E3 2014: Ori and the Blind Forest Hands-On Preview – Beauty Personified
Written Wednesday, June 25, 2014 By Dan WebbView author's profile
Every so often an indie game – or any game, for that matter – comes along and just dazzles you with its beauty and charm. That game for me at this year’s E3 was a little (largely) unknown indie title called Ori and the Blind Forest, a game that turned a few heads during Microsoft’s Media Briefing on the Monday morning.
Inspired by games like Super Metroid, Ori and the Blind Forest is an action-adventure, puzzle platformer with elements of combat. The game, which has been 4 years in the making, according to Moon Studios’ Game Director, Thomas Mahler, will tell a human and emotional story with fantastical characters and “pixel perfect platforming.”
It’s a stunningly original looking platformer, with main man, Ori, a glowing forest spirit, thrown into colourful and incredible looking environments on a journey to discover his purpose in the world. It’s not just a case of being a pretty face though, according to Mahler. Far from it in fact, and gameplay is just as important here as anything else.
“I hope that people don’t see it just as an artsy-fartsy thing that tries to make you sad, right?” muses Mahler, “We went spent four years on the game, really trying to polish everything and perfect it, and really trying to hone in on what the design was. We really wanted to perfect that and take it to the next level – it was one and half years where we just worked on gameplay.”
From a gameplay perspective, pixel perfect platforming is probably not far off, but from such an early stage in the game – literally, the beginning – it’s hard for us to really tell that. Moon Studios is adamant that it’s designed to be challenging at times though, so for now we’ll take their word for it.
Gameplay jumps from simple one-button combat to tricky platforming and puzzle solving on the fly. It’s designed in a such a way that you’ll be unable to progress through certain parts of the level without a specific power. Getting to that power and returning to that route is obviously your key to success, but that does open the game up to waypointing issues at times – it’s fairly bloody easy to get lost.
As I inferred slightly above, Ori as a character will grow throughout the game, with plenty of light RPG elements included to help make it an easier jaunt for you. These include convenient upgrades like Soul Magnet, which means the souls dropped by defeated enemies will automatically home in on Ori, when previously he’d have to collect them; and more integral ones like Rekindle, which allows you to save whenever you like, without spending energy. Yes, saving your game without Rekindle will eat up some of Ori’s energy, so unlocking this skill will not only allow you to conserve energy for other actions, but it’ll also save you some pain and frustration later on when things get tricky.
At this stage though, and with such a brief introduction to the adorable character and its beautiful game world, there isn’t really a lot more to tell. It’s clear though, that with its blend of platforming, puzzles and stunning artistic direction, Ori and the Blind Forest could well be Microsoft’s Limbo of the new generation. With no reused assets – with every area being truly unique – and no load times in what is being described as a 10-hour experience, Ori is already looking like a title to keep an eye on. So do it. Spare it an eye, will ya?
Ori and the Blind Forest is scheduled for a fall 2014 release on Xbox One and PC.