Monday, June 25, 2018
Ori and the Blind Forest was my personal Game of the Year in 2015. In a year that saw Fallout 4, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, and The Witcher 3 hit shelves, I could not stop thinking about that tiny little creature and his friends. The game left such an indelible mark on me that as soon as the trailer for the next installment, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, played at E3 2017 all of those feelings came rushing back as if they’d never left. Fast forward to the next year and E3 2018 allowed me to finally get my hands on this new Ori adventure, and the demo was exactly what I was looking for.
The demo begins and I’m dropped into the WIndswept Wastes, a desert area with giant sand mounds blocking some portions of the path. A few sand bridges are scattered about as well, disintegrating after I land on them and reappearing after a short time. Through some exploration into the world I run into one of Will of the Wisps’s biggest additions: an NPC character named Tok, who assigns me a side quest and a promise of a reward. There’s another character I run into later, Lupo, who will sell me a map that allows me to see the area I’m in. NPCs will be present throughout the adventure, giving tips or requiring help from Ori during his adventure.
I encounter my first enemies of the demo and immediately I notice combat has been enhanced tremendously over the previous game. Ori has access to an arsenal of new weapons, including the beam sword-like Spirit Edge and the holy arrows of the Spirit Arc. This allows me to keep enemies at a distance with arrows or rush in with powerful Spirit Edge melee combos. The pace of each encounter is under my control and I can take on every enemy as I see fit. This is a huge improvement that works very well in the world of Ori, making fighting enemies much simpler.
In fact, the new combat abilities were a big focus for both Moon Studios and Microsoft Studios during development. In speaking with Mark Coates of Microsoft Studios, I got a sense for just how deep that personalised combat rabbit hole actually goes. “[The new combat system] allows players to have more agency,” he explained, “as players can assign different abilities to a fixed number of slots and then customise the way that you play the game according to your strengths and play style.”
The customisation focus is a prime example of how Moon and Microsoft wanted to approach all of Will of the Wisps, as Coates further explained. “We wanted to make [the combat scenarios] a little more complex, to enable people of a wider variety of skills to still be successful in the game,” he says. ”Even though [the game] is a little more complicated, by being able to customise abilities the game becomes more accessible and we’re excited about that.” This approach so far works very well, as I could already see other players using different tactics than I had in that short demo alone.
As the demo continued I began to take notice of just how smoothly Ori moved around the world, his mobility truly being a thing of beauty. Double jumping, wall jumping, dash rolling through obstacles, the little guy really moves around the screen with ease. Controlling him isn’t difficult at all, the control scheme feeling comfortable in my hands. Sure I’d make a mistake or two and send Ori into a pit of danger, but realising the mistake and fixing it on the next try is just as simple. If Will of the Wisps is as challenging as Blind Forest was, it won’t be because the game’s controls are too difficult.
Ori’s new environmental abilities are a perfect example of this, as he can now move through each area in unique ways. For the Wandering Wastes demo he learned a Burrow ability, where he drills his way through giant blocks of sand to gain access to other areas of the map. This allows for even more fluid movement through the world, something that Coates also stressed was a big part of the team’s focus. “Mobility is a huge part of the game. That flow you get into seamlessly moving from one area to another is something we cared deeply about. We really wanted to have the same feeling for movement in this game as the last one, despite having so many new abilities in this new game.” I absolutely felt that flow Coates spoke of as I moved through the level, so it seems the developers are definitely on to something here.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps enhances everything that made the first game great, and the E3 2018 demo did a very good job of showing those buffs off. Combat is easier with the new weapons, moving around feels natural and easy, and discovering new areas and new characters is a delight. If the challenge and difficulty of Blind Forest returns in Will of the Wisps, Moon Studios could have another smash hit on their hands. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is slated for a 2019 release, and based on the E3 2018 demo it’s on track to be a suitably superior sequel.
Monday, June 25, 2018 @ 01:13 PM
Monday, June 25, 2018 @ 02:22 PM
Monday, June 25, 2018 @ 08:56 PM
Tuesday, June 26, 2018 @ 03:58 AM
Wednesday, June 27, 2018 @ 07:23 PM
Saturday, July 07, 2018 @ 10:50 PM