamiliar with the genre. In fact, the backtracking is pretty much an integral part of the game, as you’re encouraged to continuously revisit previous areas when you have new moves to see what new secrets you can uncover.

I do wish that there were more fast travel points though. Backtracking to uncover new secrets is fine and dandy, but having to backtrack through large sections you’ve already cleared to get to where you want to go is very boring.

Unlike the original, Ori and the Will of the Wisps has a TON of collectibles now, which come in the multiple forms; upgrades for your health and energy, skills you can equip or ore you can use to upgrade a sanctuary for your friends. There are even quests you can accomplish for some of the in-game NPCs, which nets you rewards as well.

With the new added customization and depth, Ori and the Will of the Wisps feels much bigger and grander in scope that the original ever did. Now you can really customize Ori to your own play style; do you equip a special jumping ability that lets Ori do a triple jump or instead stuff in an ability that lets Ori call in a sentry that fires at enemies?

You’re going to have to choose wisely, as ability slots are limited and there are a ton of useful powers begging to be equipped.

I just wish that Ori would just go all the way though and include a proper leveling system (like in Bloodstained) that rewards grinding and killing enemies. You’re already going to grind to get orbs to buy skills with, might as well make it useful right? Perhaps in the next game.

Thankfully, the previous game’s archaic save system has been nixed. Now saves are done automatically (or at special warp shrines) so you don’t have to worry about not having enough energy to save your progress.

In fact, progression is almost constant in the game. Checkpoints abound and dying simply reverts you back to the nearest one, which usually won’t be that far from where you died. Loading can be a bit temperamental; it’s much faster to load if you’re near a checkpoint than if you’re far from one.

That’s good because you’ll be dying a lot in the game, even if you’re playing on Normal (like me). That’s due to the punishing nature of the platforming in the game and also the tough as nails enemies and bosses…but it’s also mostly due to your own mistakes.

There’s no part in the game where I cursed at being forced to do impossible things. You simply learn from what got you killed, get better and move on. It’s a bit like a Souls game in that regard, though definitely not as aggravating.

The bottom line.

In every way, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a step up from the original. The game somehow manages to top the already impressive first game by doing everything better; more variety in the stages, more customization, more collectibles. More, more, more!

There are some downsides to the game such as the intense slowdown in some sections, lack of Fast Travel points and inconsistent loading times but those are relatively minor issues in the overall scheme of things.

If you enjoy a good Metroidvania or platformer or even just a game with an awesomely ethereal soundtrack, then you’ll want to do yourself a major favor and get either a Game Pass subscription or nab the game by itself.

Trust me, you won’t regret it one bit!

TLDR:

Awesome sequel with unbelievably spectacular music, visuals and gameplay with minor issues.

The Good.

  • The atmospheric visuals.
  • The ethereal soundtrack.
  • Awesome platforming gameplay.
  • Tons of customization.

The Bad.

  • Slowdown when things get hectic.
  • Needs more Fast Travel points.

Sal's been in the industry since the early 2000s. He's written for a ton of gaming and tech publications including Playworks, Hardwarezone, HWM and GameAxis. Recently, Sal served as a juror for the Indie Game Awards at Taipei Game Show 2020. A geek and hardcore gamer, Sal will play everything, on any platform.