Ori and the Will of the Wisps Could Well Be the Perfect Sequel

Ori and the Will of the Wisps Could Well Be the Perfect Sequel

Matt Lorrigan

Ever since playing through the first two or so hours of Ori and the Will of the Wisps, I’ve been thinking about the nature of sequels. From the outside looking in, Will of the Wisps looks just like more of the same precise platforming and clever exploration of the first game. If you loved Ori and the Blind Forest, then that’s an easy sell - but what if you never played the original game, or bounced off of it due to the high difficulty curve, or shallow combat? I had previously found it hard to tell what had changed from trailers, what this game was doing differently - but it only took minutes of playing the game to understand the massive amount of work that has gone into improving on everything the first game did.

Probably the biggest change made to Ori and the Will of the Wisps is the combat. Gone are the original game’s auto-targeted spirit flames, which offered little strategy to the process of defeating enemies beyond attempting to keep some distance between you and them. Instead, this time round Ori is equipped with a far more diverse arsenal of attacks. The first weapon you’ll be given is the Spirit Edge, essentially a sword made of light that can be used for quick combos, and has directional inputs such as an upwards swipe or a downward spike while airborne. 

This weapon alone offers up a lot more variety when dealing with the dangerous creatures of the forest, and it won’t be the only tool available. In my time with the game, Ori also gained access to a bow and arrow, helpful for chipping away at enemies from a distance, as well as a devastating spear-throw ability that served as a bit of a nuke, dealing huge damage while heavily draining Ori’s energy in the process. These were only scratching the surface as well, with a further selection of abilities available to purchase from an in-game NPC using the game’s new currency.

The new combat, while not perfect, is definitely an improvement on the first game, but it is also far less necessary than before. Ori and the Will of the Wisps champions exploration above all else, and the way you acquire new abilities and upgrade current ones has changed to reflect that. The Ability Tree from the first game is gone, as is the Spirit Light. In its place are Spirit Shards, unique items that offer specific bonuses to Ori. One I obtained in my playthrough allowed Ori to stick to walls rather than slide down (which proved immensely helpful), while another boosted how much damage Ori could deal, but also increased damage taken. 

There are only limited slots to equip these shards, however, so each player can choose the best loadout for any situation, and change them on the fly. It feels a lot like Hollow Knight’s Charm system, and each Spirit Shard collected is a real reward. Most are either hidden away or locked behind difficult platforming sections, and getting something unique for my efforts in Will of the Wisps was far more thrilling than finding a generic Spirit Light container in Blind Forest.

Not every change made from the original game might be as well received. Possibly the most likely to cause controversy is the reworking of the save system. The Soul Links that had you creating your own save spots are gone, at least in the long stretch of game that I played, replaced by a far more conventional autosave system. Dying only ever resets you a small section back, and in the end, I believe this change is for the better. There’s never any frustration of dying only to realise you’d forgotten to save, and tricky platform sections can be immediately attempted again. Those rock-hard escape sequences from the first game do make a return, and they still prove to be a big difficulty spike, but the one I played was far easier to master than before, and I reckon could have been beaten first time by someone with more dexterous hands than I.

Ori and the Blind Forest was such a fluid, stunningly beautiful game - and Will of the Wisps is possibly even more so. The animation is sublime and smooth as butter, and the use of 3D models mixed with hand drawn 2D art is gorgeous. But you only need to watch a trailer and see some screenshots of the game to know all this - instead, it’s the small gameplay changes, the way the world is designed to explore, the way combat newly flows that really makes Ori and the Will of the Wisps shine. Ori’s story and art might be emotionally ethereal, but Ori’s gameplay has a beating mechanical heart, all precision and efficiency, with pinpoint perfect platforming that never frustrates, and is always engaging. New abilities are unlocked at a rapid pace, and by the time the demo finished, I was grappling and wall-jumping and bashing my way through the world with balletic grace. I absolutely did not want to stop playing.

It’s impossible to know whether Will of the Wisps will be stronger than the original title from only a few hours of play. After all, some of Ori and the Blind Forest’s biggest difficulty spikes came in the later acts, as did some of the cooler gameplay mechanics. But the first act of Ori and the Will of the Wisps appears to build on what Moon Studios did so well with its debut title, and improves what small criticisms there were. Game Director Thomas Mahler has said he wants Will of the Wisps to be to Blind Forest what Super Mario Bros 3 was to the original Super Mario Bros - essentially, they’re aiming to create a perfect sequel. It’s still early days, and I’ve yet to play the full game, but you know what - I think they might have done it.

  • And here I am, with the first game still in my backlog :/
  • @1 - Don't feel bad - I'm in exactly the same boat!
  • @1 and @2 Do yourselves a favor and play that beautifully crafted gem of a game. It's certainly one of the best games this current generation has. Everything from the music to the aesthetically pleasing graphics. I promise you won't be disappointed.
  • @3 - It's next in the backlog queue!
  • I know this is a very bold opinion, but I would even say it's the best platformer I've ever played. It's equally as impactful to me as to when Castlevania SOTN came out. This sequel is a surefire 10/10 GOTY contender without even looking at a screen shot. Absolute magic.
  • @ 1 - great game to pick up on a rainy day. I had put it off for a year or two and got about halfway through it. Picked it up again a few months ago starting from scratch and really enjoyed it start to finish!
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