🦉 Masterful Metroidvania
March 19, 2020 8:24 AM   Subscribe

Ori and the Will of the Wisps: A beautiful game gets a smart sequel [Game Trailer][YouTube] “Ori and the Will of the Wisps invites you to dance inside a beautiful world. There is combat, sure, and there are threats, but the dance, and the beauty of your surroundings, are always the focus. Moon Studios’ first game, Ori and the Blind Forest, was notable for the same reason. Here was a striking 2D platformer that staked out the visual middle ground between a Pixar short and an oversaturated photograph of a fantastical forest. Will of the Wisps is even more sumptuous and varied in its aesthetic, filled with delightful details that make so many frames look more like paintings than a video game. Screenshots and trailers don’t do it justice. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a vibrant platformer.” [via: Polygon]

• Ori and the Will of the Wisps: An excellent return [IGN]
“It was always hard to find anything bad to say about 2015’s Ori and the Blind Forest. Moon Studios’ blend of an entrancing, tragic fairy tale world and white-knuckle platforming challenge left a mark that hasn’t faded with time. And yet the new followup, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, successfully builds on that distinctive gameplay in a way that doesn’t just retread the same ground. There’s more breadth, detail, choice, and diversity than ever, and it’s all done with engrossing color and light and an excellent, inspiring soundtrack. It may be two-dimensional, but this is a great, big, open world that’s backed by a great, big, beautiful score that shifts to echo your successes and grows frantic and immediate in moments of tension. That music is your constant companion as you journey through diverse locations that sprawl out in all directions. Will of the Wisps paints with a full pallet of distinct biomes, transitioning seamlessly from the archetypical fairytale forests pierced with soft, golden streaks of light through the emerald canopy to the gloomy, ink-blotted muddy floor of the soggy marshlands. Each region bursts with fine detail that’s easy to overlook because Moon Studios’ aesthetic moods for each location are so consistent. All of them feel distinct and alive.”
• How Ori and the Will of the Wisps improves one of the best-looking Xbox games ever [The Verge]
“One of the core philosophies behind the game is that a lot of the smaller details can combine to create a big impression. There are things you may not notice right away while playing — the springy nature of a mushroom you jump on, or the way trees twist and sway in the middle of a storm — but together they help create the illusion of a believable place. “We want everything to make sense. We want you to believe that it’s a world that could exist,” says Korol. “If you were to look at each detail in isolation, you’d think it’s minor. But if you take 20 of those, and you keep layering and layering them, it becomes completely different.” This is all part of what Moon calls its “iterative polish” process, which essentially means the team is constantly refining and adding to the game. Korol notes that it’s an “expensive” process, largely because it’s so time-consuming, but it’s also one that lends the Ori series its uniquely premium feel. And it’s not just about the way the game looks — it extends to every facet, from the sounds to the action. “We talk a lot about feel. You take a look at the game, and it’s beautiful. But how does it feel?” says Korol. “We want everything to feel like it’s been crafted with love and care.””
• "Ori and the Blind Forest is the best. This is better than that." [Kotaku]
“Picking up more or less where Blind Forest left off, Ori and the Will of the Wisps opens with the birth of Ku, the last surviving offspring of the previous game’s angry-owl boss Kuru. Welcomed with open arms into the adopted family of shimmering white forest spirit Ori, Ku grows and flourishes, showered with affection, smothered with hugs, and endeared to the audience. At least, until it comes time to fly. When the baby bird’s efforts are hindered by an underdeveloped wing, Ori patches Ku’s weak limb with Kuro’s feather (an item from the first game), and the pair launch into an inspiring flight sequence that only feels slightly lifted from How to Train Your Dragon. Ori and Ku follow a group of birds across the ocean to a new land and directly into a powerful thunderstorm, the fury of which sends the pair plummeting to the ground in different directions. Lost and alone, Ori searches for Ku, stumbling into a quest to restore light and hope to this new land. Long story short, game makes us love baby owl, game takes baby owl away, must find baby owl. Other owl-related things happen. If nothing else, between the two Ori games the people of Moon Studios have proven themselves as masters of making us cry about owls.”
• Even Better Than The Original [Game Informer]
“While the story focuses on Ori trying to locate a little owlet named Ku, the game is mostly a pursuit of power. The opening section is fairly guided, but then it opens up and lets players figure things out on their own. A journey into the watery Luma Pools to the east may lead to little progress being made until you first gain a power from the north, yet you don’t know it’s there or what it may be. You just need to keep exploring, and pay attention to the environments for areas that you think you can eventually reach. Using Ori’s moveset to navigate these spaces is a blast – I never tired of it and I love how it expands. The map does a fantastic job of tracking progress and visually showing you areas that haven’t fully cleared out yet. Even if you're stumped, the gray areas on the map serve as waypoints that will likely hold an answer. The entire forest delivers the sensation that you are exploring one giant, sprawling dungeon, even though each area is visually distinct. The powers Ori unearths are varied and fun to use, including a surprising number of abilities dedicated to combat, which plays a larger role across the entire game, and is a welcome addition.”
• Monsters and Magic Stir in the Forest [The Guardian]
“Despite the similarities to its predecessor, there are some crucial differences. Developer Moon Studios has ditched the sequential upgrade system used in Blind Forest for a process in which Ori collects glowing health and energy shards to aid him in his mission. The game also has a more traditional autosave function. Combat now plays a much bigger role, allowing for a more expansive range of weapons and special moves – although fighting the more common enemies can feel a little tedious after a while. Many players will relish the challenge of memorising an enemy’s attack pattern in order to bring them down, but I sometimes found myself impatient to quickly move past these frequent scuffles so I could test out my skills on more formidable foes. Still, the controls are intuitive and you are able to combine techniques to develop your own fighting styles. Although the storyline is melancholy at times, it never feels maudlin. The sweet characters perk up the darker moments and have a surprising amount of depth. For example, the tiny owl Ku has a memorable back story, which sets them up to be a charming and versatile playable character in parts of the story.”
posted by Fizz (18 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Question: Do you get to ride the owl in the actual game play, or is that just cruel cut scene teasing?
posted by kaibutsu at 9:47 AM on March 19

