Ori and the Will of the Wisps Review

Matt Lorrigan

There is nothing quite as satisfying as finding something secret in a video game. That tiny little endorphin rush as you stumble across a hidden item, an invisible wall or a new quest tucked away in a dark corner of the map. Ori and the Will of the Wisps delivers that wonderful sense of discovery and exploration at an incredible pace, never lingering on your latest triumph for too long before whisking you away towards your next. In the game’s strongest moments, it’s an example of the Metroidvania genre at its best.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps builds on the foundation of the beautiful Ori and the Blind Forest, Moon Studios’ debut title that launched for Xbox One back in 2015. Combat is much-improved in Will of the Wisps, with Ori given a fine array of skills and abilities to choose from when taking on enemies. The bash ability returns, allowing Ori to bounce off of foes and redirect projectiles back at them, but now our woodland sprite can be equipped with the sword-like Spirit Edge, or the bow-and-arrow Spirit Arc, unlocking many more weapons over the course of the adventure. There is also a Regenerate ability, which allows you to sacrifice one orb of Energy to restore three orbs of Health - this often turns out to be a literal lifesaver, and keeps the game flowing nicely with no need to turn backwards to hunt out Life orbs if you’re low on health. All these abilities mean that players have a wealth of combat options available to them, especially when combined with one of the game’s new collectibles - Spirit Shards.

This fella will sell you Spirit Shards at a price.

Spirit Shards are items that offer Ori numerous boosts of various kinds, whether that be to Ori’s combat skills or platforming prowess. One can decrease the amount of damage Ori takes, for example, while another can give you a third jump to utilise, or allow you to see hidden pathways in the game world. Initially only three can be equipped at any one time, although this can be increased significantly as you progress through the game, and you can swap shards out depending on your current focus. It’s reminiscent of the Charm system from Hollow Knight, and essentially replaces the ability tree from Ori and the Blind Forest, allowing players to optimise their playstyle. Many of them are hidden behind tricky optional platforming sections, and finding each Shard feels like an accomplishment, encouraging exploration even further.

It can't be understated how stunning the world you’re given to explore is, as well. The art style is painterly yet alive, bursting with life, with each area of the game utilising its own colour palette. Each biome is also differentiated by a unique score, with the instruments and style used changing depending on your location. Enter Inkwater Marsh, for example and you’ll hear some slow piano, before being hit with an amazing string section that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Bond movie. It helps make each location feel unique and distinctly memorable. When travelling through the world at pace, I was often taken aback by how smooth Ori’s animations were, absolutely selling you on the feeling of movement and momentum.

Most of Ori’s new abilities link in nicely with Will of the Wisps’ excellent platforming, and it really is excellent. In a game like this, your jump is your most important tool, and Ori’s jump is right up there with the Marios and Celestes of the world. What Will of the Wisps does so well is focus on horizontal movement - Ori very rarely gains much height with a jump, but linked up with the early-obtained dash ability, can travel long distances along the X-axis. One single vertical room will often see Ori zigzagging from left to right, with platforms and enemies placed to ensure that perfect platforming is required to move forward. The game makes you think about each and every inch of the world, examining the environment to see what your next move should be.

All of these combat and traversal options mean that Ori and the Will of the Wisps isn’t quite as difficult as the first game, but to say that it’s easy would be doing the sequel a disservice. Instead, Will of the Wisps feels like a far more balanced experience, with the difficulty ramping up on a much gentler curve, but ramping up nonetheless. The new focus on combat leads to some excellent boss fights that require good timing and pattern learning to beat, while the end of level chase sequences still provide a stern challenge for the reflexes. The later levels of the game ask you to use everything that you’ve learnt up until then to get through, and while it can be extremely difficult, it’s never frustrating, always teetering on the edge but maintaining that balance.

"This doesn’t feel right."

In the moments that you do fail - and you very likely will - you’ll not be sent too far back to give it another go thanks to the game’s autosave checkpoints. The Soul Link save system from Ori and the Blind Forest is gone, meaning no more having to think about creating your own save points, and in the end it’s a change for the better. Where the first game was about isolation and survival, Will of the Wisps focuses much more on hope - more specifically, the hope that drives the residents of the Forest of Niwen to survive.

The game is full of characters to talk to, some of whom will give you side quests to complete, while others will simply comment on how the forest has changed since you arrived. You’ll find most of these NPCs within the shelter of the Wellspring Glades, a safe haven in the dangerous world of Will of the Wisps. It’s an area that you’ll often find yourself returning to, helping the residents rebuild not only because you’ll be rewarded, but because it is a place you want to prosper, a beacon of hope in the darkness of a decaying world. After a tough boss encounter or a tricky escape, going back to the Glades to chat to Grom the Gorlek, or simply giving some seeds you found to Tuley the gardener, is wonderfully calming.

I never really wanted to stop playing Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Mopping up all the hidden collectibles once the credits had rolled was a joy, and I’ve barely even touched on the story, one of loss and sacrifice, but also of hope. If there is one major criticism I can level at Will of the Wisps, it’s that it occasionally feels like it’s repeating the greatest hits from Ori and the Blind Forest - a lot of the set pieces will feel familiar, and the plot hits many of the same beats as the original game. But taken as a whole, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is an absolute joy to play beginning to end - a near perfect mix of platforming, exploration and combat. Visually stunning, heaven to listen to, with tight controls that aren’t matched by many other games out there, Ori and the Will of the Wisps proves to be that most rare of things - a near-perfect sequel.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Backed by an amazing art style, a great soundtrack and a selection of heartwarming characters to take you through the story, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is pure platforming perfection.

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The game has an excellent score that makes each area feel unique, and will stay with you long after you’ve finished playing. Sound design that makes combat feel crunchy and impactful, and overall the game is a joy to listen to.


Will of the Wisps’ stunning art style, mixing 3D models with hand drawn art, combines with fluid animation and whimsical world design to create something that looks truly brilliant - only a few framerate dips here and there let it down.


Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a masterclass in platforming prowess, giving you everything you need to traverse it’s complex world. Secrets are plentiful, and gear gating will have you returning to areas to explore multiple times.


Occasional bugs and unexpected loading between areas sometimes break up the flow of gameplay, but Ori and the Will of the Wisps improves on nearly everything the first game did with an expanded scope, a great world and excellent combat.


Most of the achievements can be obtained by 100 percent-ing the game, although there are a few that will require a multiple playthroughs with some tough conditions.

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