Few could have expected Ori and the Blind Forest to break out the way it did. It started off as an indie game from an up-and-coming developer called Moon Studios, one that Microsoft had enough confidence to take a chance on. After it released, it became one of the most beloved indie games to release in that period, even cracking several Game of the Year lists. (Yes, including our own.)
Now Moon Studios is back for more adorable Metroidvania action. "Action" is also a good way to describe the direction for Ori and the Will of the Wisps, as players might notice several new additions to Ori's arsenal. Following Sunday's Xbox E3 Briefing, Shacknews had the opportunity to take a first look at Moon Studios' sequel.
The bulk of the demo took place in the Windswept Wastes, a desert-like environment roughly four to five hours into the adventure. This area showed off the sequel's improved dynamic lighting, smoother animation, and 4K graphics built from the modified Unity engine. There's much more to explore and Ori's getting more ways to see everything.
Ori has new traversal abilities, the most prominent of which is the Grapple. This is a whip of light that allows Ori to latch onto key objects in the distance. He can pull himself to higher areas and also swing across hazards. One situation saw Ori grappling across a narrow path filled with muncher enemies along the top and bottom branches. There was a sand wall to briefly latch onto, but the sand wall quickly dissolves, revealing a bed of spikes.
When Ori isn't making his way across hazardous, spike-covered fields, he's on foot with more hazardous creatures than before. Fortunately, Ori has more ways to defend himself. Will of the Wisps has a greater emphasis on combat, with Ori able to equip three different attack abilities. Spirit Edge is a sword that can be used for close-up combat. Spirit Smash is a massive hammer that's a bit slower on the attack, but able to ground pound and send opponents flying. And Spirit Arc is a bow that can ward off enemies from a distance. All of these abilities can be upgraded over the course of the game either by leveling Ori up or by finding Modifier items scattered through the world. Upgrade examples include the Splinter Shard, which gives the Spirit Arc a spread shot.
With Grapple able to help Ori fly through the air, Ori's Burrow ability helps move around underground. Ori picked up this ability later in the demo, which allowed him to dig through sandy surfaces. This opens up whole new areas to explore, provided that Ori could survive the dangerous worms digging around nearby. Players can also combine the Burrow with other abilities to reach other areas, with Ori able to dash in and out of the sand for a quick boost.
Ori was able to combine all of his abilities to complete one of Will of the Wisps' new side quests. While Ori and the Blind Forest was a more lonesome experience, Will of the Wisps is filled with NPCs and side quests. One scenario saw a big, blue, bipedal bird named Tokki ask Ori to help him retrieve a los needle. While the option is there to keep moving forward, players could also choose to help this character, eventually finding his needle buried under a bed of sand. The reward for this side quest was a Reckless Spirit Shard, which allows Ori to deal more damage in exchange for taking more damage. Shards will offer up both advantages and trade-offs for their abilities.
Exploring the world can be a challenge in itself, so players can always opt to fly blind. Those who are looking for maps and points of interest can visit new character Lupo at Lupo's Map Emporium. Lupo will sell maps for different sectors, so he'll be showing up quite a bit.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is largely expected to have a story that tugs at the heartstrings the way its predecessor did. But the E3 demo shows that its willing to upgrade several elements of its Metroidvania formula to offer up more to explore, more ways to do battle, and more ways to traverse the world. That should make the game more intriguing for both deliberate players and those who like to speedrun games.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is set to release on Xbox One and PC in 2019.