Ori and the Will of the Wisps

By Gieson Cacho // The Mercury News (TNS)

Platform: PC, Xbox One
Genre: Platform-adventure
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Developer: Moon Games
Rating: E, for everyone

Ori and the Will of the Wisps carries over the fine-tuned platforming of 2015’s Ori and the Blind Forest and expands on it by improving the combat and adding depth to the characters. Although Will of the Wisps appears to be a Metroidvania-type game, Moon Studios modeled the sequel after a different game altogether — The Legend of Zelda.

Will of the Wisps begins almost immediately after the end of Blind Forest with the birth of an owlet named Ku. Ori, Naru and Gumo take care of the fledgling owlet and try to raise it, but Ku is saddened by her inability to fly. Ori fixes that with a gift of a feather from Ku’s late mother, Kuro. With the keepsake tied to its wing, the two set off and explore the world outside of Nibel. Unfortunately, a storm hits and the two end up separated.

That mishap kicks off the first act, which focuses on Ori reuniting with Ku, and that sets up the basics of Will of the Wisps. Players will notice an emphasis on combat as Ori uses a spirit sword to slash at foes and a bow and arrow to target them from a distance. Players can sub in other weapons and abilities depending on their playstyle and that gives each play-through different feel. That’s amplified by the concept of Spirit Shards that players collect through the campaign.

These items are rewards for exploration or solving puzzles, and they offer bonuses that help make Will of the Wisps easier in areas such as combat and traversal. Of course, players who want a challenge can refrain from using the shards and get an achievement for it, but most players will want to experiment and figure out which combinations of weapons, shards and abilities work for them.

Moon Studios opens the game up in the second act, and players are given free rein to venture through five themed areas with the goal of finding the wisps of Niwen. These spirit pieces are the only way to stop the decay that has ruined life in the area.

Everything players learned collecting the wisps will be important in the final act at Willow’s End. That’s the ultimate test of platforming and combat as Ori deals with a level where the floor, walls and ceilings are essentially covered with lava. They’ll have to use their abilities to whip across platforms or catch projectiles and redirect them at adversaries.

Moon Studios does an excellent job of scaling the challenges in each themed dungeon. Despite the variability involved, players will find that the progression of challenges is manageable. One of the elements that didn’t go as well are the side quests. The developers don’t do much with them as the tasks non-playable characters hand out are mainly fetch quests. They don’t go much beyond that.

That’s a lost opportunity along with some characters such as Howl, who appear important but suddenly go missing for the rest of the game. Despite that, the rest of Will of the Wisps is a near-pitch-perfect sequel that delivers everything fans and newcomers would want.