Five years later, Ori’s story finally has a sequel. This time it’s not just about saving the forest, but the adorable little owlet Ku. Both Leah and myself have been bouncing around Will of the Wisps‘ gorgeous locations. Here’s what we think so far.
Alex Walker, Kotaku Australia editor: Leah, we’ve both been playing Ori and the Will of the Wisps for a little bit now. How far did you get through the game, and what’s your experience with the original?
Leah Williams, Kotaku Australia producer: This is actually the first chapter in my Ori adventure, but I’m really regretting not playing the original sooner. It’s rare that a game makes me stop and go, ‘ooh,’ but the opening moments of Ori and the Will of the Wisps did just that. It’s genuinely beautiful, and there’ve been so many moments that have left me in awe.
So far, I’m about three hours in. I’ve just received the spirit bow and completed the statue of Kwolok – a challenge, I’d add, that took me a good hour to solve.
Alex: Yeah, I had a similar issue with the massive rhinoceros beetle before you find Kwolok. For whatever reason, I’d gotten into the fight and completely forgotten about using dash, and spent a couple of minutes getting absolutely hosed until I took a step back and looked at what I was doing. After that, I beat the boss without taking a single hit.
Once it all clicks, the game comes together incredibly simply. Most puzzles are signposted pretty clearly, and it’s largely a case of whether you’ve unlocked the necessary skill or tool to proceed further. You can cheat a little bit if you’re really good with platforming – the jump trick has helped me reach a couple of ledges and climb back up when I wasn’t really supposed to, particularly if you unlock the big spirit hammer, which holds you in the air for slightly longer, and has a bit more upward momentum than Ori’s regular sword.
If you're jumping into Ori and the Will of the Wisps this week, the biggest and most immediate change is the game's basic attack. Instead of the ranged magical orbs that do damage from afar, Ori's first weapon is a nice energy sword that looks superb in full flight. But the attack has another crucial quality that you'll want to remember: it keeps you hovering in mid-air for the briefest moment.Read more
But what I’ve loved is that you unlock most of the movement abilities within the first couple of hours. You could be uncharitable and say the whole first section of the game is a glorified tutorial, but I think works really well. It means you’re not spending hours of platforming stuck with a single jump and running until you can get from point A to point B in the time you need. The game lets you warp to checkpoints from anywhere on the map, so you don’t have to spend tons of time travelling back to a shrine.
The double jump (or triple, with upgrades) and dash is super generous. The range on the dash, especially, is absurd compared to a lot of other platformers. Two hours into the game, and you’re literally able to go from one side of the screen to the other within a couple of seconds.
That’s insane, and speedrunners are going to have an absolute blast with this game.
Leah: Absolutely, I love how the game opens up so quickly. Some games can be very defensive about their fun, in that they hold their cards close to their chest and it isn’t until later that you discover the rich mechanics inside, but Ori and the Will of the Wisps opens up at a rapid pace. Once you get the double jump and access to weapons, there’s so much more you can do.
It means that you can rediscover areas from the start of the game, which open up so much more once you get that extra height. In other games that do this, it means a heap of backtracking that slows down the pace of the game. In Will of the Wisps, you get access to these tools early enough that backtracking doesn’t feel like a slog. It helps that the game is so beautiful, and there’s plenty of stuff to see even when you’re retracing your steps.
As much as I’m enjoying the game, I do have one major complaint that’s likely personal in nature. Will of the Wisps can be very obtuse with its puzzles. While exploring is usually a breeze, and it’s clear that you need to unlock certain tools or abilities to overcome major obstacles, the game is so minimalist that many of the puzzles become total crapshoots. I mentioned earlier that I’ve only gotten up to the Kwolok statue puzzle.
This puzzle took me nearly an hour to complete because after unlocking new abilities, the game doesn’t really spell out what it does. It’s a very minimalist game, and that often means you’ll need to figure out what to do on your even – even when that entails smashing and shooting everything nearby until a solution presents itself.
The whole thing made me feel supremely stupid. As you mentioned earlier, the puzzles usually have simple solutions – but until you understand the flow and rhythm of the game (something that feels difficult to grasp for first timers), you’ll be fumbling in the dark.
Alex: Being able to teleport to shrines makes a huge difference in going back and forth, mind you. It feels like Ori learned a lot from Hollow Knight and some of the issues that cause players to bounce off Metroidvanias in general. Ori was always less of a hardcore platformer in that respect compared to games like Axiom Verge and Hollow Knight, so it’ll be interesting to see how fans of those games receive this. The difficulty levels will certainly help.
We should also mention some of the changes from the original. While most of the old abilities and movement tricks are back (like being able to reflect or launch Ori off projectiles), the upgrade system has changed completely. Necessary movement abilities – dash, double jump, wallrun, Ori’s grapple and so on – are still locked until you absorb the spirit light from various trees. Beyond that, Will of the Wisps‘ spirit shards work like charms in Hollow Knight, except you can buy the charms you want from vendors; you don’t have to find them all first, although some won’t become unlocked until later in the game.
You can only carry three charms initially, and there’s a lot of variance from the 30 available shards. If you’re having trouble, you can swap out the ability to stick to walls (because you can always just continually jump up the wall if you need to) for a 10% damage reduction that can be upgraded further. Finishing some of the main quests will automatically upgrade your energy and health metres, but you can equip shards that expand those further. Or you could equip charms that massively increase your damage against airborne enemies.
The controls are a little tighter than what I remember from Ori and the Blind Forest, although it’s been a few years since I’ve touched that game. It could be just the fact that you spend less time getting up to speed. You don’t have quite the same level of aerial control like you do in Hollow Knight, but it’s better than what I remember.
That opens up more replayability for hardcore Ori fans, which I think was a huge focus for Will of the Wisps. Blind Forest isn’t really that replayable unless you want to speedrun or just want to experience the game all over again, but Will of the Wisps is much more upfront about all the things to discover and do.
It’s a much bigger game, too, with a world three times larger than the original. What that means in actual hours depends on how experienced you are. I know some people who could comfortably beat the first Ori in about 4 hours, but others might take somewhere between 8-12 hours in their first playthrough. I’ve spent about four hours with the game, and that’s just enough to get me to the end of the game’s first act. I haven’t rushed through the game, either, partially because it’s so quick to teleport back and check spots you missed once you’ve unlocked the double jump, dash and grapple, and I think most players will do something similar.
Leah: I’ve had so much fun with Will of the Wisps. My journey’s only just started, really, but it already feels like a game I’ll cherish. Its visuals are unique and consistently impressive, and gameplay is superbly fun, even when it’s challenging, confusing or a mix of both. It’s got a killer soundtrack, too, and it genuinely feels like a gorgeous, otherworldly experience. It feels like no other game that I’ve played.
There’s plenty still to discover on my journey through the game, and I’m quite looking forward to seeing what Will of the Wisps has to offer along the way. The world of the game is brilliant, and I enjoyed every minute of my adventure.
Alex: I think that’s probably it. Will of the Wisps feels very much like the platformer for people who traditionally bounce off platformers. It’s forgiving and generous in a way games like Hollow Knight aren’t. It’s generous with the amount of things you can see on the screen at any given time. It’s generous with the tools you’re given in the first few hours. It’s generous with colour, constantly lush from the first second of the game. It’s not just more of the original Ori, but more and better. I don’t think fans could have asked for anything more, really.