I only ask because I would really like to ride on the owl, thank you.
posted by kaibutsu at 9:48 AM on March 19 [4 favorites]

You eventually do, yes.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 9:49 AM on March 19 [1 favorite]

Played through this over the weekend, and I absolutely recommend it. It's striking to go back and compare it to the first game -- which was already beautiful -- and then notice how much more vivid and detailed Will of the Wisps' 3D environments are. Almost everything about the scenery, characters, and combat is much more polished.

My only real criticism is that there are a few noticeable gameplay bugs that made it to release, at least on PC. For the most part they're pretty minor, but there's one particular escape sequence where the new movement mechanic that you have to use just stops working reliably. None of the individual actions you have to pull off are particularly hard, but there are a lot of them in fairly quick succession. And sometimes when you get to the next one the visual cue fails to activate, and then there's no time to try again; the monster catches you and you have to start over. I eventually had a successful run after a few dozen attempts, but that was the one point in the entire game where it felt like my deaths were the game's fault rather than mine.

(Also, if you're too far behind on your Windows updates, the game unhelpfully crashes at the title screen instead of telling you what the problem is. That one took a while to figure out.)

I don't even slightly regret buying Will of the Wisps at launch, but I do still hope they can patch the bugs to give new players a better experience.
posted by teraflop at 10:12 AM on March 19 [1 favorite]

I don't have the platform to play this, but it looks excellent. But: I have a gripe. This has been described as* yet another "tough as nails" and "punishingly difficult" game, and this trend needs to go away ASAP, please. I'm a pretty competent gamer (and there's several super-tough games I have played and love), but I really would like the option to reduce difficulty or even skip sections in games like this. It's pointless gatekeeping to not allow for those kinds of options, just another datapoint on the petty, knuckle-dragging and dick-measuring culture that too often surrounds video games.

*this is what I have read from multiple sources as I have not tried the game myself.
posted by SoberHighland at 11:29 AM on March 19 [3 favorites]

I downloaded it on Xbox Game Pass and am looking forward to giving it a whirl. It looks gorgeous. Here's hoping my aging GTX 950 can handle it. 🤞🏾
posted by Fizz at 11:30 AM on March 19

SoberHighland: there are easy, normal ("the way the game was meant to be played") and hard modes. I've only tried normal mode, and I found it to be fairly forgiving. It doesn't take long to accumulate a big enough pool of health that you can defeat most enemies by button-mashing if you so choose, with the walls of spikes becoming a minor nuisance.

That said, there are a significant number of individual platforming/movement puzzles that simply need to be completed to progress. Many of them can be circumvented (e.g. by coming back later, when you have more powerful movement options that make the challenge trivial) but for some of them, you just have to attempt them until you eventually succeed.

There are also a couple of boss fights that drastically limit your healing options, so if you're like me and rely heavily on healing, they represent a significant difficulty bump.

Finally, there's a Hollow Knight-style upgrade system with extra abilities/features that you can enable, and there are certain combinations that make combat even easier once you unlock them. For instance,

(very minor strategy spoilers) using Light Harvest, Life Harvest, Overflow and Catalyst together gives you a huge amount of auto-healing in combat, making it almost impossible to drop much below 100% health and energy.

posted by teraflop at 11:53 AM on March 19 [1 favorite]

Fair enough. My comment is about those "punishing" games in general, I should not have made it in response to this particular game. The 2 reviewers I read said this was much higher difficulty to the original, and one mentioned that it was among the very most difficult platforming games he had ever played, at least parts of it. I love (some) tough games, I just think there should be options.

