Ori and the Will of the Wisps review: Ori's world is changing

By Heidi Nicholas,
It might have been easy, in the years leading up to the release of Ori and the Will of the Wisps, to let the nostalgia for the first game make you forget just how difficult it could be. The trailers and teasers for Will of the Wisps seem almost diabolically planned to soothe Ori fans with snapshots of a happy family, a healed forest, and new arrival Ku. But don’t let that fool you. Moon Studios said they wanted to go big on this one, and that’s exactly what they’ve done: Will of the Wisps is stunningly beautiful, with a story somehow even more heart-wrenching than before — but the challenge has been stepped up too, and the game will make you work for it.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps

The world of Ori and the Will of the Wisps at once feels more populated and more alive than that of the first game. Almost as soon as Ori steps one hoof into the new map, they’re met with a sudden abundance of NPCs popping up to sell wares, make requests, offer sidequests, and share rumours. This adds a whole new level of immersion and context, but the resulting wave of new icons scattered across the map can be a little overwhelming — it’s sometimes hard to differentiate between the many glowing, pulsing icons for individual characters, quests, and rumoured locations.

Just as with the new characters, Ori now has far more abilities to learn than before. One thing that Ori and the Will of the Wisps has carried over from Ori and the Blind Forest, however, is its superb pacing. The acquisition of all these new abilities feels smooth and perfectly timed. While Ori can only equip a few of these abilities at a time, they can switch out from a wider weapon wheel whenever they want. It felt a little clunky at first and I was tempted to stick just with my favourite abilities I already had equipped, but the game managed this temptation very well. The abilities all complement different environments and playstyles, and the game’s increasing challenge prodded me out of this comfort zone and encouraged me to start swapping between them.

Out of the two new modes added, Combat Shrines — where you face off against increasing waves of enemies — were my favourite. Even so, I haven’t actually been actively seeking them out. This is by no means a fault of the game, which gives you so much to do that you’re spoiled for choice. Completionists will likely want to head straight for every Spirit Trial for their achievement, but aside from that, they don’t yet feel like enough of an addition to stand out in a game which already offers so much. Of course, the Spirit Trials — where you race against the times left by other players — will probably be far more competitive once there are actually other players. At the moment, it’s just a lonely race between me and the developer’s ghost Ori.

Ori and the Will of the WispsSpeed DemonThe Speed Demon achievement in Ori and the Will of the Wisps worth 131 pointsBeat the Developer's Ghost in Every Spirit Trial

Ori and the Blind Forest was beautifully realised, but Ori and the Will of the Wisps has surpassed this once again. The gameplay is an even more polished experience; jumping, wall-climbing, and dashing through the game’s environments is smoother and more satisfying than before. That’s not to say there aren’t still segments that’ll have you grinding your teeth — escape sequences are back with a vengeance, and even though the game’s new abilities and obvious improvement after five years in development make these more satisfying to complete, one wrong step landing you back at the beginning can still be infinitely frustrating.

There’s also that issue of all platformers — every now and again, the way forward is impossible to spot. Jumping around the same two areas and not making progress can feel frustrating. One area in particular stumped me in the Luma pools, and I was jumping up, down, and back around without a clue where to go next for what felt like ages. On the other hand, these roadblocks seemed to be fewer and further between than in Blind Forest and, with such beautiful backgrounds as the game gave me to look at, the frustration was definitely dialled down — it felt more like exploring than being stuck.

