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Ori and the Will of the Wisps Burrows Beautifully Onto the Xbox One X



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.

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A graduate of Game Development with a specialization in animation. A true love for all things creative especially Game Design and Story.


Shattered: Tale of the Forgotten King is a Baffling Combination of Journey and Dark Souls



Mixing genres is a fairly common practice in video games. For some titles, the combination works well, such as Crypt of the Necrodancer‘s rhythmic dungeon crawling or Double Cross‘s use of light detective work between 2D platforming sections. Others do not fare so well, such as the out-of-place stealth sections in the Zelda-like Beyond Good and Evil, or the infamous jack-of-all-trades, master of none that Spore turned out to be. Shattered: Tale of the Forgotten King, unfortunately, falls into the latter category. Trying to combine the floaty exploration of Journey with the brutal combat of Dark Souls, the resulting mixture is a frustrating mess that will not please fans of either game. The first title by French independent developer Redlock Studio, this Early Access game requires a lot of work before it reaches the compelling gameplay experience it is aiming for.

The game begins with the protagonist waking up in Limbo, with no memory of who they are or how they got there. A tiny creature named Yaak takes pity on the player, suggesting that maybe the king Hypnos can help. The problem, however, is that Hypnos is the titular Forgotten King—a godlike figure, who mysteriously disappeared after creating the world. In his absence, demons have taken over the realms. On a journey to reclaim their identity, the protagonist just might be able to save the world along the way to finding the forgotten king.

The frustration begins as soon as the player gains control of the protagonist. Movement in  Shattered: Tale of the Forgotten King is floaty and imprecise. This annoyance might be minor in a platformer, but the inclusion of the punishing combat of a Souls-like makes it beyond frustrating. Enemy encounters are dangerous in this style of game, with the need to dodge, parry, and circle around combatants to avoid death. However, the controls simply do not have the precision needed for the task. When the game requires frame-perfect timing to parry an enemy’s attack but features a character that moves like molasses, more often than not the player will take a hit. Apart from the initial listless humanoids of Limbo, enemies are much faster and stronger than the protagonist, quickly taking down an unprepared player. The balance is so uneven that the first boss, a hulking creature with an enormous greatsword, feels like a fairer fight than the rooms full of small enemies since his attacks are slower and more clearly telegraphed. Often, the better choice is just to run past the enemies all together.

Should the player manage to defeat some enemies, they will gain essence, which is used in levelling up. Levelling up can only be done in Limbo, often requiring a fair bit of backtracking. Players can improve their vitality, stamina, strength, or mystic, but no explanation is given on what those statistics actually do. Putting one point into strength will result in the character doing one point of extra damage, but since even the smallest enemies have hundreds of health points, a lot of level ups would be required before the player would see any real benefit. 

The platforming aspect of the game fares little better. The player is given no indication of where they have to go or what they have to do, just the general imperative of finding the king. The Frontier D’Imbolt, the first real level in the game, has plains spread out in all directions, encouraging exploration. However, the map is also full of instant death; lava, spiky plants, ledges to be avoided, and, of course, aggressive enemies, making exploration much less inviting. The floaty controls cause problems here, too, with over-shooting a target platform a constant issue. This annoyance could be resolved somewhat with giving the character a shadow to see where they will land. The viewpoint will also randomly change from 3D to 2D, with no real change in gameplay. The change seems to be purely for aesthetics, which does not seem reason enough for including annoying running-towards-the-camera gameplay.

Aesthetics, in general, is a strong point for Shattered: Tale of the Forgotten King, with interesting character design and a muted colour palette. The enemies have a cool ghostly appearance, all transparent with hard planes. The blockiness of the world has an appealing look but sometimes presents gameplay issues, with a lack of clarity on which blocks can be stood upon and which cannot. Music is a highlight throughout the experience, soft and atmospheric throughout the levels but clashing into something harsh and unfamiliar for the boss fights.

As an Early Access title, bugs are to be expected at this stage of development, and Shattered: Tale of the Forgotten King has plenty to offer. Despite being set to English, Yaak would occasionally slip into French, along with tooltips and the occasional item description. The English translation in general needs some more work, with quite a few typos and some weird wording, like ‘Strenght’ in the character status screen and ‘Slained’ when defeating the boss Hob. Enemies have buggy AI, sometimes freezing in place if the player wanders slightly too far away. Some instant death obstacles seem misplaced, with death spikes jutting out of a random wall. Most devastating was the game failing to acknowledge that the boss was defeated, with the gate he was guarding refusing to open. Perhaps defeating him again would make the gate work, but few players would be inclined to do so after a tough battle. 

Shattered: Tale of the Forgotten King has the potential to become an interesting game but is simply not fun to play in its current state. The incompatibility of Journey and Dark Souls is the core of the game’s problem: it needs to lean more heavily on one concept or the other—make the levels more peaceful playgrounds for exploration, or tighten up the combat experience to reach that satisfying balance of hard but fair. Trying to have both leaves the game in this strange middle ground where no one is satisfied.

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