Moon Studios’ Ori and the Blind Forest was a game that immediately stood out for its beautiful art, precise platforming gameplay, and a moving soundtrack. Fast-forward to 2020, and while there are no shortages of 2D Metroidvania titles on the market, Ori and the Will of the Wisps has made an even better impression. With improved platforming, expanded combat options, and a fresh dose of RPG elements, there are a lot of new and improved ingredients being added to the pot, and the result is sublime. Ori is once again here to tug on our heartstrings, complete with one of the most emotionally resonant soundtracks in gaming, and it performs wonderfully on Nintendo Switch.
Improving on a foundation
In every way that counts, Ori and the Will of the Wisps quickly demonstrates the leaps and bounds it makes over its predecessor. Without treading too deeply into spoilers, the story follows Ori and his new owl companion on a quest to save the land of Niwen from corruption. The stellar soundtrack empowers heartfelt scenes, and while it is a tale of good versus evil, the story does an admirable job at giving depth to even its most villainous characters.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is up there with the best of them in terms of flowing movement. Chaining together dashes, double jumps, grapples, and bashing off enemy projectiles lets you experiment in how you traverse each new area whilst also avoiding traps and searching for your next health or energy upgrade. Every new ability makes it easier to get creative with platforming, and thanks to the responsive controls, you’ll always land where you intended. In typical Metroidvania fashion, this also means that new abilities you gain throughout the game will let you backtrack to find previously inaccessible secrets. These secrets could include shards that, much like charms in Hollow Knight, can be equipped to grant passive bonuses such as sticking to walls or extra damage to flying enemies. Having this extra layer of choice is one of many ways the game lets you tailor the experience to your play style.
Beyond the new tools at your disposal, RPG elements like an upgradable hub area and side quests now flesh out the world. Charming NPCs gave me great reasons to explore every corner of the map, such as helping an animal find his lost family, and seeing my hub build over time helped me feel invested in the fate of Niwen and its inhabitants. These elements make the backtracking Metroidvania gameplay even more special since each secret could be the next item you need for a quest, hub upgrade, or currency to spend on improving your abilities.
Ori fights back
Combat was one of the few weak spots of the original title, but with the addition of numerous interchangeable weapons, this is no longer an issue. Each weapon is fun to try out and has uses in both combat and traversal. For example, the Spirit Smash acts as a hammer-like attack that can stagger bosses or break walls. With each weapon having a distinct role, the dance of combat becomes more interesting as you switch weapons on the fly to deal with different threats. Weapons akin to swords and throwable spears can be used for different ranges or even to deal with a mixture of ground and airborne enemies. This wouldn’t mean much if the enemies weren’t smart, but each of the distinct monsters puts up a challenging fight.
Different compositions of enemies, each with their own tells for attacks, movements, and weaknesses create a tough but fair combat system that rewards you for making the most of your arsenal. This is most apparent with the larger-than-life bosses. These impressive monstrosities can often dominate the entire screen, have multiple phases, and lead to the most exhilarating chase sequences the game has to offer. While this might sound overwhelming, the game also now has a forgiving checkpoint system, and quick respawns get you back in the action almost immediately.
Ported to perfection
The first game was no slouch in the technical department, but just like every other element, the graphics of Ori and the Will of the Wisps have received another huge improvement. It cannot be understated how fantastic of a port to Switch this is. Running at a locked 60 frames per second in both docked and handheld modes is a feat that few Switch games have achieved, including Nintendo’s own. The dynamic resolution that hovers around 900p hardly ever feels like a downgrade from the PC or Xbox One versions due to some fantastic detail in how the game is presented.
It’s been said many times that a good art style can make up for technical limitations. However, with Ori and the Will of the Wisps, beautiful art combines with technical wizardry to maintain a smooth frame rate and make it one of the best-looking games on Switch. Each distinct area of the game pops with vibrant colors, and Gareth Coker’s emotion-filled soundtrack always has just the right music for the moment. A few rare instances of slowdown and a single time the game crashed during my playthrough were not enough to dampen the visual experience of Ori and the Will of the Wisps.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps improves upon the already great foundation set out by Ori and the Blind Forest. Its map is brimming with details and secrets to discover while new weapons and movement abilities create real depth to both combat and platforming. Ori’s journey through Niwen is filled with emotional ups and downs that all feel earned and act as the perfect payoff for fans of the series. The injection of RPG elements like side quests and a hub area anchor you to this gorgeously realized world, and the fantastic conversion to Switch means that you won’t be missing out on a thing. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is one of the best 2D platformers on Switch and a game that shouldn’t be missed.
A review code was provided by the publisher.