Ori and the Will of the Wisps in the test: a fairytale continuation

In 2015, the magical Ori and the Blind Forest conquered the screens and hearts of countless players. The successor makes the jump from indie insider tip to genre heavyweight.

Admittedly, I wasn't the biggest fan of Ori and the Blind Forest. Yes, the game was pretty and enchanted with its fantastic presentation, but the actual gameplay caused one or two raised eyebrows, not to mention the frustrating trial and error passages. Be it the overloaded move set, the bulky storage system or the imprecise gameplay – Ori still had plenty of room for improvement.

Accordingly, skeptical but also optimistic, I ventured to the successor and can breathe a sigh of relief: Ori and the Will of the Wisps does (almost) everything correctly. However, it was obviously not the predecessor, but a completely different game, that inspired the newly won quality.

New world, new friends

We remember: At the end of Ori and the Blind Forest, we not only saved the world, but also got a feathered friend. Ori reaches the new game world on her back, but an accident later is on her own.

Luckily, the sugar-sweet Moki and some other NPCs are busy helping you to continue your adventure. Unlike in the first part, in Ori and the Will of the Wisps you can take on quests, trade characters and even help build a small settlement. The game world of the new part is not only more than twice as large, but also much more lively and varied.

So you not only explore the typical forests and bogs, but complete entire passages in the Lumaseen under water, fight your way through a frosty snow area, make your way through the pitch-dark mold forest depths and finally master the sandy hiking dunes.

Stolen well instead of badly thought out

A fundamental difference to the predecessor is the combat system of Ori and the Will of the Wisps. While in the original a small ball of energy whirled around your head and hunted for opponents, Waldgeist Ori now wields the weapon of your choice. At the beginning you can use an energy blade, but later you can also unlock a bow, a spear, fireballs and other weapons and modify them if necessary.

As a result, the bumpy combat system of the original gains the much-needed depth and feels much more tangible. In order not to overwhelm you with the newly gained complexity, Ori and the Will of the Wisps uses a successful trick: No matter how many skills you unlock, only a limited number can be activated.

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You can acquire active skills such as a melee attack, a healing spell or an air blast from vendors or unlock them during the course of the action. Equip at the same time – and change at any time – you are allowed three of these skills. Passive abilities can be created in the form of ghost splinters in the menu and give you higher damage against flying enemies, automatic clinging to walls or water breathing. In this case, too, you may only carry three fragments at the same time at the beginning, but later you will unlock space for additional fragments.

Metroidvania friends will find this system too familiar, because Ori and the Will of the Wisps has, to put it mildly, generously from Hollow Knight get inspired, be it in terms of ghost splinters, a card seller traveling the world, the combat system or the bosses. This is not supposed to be a reproach, after all, Hollow Knight was fantastic, so it is obvious to take exactly such games as a model.

Bigger challenges, less frustration

Some love it, others hate it: The escape sequences from Ori and the Blind Forest are some of the highlights of the game, but were reason enough for some players to stop playing. Trial & Error seemed to be the only way to master the frustrating passages and if an escape was finally survived, it wasn't because of the masterly reflexes of the players, but because the entire scene had to be meticulously memorized beforehand.

Fortunately, Ori and the Will of the Wisps makes some concessions in this regard. On the one hand, in the finale of each area you don't necessarily have to get away from an escape sequence but also a boss or even a mixture of both. This provides variety and allows you to use your own tactics, as it is particularly worthwhile in the boss fights to revise and vary your own active and passive abilities.

The escape sequences can still cause a lot of frustration and trial & error, especially in the last game sections, but at least each of these challenges can be canceled and tackled again at a later time. So if you are not up to a certain section, you always have the option to devote yourself to another part of the huge game world and you are not in the particularly frustrating position captured.

Speaking of the challenge: In Ori and the Will of the Wisps, particularly competitive acrobats can also compete against other players and immortalize themselves in online leaderboards with a good time. These challenges can also be called up directly in the main menu, provided you have already found them. A nice idea to keep you motivated even after the end credits.

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