At the Toronto 2018 Fan Expo, Microsoft had a playable demo of Ori and the Will of the Wisps, showing off the beautiful precision-based platformer. The game looked spectacular on the Xbox One X, and is looking to be a great addition to any platforming fans’s collection, whether they played the title’s predecessor or not.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a strikingly beautiful game, full of colour, contrast, and visual effects. The gameplay demo showed off a desert area. What makes the level vibrant was the use of lighting and contrast between the shades of brown, creating far more variation than some games achieve. Another example of the world’s sense of life is how the enemies and dangerous terrain are coloured. Spikes glow orange with a purple base, making them stand out from the level and thus easier to see while also creating a nice contrast. Enemies have a glow to them and are filled with colour, illuminating the environment and adding more hues to a desert world.
Ori adds the most colour to the world, with its fluorescent blue standing out from everything else, while projecting the light onto much of the surroundings. Ori adds much to the contrast of the setting, creating a subtle, vibrant shine on nearby objects. Light projected from Ori also helps to give depth as different objects will become brighter depending on the player’s proximity to the object, helping make the 2D platformer feel more substantial. Hidden throughout the levels are different collectibles. Two of note are the green health power-up and the blue mana power-up, both increasing the player’s maximum for each.
The level is a large area that feels like a small open world, incentivizing exploration over a linear path to the boss. Levels will have many different pickups, from health and mana to new abilities and keys to doors. Each area will come with a map that needs to be uncovered by exploring, akin to Diablo’s use of exploration for each area. The setting has hidden passages and levers that give access to new areas for the player to adventure into to get power-ups. Levels are large enough that they give the possibility for side quests within an area, with the one level featured in the demo having a side quest that came with a special reward.
The level design is imaginative, but calls for precise movement to get through spiked areas or to reach high points. Successfully overcoming a jump challenge or using the grappling ability to reach new areas feels rewarding as the situations call for skill of mobility. One power-up that was obtained was the ability to dive into and burrow through sand; with the added speed boost, the player can launch Ori into the air at the exit in an attempt to then double jump up to a high area. The burrow ability also becomes useful to shoot through small sand boulders at the height of a jump as a way to throw Ori to new spots. The world is beautiful and reminiscent to Metroidvania style open-world levels that will be sure to give the opportunity to fight many different enemies while exploring.
Combating enemies is another precise and intuitive aspect of the game. Ori has the normal attack chain when tapping the corresponding button, but will also have many other powers to use at the cost of mana such as throwing an explosive orb or throwing a spear made of power. When wandering the level, the player will come across different pickups that will grant Ori the ability to use new powers, which can then be assigned to the two shoulder buttons. What the abilities can do outside of battle has yet to be seen but they do allow players to tackle different situations in more enjoyable ways than just using the basic attack chain. Mixing up and performing homemade combos is half the fun of fighting, allowing the player to feel powerful and in control of the situation. The powers also come in handy with the right opportunity; for example, throwing a spear made up of mana is good against flying enemies, while throwing an explosive is effective against a group or to lob over obstacles. The combat is precise and fun, complimenting the rest of the gameplay with the sound.
The audio design helps sell the world more. With an ambient background track, the game really feels like a journey. Using abilities has an essence of wonder and mysticism, sounding unlike anything else in the game. Sound effects for jumping and fighting are all great and easy to hear, contrasting the ambient music and giving emphasising the gameplay. Ori and the Will of the Wisps does a wonderful job at creating an atmosphere that is sure to pull the player in.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a strong entry into the platforming genre. With intuitive controls and skill-based movement, the game never feels overly challenging or cheap, but rather that the player is growing with practice. With patience and some persistence on trickier areas, the game will feel rewarding as the player improves, having the same feeling that old platformers such as the Mega Man and Mega Man X series excelled at. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a beautiful game with some extraordinary graphics. The level design appears to be along the lines of the great Metroidvania games, featuring side quests, hidden areas, and boss battles. Along with the many pickups and colourful world, the design is reminiscent of Ratchet and Clank while retaining its own creativity. Fans of platformers should keep their eyes on Ori and the Will of the Wisps in 2019 as the game is sure to bring joy to many old and new fans to the genre.