The debut of Moon Studios GmbH in 2015 he left many players speechless thanks to the extraordinary artistic and executive care that distinguished Ori and the Blind Forest, title Metroidvania whose simple compactness, focused on emphasizing the platforming elements and accompanying the player through a visual narrative full of atmosphere and mysticism, made the product memorable and distinctive.
After many years and a couple of postponements, the Austrian team returns to the office with a following full of novelties for the leading spirit in an attempt to overcome the high standard from which the studio started.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps picks up where The Blind Forest left us: Ori, Namu and Gumo witness the hatching of the last egg of Kuro, the owl at the center of the history of the first chapter, giving birth to little Ku.
The initial difficulties in taking flight of the owl will see Ori intervene to his aid until the duo will end up out of trajectory due to a storm, falling into the declining lands of Niwen.
Ori will thus begin an adventure in search of his friend and, collaterally, of a way of bringing light to this new land.
However, the small guardian spirit will be able to count on various inhabitants of Niwen, who will guide and assist him during his events to the best of their limited possibilities.
An unknown land
Ori and the Will of the Wisps, at least initially, is presented in a rather familiar way to anyone who has played the first chapter, although some key differences can be identified immediately such as, for example, the new data storage system that uses traditional checkpoints .
It is only after an introductory phase of the events that the game begins to make clear the real news: in this chapter, in fact, Ori will have different weapons to defend himself from Niwen's hostile creatures as an integral part of the numerous skills that he will recover during the adventure.
This new emphasis on combat translates not only into more abilities, but also more power-ups, more exploration and, ultimately, bosses, which will appear in some key sequences of the game and which will attempt to put the sprite in a corner at crucial moments.
This does not mean, however, that the platforming, the flagship of the previous chapter, has been put aside: the sequences and acrobatic challenges that the player will have to overcome to progress through the story are numerous and Ori's skills, old and new, they open many movement options in a level design of fine workmanship that work well with the precise and responsive controls that make up the solid game system.
Ori's old skill tree is instead replaced by a series of amulets in a system reminiscent of Team Cherry's Hollow Knight and will constitute the main power-up system of the game: interchangeable at any time, these upgrades range from simple statistical improvement to the offensive or defensive power of the protagonist to better drops of currency or health, up to real extra skills such as a triple jump or the ability to climb along the walls, encouraging exploration for the purpose of their finding which will require meticulousness and , sometimes, the patience to obtain a new skill without which the precious upgrade would otherwise be unattainable.
Further incentives for exploration are the numerous NPCs that populate Niwen, who in addition to valuable information that will be useful during the adventure, will not spare themselves from assigning us secondary tasks to the story or from telling us some corridor rumors about the location of some game secrets (such as the precious combat arenas, which will reward us with the ability to equip more amulets).
Finally, in addition to the various health and energy enhancements (necessary to use a large part of Ori's fighting skills), we will find in some areas often difficult to reach minerals and plant seeds, which will allow us to enrich and improve the hub of the game by opening up further exploration routes and rewards.
As it will be understood, therefore, Moon Studios has abandoned the compact structure of the first chapter to significantly expand the game map, going to perfect all the most neglected Metroidvania elements in the first chapter, strengthening an already solid formula.
Returning to the fighting skills, however, Ori will be able to unlock several in the course of history, however a part of them will be purchased with the spiritual essence accumulated in the exploration and with the killing of the enemies.
Although these are mainly dedicated to addressing the threats we will encounter during the game, some of these, even optional, will be extremely useful during the exploration, allowing the opening of otherwise inaccessible passages (such as the hammer, which will allow us to break through destructible floors).
The art of communication
Behind a demanding and solid gameplay, however, Ori presents himself to the players with the one in which already The Blind Forest had proved an excellence: once again Moon Studios proves to be a master in bringing an exceptional artistic direction to the screen, with amazing visual elements, touching and evocative of a mystical imagery, natural and idyllic even in its darkest atmospheres, all seasoned with animations studied in a workmanlike manner, depth of scenarios cured maniacally and visual details to take your breath away.
Next to the visual excellence, however, one of the key elements of the whole experience of the Ori series cannot be missing, namely the fairytale soundtrack and, as previously, perfectly studied in communicating atmosphere and emotion in the narrative conducted almost totally from the music that accompanies it.
If on the one hand it is difficult not to be enraptured by Ori's artistic and communicative ability, on the other it is a marked reminder of how art and interaction are not mutually exclusive in the video game, constituting in their collaboration a fascinating and engaging title on several levels .
Although it would be easy to continue to incessantly praise this title, Ori and the Will of the Wisps does not always manage to perfectly coordinate his artistic care with his game design ideas, bringing unintuitive situations into play: the care of models and animations creatures, in fact, end up sacrificing feedback in combat in most situations, leading to enemies who rarely react to attacks suffered by continuing their action impassive if not for their diminished health bar.
This can lead, especially in combat with multiple enemies at the same time, to very chaotic situations when these elements are taken into consideration together with the position of the camera, the small size of Ori and how much richness of elements and colors pervades each visual element, making it difficult to understand what is happening.
All this is nothing that cannot be avoided with a reasoned approach to fighting, but those unavoidable unexpected situations can always happen, and in a title so cured in every aspect this small stain inevitably ends up going hardly unnoticed, although it is not necessarily of great impact for the gaming experience.
With an expanded map, an expanded variety of levels, extended platforming systems and a new Ori and the Will of the Wisps combat system, this is all that should ideally be expected from a sequel, improving and expanding what had worked in previously adding new features that go well with old systems.
Some might prefer the structural simplicity of its predecessor to the elaborate complexities of this new title, which however do not dilute in the least the experience packaged by Moon Studios, which has once again proved capable of producing a quality and attractive Metroidvania title for every kind of player.