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Ori and the Will of the Wisps Review

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1798071316_OriWillWispsboxart.jpg.91eb50e0bd3c4e96b7151559e8acbbe0.jpgIt took several years for Ori and the Blind Forest to leave behind its Microsoft-exclusivity and make the leap to the Switch in 2019, and thankfully fans haven't had to wait as long for its sequel to also land on Nintendo's hybrid console. Ori and the Will of the Wisps, available just months after its Microsoft system debuit, brings players back to the gorgeously designed forest environment, home to Ori and his friends, for another engaging Metroidvania adventure and another heartfelt tale. It's easy to see that, if you liked the first game, you'll love Will of the Wisps just as much.

The story picks up where the original game left off (so, mild spoilers for Blind Forest ahead). Ori and his newfound family, including the newly hatched owl named Ku, are enjoying a quiet life together. However, an accident while flying separates Ku and Ori, sending Ori into a dark and dreary environment. It's up to Ori to find and rescue Ku while potentially also reviving the marshy land they find themselves in. Like the first game, Ori's adventure is beautifully atmospheric and moody, even with minimal text or dialogue. There's just enough exposition to give the story the weight and depth that it deserves without turning the game into a plot-heavy RPG, and the handful of side characters you meet are all charming in their own ways.
The gameplay in Will of the Wisps is fundamentally the same as the first game, but has some notable improvements. Once again you're exploring a 2D Metroidvania environment, meaning you'll gradually gain new abilities that allow you to explore further and uncover more secrets like health or energy expansions. Like a lot of games in the genre, it can feel like the first couple hours of the game are a bit linear and basic, but once you have a few of Ori's abilities the game opens up wonderfully, and exploration becomes a blast. Ori's movements might seem a bit sluggish at first but once you're able to double jump through the air and zip to specifically marked blue flowers you'll be practically flying through the lush scenery of forests, caves, and rocky deserts. The game also gives you some freedom in how you progress—the first half or so of the game is linear, but after that you'll have multiple objectives and can tackle them in any order you wish. Given the exploration-adventure focus of the game, it's nice to have that freedom to wander at your leisure.
The most stark improvement in Will of the Wisps is the combat system. The original game's close-quarters homing attack system was novel but ultimately a bit clunky, or at least not terribly satisfying to use. Now, however, you're able to customize Ori's attacks by assigning a different skill to the AXY buttons (B is always jumping), and the first attack skill you gain is a standard sword-like slash attack that has some good range. Not only is the sword just simpler than the tedious homing system of the first game, the customization option gives you far more control over how you fight. Some attacks cost energy to use, but regardless, this system opens up a wealth of combat variety that helps alleviate the monotony of normal fights. The attacks themselves also just feel better. There's a better sense of weight as attacks connect, and more opportunities to chain your attacks—assuming you aren't hit yourself of course.
Will of the Wisps also features a customizable shard system. You can find or purchase crystal shards that provide passive effects, such as increased defense or an extra mid-air jump. These shards can be swapped at any time which allows you to cater Ori's abilities to whatever challenge lies before you. The shards are another great way for players to customize their experience with the adventure and find clever ways of reaching new heights in these secret-filled environments.
This game also introduces an autosave feature that wasn't present in the original. Autosaves, in addition to being the kind of modern convenience that most players would expect in any game, makes experimenting a little easier since you always have that safety net should you fail, and when the game crashed on me the autosave system meant I lost very little progress. The only major flaw of the first game that returns in Will of the Wisps is the chase sequences, though even these feel better in this sequel. In the original, chases were a little too common and a little too tedious, given their long lengths and tricky platforming challenges. Some of the chases in Will of the Wisps are still a bit frustrating as they can demand some precise platforming and impeccable reaction times, but overall they feel a bit less punishing.
Will of the Wisps is a bit longer than the first game, but can still be 100% completed in a comfortable 15 hours or so. Anyone that isn't a completionist can easily shave off a few hours from that length. However the customization options do help add some variety if you want to play through the game again, and there are also little races that test your platforming skills. In addition to rewarding you with currency, your time in these races can be shared on online leaderboards for all of the bragging glory that comes with it.

Like the first game, the graphics of Will of the Wisps are just stunning. Virtually every single scene in the game feels like a meticulously designed painting, and seeing all of it in motion adds a whole other level of depth and beauty to the visuals. Like its predecessor the graphics can occasionally be a bit too busy which makes it hard to see if a surface is a platform you can actually stand on or just scenery—or worse, a hazard—but overall the art style is lovely. Plus the characters you meet are simply adorable. The soundtrack is top-notch as well: fully orchestrated music elevates all of the emotions that this atmospheric game generates in a beautiful way.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps is another excellent and moving Metroidvania adventure that manages to tighten up some of the bothersome little quirks of its predecessor. Combat and exploration feel more fluid and varied thanks to customizable attack options and more convenient autosave feature, and the continuation of Ori's story is just as compelling and heartfelt. Fans of the original will surely have already jumped at this new chapter in Ori's adventures, but anyone else curious about the game can expect a beautifully constructed Metroidvania experience.
Rating: 9 out of 10 Wisps
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