Blind Forest’s gorgeous visuals set the game apart, but Will of the Wisps takes this even further. The game is visually stunning, with more areas and more diversity in colours and foliage, all of which adds to the feeling that Ori really is travelling far across the world. Areas like the pink-tinged frosty skies of Baur’s Reach and the brightly coloured Luma Pools made the urge to stop and look at each new environment just as strong halfway through the game as it was when I first started out in the dappled sunshine and golden-green forests around Ori’s home.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps

The Wellspring Glades bring together everything that made the first game so beautiful to explore. This home hub is another change introduced in the sequel, but one which definitely works. It’s an area for Ori to return to, which is safe from the spreading decay. That little bubble of safety opens up a variety of projects and improvements for Ori to work on so that the Wellspring Glades can be a haven for other lost creatures. In the first game, Ori was helping to heal the Blind Forest, but young and vulnerable as they were, it felt more as though they had been pushed into this task. In Will of the Wisps, Ori is taking an active stand along with the guardians of Niwen to build the world again. Completing the projects in the Wellspring Glades adds to a satisfying feeling that Ori is working towards a lasting refuge. It’s your home hub, but it’s not going to give up all of its secrets straight away — you have to learn more abilities and complete more projects before you can explore it in its entirety.

As before, the scenery and story of the game go perfectly hand-in-hand. We wrote in our preview that it feels as though Ori has grown to fill this new and bigger world, in the role of older sibling to baby Ku. The story has more profound, mournful themes than before. It’s no longer so easy for Ori to fix things, and the world has suffered. As Blind Forest taught us to expect, Moon Studios has perfectly executed the music and sound effects to tug on your heartstrings even more. If you were still in any doubt: Ori and the Will of the Wisps will wreak far more emotional destruction than the first game. You have been warned.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps

As for achievements: one playthrough will take care of several related to the story. Ori’s new abilities make them far better equipped for some of the miscellaneous combat achievements; using double jump and Spirit Smash helped me get the Bring it On achievement, while Did I Do That? was also unlocked fairly quickly. It’ll be more of a challenge than ever to complete the game without dying to unlock the Immortal achievement, however; although LifeExpectancy already has a guide for this. But Ori and the Will of the Wisps isn’t a game to be rushed. Such a beautiful world and heartfelt story are meant to be savoured. The developers have said they were aiming for greater replayability with the sequel, and they’ve definitely succeeded. The Wellspring Glades alone make Will of the Wisps feel like a more fully-rounded game, and the superb level design will be enough to tempt back any players strong enough to withstand a game which so gleefully wreaks havoc on your emotions.

Ori and the Will of the WispsImmortalThe Immortal achievement in Ori and the Will of the Wisps worth 435 pointsComplete the Game without Dying

Overall, Ori and the Will of the Wisps feels like an ideal sequel. Everything that fans loved in Blind Forest has been improved on and expanded: it’s a bigger, brighter, more beautiful world, with a steeper challenge to match it. The story has been wound up to an even more affecting and profound intensity, with darker themes to match Ori’s foray into new territory. Even the music reflects this; the score is achingly beautiful, but more sorrowful and ominous the further Ori travels. It’s a longer game than before, and Ori’s path doesn’t always seem certain of success, but Ori and the Will of the Wisps really does feel as though Ori has stepped out of the Blind Forest and into a bigger, scarier, and more wonderful world.

Summary

The wait for Ori and the Will of the Wisps will most definitely prove worthwhile: Moon Studios has created a masterpiece. The sequel manages to be more beautiful, heartfelt, and challenging than Ori and the Blind Forest. Some of the new changes feel a little superfluous to Ori's world, but only in comparison to everything which the game already offers. Will of the Wisps offers a real challenge and comes with its own share of frustration, but in doubling down on everything players loved in Blind Forest and going beyond it, Moon Studios has achieved a superb sequel.
4.5 / 5
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Ethics
The reviewer spent eleven hours jumping, dashing, and Spirit Smashing through Ori and the Will of the Wisps, earning 15 achievements as they did so. An Xbox One digital code for the Standard Edition was provided by the publisher for this review. Played on an Xbox One S.
Heidi Nicholas
Written by Heidi Nicholas
Hey, I'm Heidi! I've been a staff writer for TrueAchievements and TrueTrophies since 2019. I love open-worlders, RPGs, and fantasy games, am obsessed with tea, and forever loyal to The Witcher 3 and Red Dead 2.