Ori and the Blind Forest was my favorite game of 2015. The Metroidvania (a mix of Castlevania-like gameplay and Metriod-esque nonliner level design) is one of the most gorgeous things you’ll ever see. So I was thrilled to play the sequel, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, during the 2018 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) this week in Los Angeles. It comes out for Xbox One and PC in 2019.
At first glance, it looks a lot like the original. And I would have been fine with that. Ori and the Blind Forest has some of the most vibrant (and glowy? Is glowy a word?) visuals and satisfying movement in all of gaming. Will of the Wisps still has those things going for it.
But, much to my surprise, this sequel is giving a lot of attention to combat.
In The Blind Forest, combat was simple. You just pressed a button to shoot homing bullets at nearby enemies. Fighting mostly meant being near you enemy and spamming a button. I was fine with this. Ori puts its focus on platforming. Sure, I’d enjoy more engaging combat, but I understood why it wasn’t the priority.
But now that developer Moon Studios has mastered all that movement, it’s clear that they want combat to be just as interesting this time. In Will of the Wisps, Ori has an ability wheel. You can assign them to the X, Y, and B buttons. These include things like an energy sword and a bow.
No more will you just spam a button to automatically hit nearby enemies. The basic weapons feel great. The animations for swinging your energy sword look just as pretty as the rest of the game. But I’m also impressed by the variety of abilities in the demo. Ori can also throw a giant energy lance. This is much slower than his bow, but it does a lot more damage. He can also throw a ball of light that explodes like a grenade.
Not all of the abilities focus on combat. One can use up energy (the resource you need to use many of the moves) to restore health. Having all of these new tools make fights a lot more interesting.
But Will of the Wisps still has new movement abilities for Ori. My favorite had him drilling his way through sand. Pushing a button while burrowing gives you a speed boost. If you time that boost when you’re about to leave the sand, you can shoot far into the air. The demo had me rocketing out of sand and jumping off of walls to reach places that at first seemed far out of reach. Just like in The Blind Forest, getting around in Will of the Wisps is a joy.
Moon Studios could have just made The Blind Forest with a new map. I’m glad they’re focusing on the game’s weakest aspect –combat — and making improvements. Will of the Wisps looks like it’ll be another fantastic Metroidvania.