Honestly: I loved Bloodborne and Dark Souls 1 & 3 but ultimately gave up in them because I got so sick of 35+ second reload screens. Beat me up with your game! It's fun. Staring at "Loading..." screens over and over and over gets stale, and eventually I just stop caring.
posted by SoberHighland at 12:02 PM on March 19

The 2 reviewers I read said this was much higher difficulty to the original, and one mentioned that it was among the very most difficult platforming games he had ever played, at least parts of it.

Were those reviews written before or after Celeste was inflicted upon us? Because jesus.
posted by kaibutsu at 12:17 PM on March 19

So I was telling my wife about this game, as yet another game she'd like the aesthetic of but probably not the gameplay, and she looked it up and of course found the OTHER trailer for this game from 2017, which I had not seen. The one that shows a horrified owl finding what appears to be the charred remains of its family, locked in an embrace.

I don't know if I can handle that sort of bleakness right now.
posted by MysticMCJ at 12:19 PM on March 19

This game looks neat but I only game on my Switch so I went and bought Ori and the Blind Forest instead. Considering how I also have Skyrim and Civ6 on my Switch it kind of feels like I'm using it to play all the games of yesteryear I never had the chance to before.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:50 PM on March 19

“Best Platformer Ever? - Ori and the Will of the Wisps Review!”—Electric Playground, 12 March 2020
posted by ob1quixote at 1:30 PM on March 19

I really like the aesthetic, but the first game has a really punishing sequence early on that has had me rage quit 3 times, there isn't any real trick aside from timing, but the water is rushing up below you as you race up and out and... well I haven't gotten any further. :P It's so frustrating, because otherwise I'm pretty sure it's a game I'll enjoy.

Hope the sequel doesn't punish you early on like that...
posted by dreamling at 4:09 PM on March 19

Yeah, uh, I'm not sure where these people were that can't think of any criticisms about the previous game, Blind Forest, and those gorgeous but intensely frustrating escape sequences were one of them. The other major criticism that for a 'metroidvania' game it's disappointingly linear - there's always one location to go to, which the game tells you about, and there's usually only one way to get there.

I'm told both problems are improved in the sequel - the escape sequences are now preludes to boss fights instead of a replacement for them, so they're less pass/fail, and the game is less hand-holdy.
posted by Merus at 4:21 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]

I shamelessly used a speed hack to play the escape sequences in the original game at one-quarter speed, but that's how I deal with most gaming accessibility issues.
posted by Eleven at 4:39 AM on March 20

I have a weird tolerance for platforming difficulty that I don't have for any other genre. I completed Super Meat Boy to 103% (or whatever it was) with A+ on all levels, because with very few exceptions, I enjoyed every bit of it. Grinding what felt like impossibly tough levels from zero to A+ was somehow a zen-like experience, thanks mainly to the instant level restarts upon death. The 300th consecutive death in a level felt as inconsequential as the first. It didn't matter, I was progressing. It almost never got frustrating. My hands would hurt, but after hours of non-stop attempts I'd always come out on top of even the most face-meltingly difficult bits (still sweating at the memory of the I Wanna Be The Guy -themed warp zone).

I'm probably going to do the same with Celeste, assuming that doing so in the later C-side levels doesn't actually require some of the mechanically complicated advanced movement tech which none of the game so far (through nearly all A and B sides) has. If any of that comes into play, there's a chance I'll have to give up, because somehow my limit is at learning weird mechanics (as opposed to gradually getting really precise with the basic mechanics).

And I'm by no means "Good At Games". So, I guess my (weak) point is that for people without disabilities, game difficulty is not entirely a physical ability-related accessibility issue, but a "having no conflicting commitments, being willing to grind, and enjoying the grind, until you finally make it" issue. And to be crystal clear: not filling these criteria is not a personal failing by any means.

I'm all for reduced difficulty modes in general, but at the same time I recognize that it's a complicated topic in terms of creative vision, and I wouldn't feel entirely comfortable making demands about those to creators. Like, there is a base level of difficulty that really tied into the very identity of what Super Meat Boy is. Good arguments exist on both sides of the issue.
posted by jklaiho at 7:51 AM on March 20 [1 favorite]

That looks beautiful and difficult, for someone whose idea of a gaming challenge was mirror mode in Mario Kart Wii
posted by Caxton1476 at 8:30 PM on March 21

« Older Zoo from Home   |   Don't need to go outside Newer »

You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.