Ori and the Will of the Wisps hands-on preview: I believe I can fly

Ori and the Will of the Wisps is hoping to improve upon its highly-acclaimed predecessor. We got a chance to go hands-on with the first few hours of the game to see just how high their hopes are flying.

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When Ori and the Blind Forest hit the market back in March of 2015 it became an instant classic. It won critical acclaim for its art direction and ethereal soundtrack and featured a heart-warming tale that struck a chord with gamers. Now, almost exactly five years later, the team at Moon Studios is preparing to launch the highly-anticipated sequel, Ori and the Will of the Wisps. But before the official launch, we got a chance to go hands-on with a work-in-progress of the Windows 10 PC version of the game to see what was new this time around.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps is somehow looking even more gorgeous than the first Ori game.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is somehow looking even more gorgeous than the first Ori game.

Will of the Wisps starts out where Blind Forest left off: the egg that Ori and his friends Naru and Gumo saved at the end of the last game is about to hatch. Inside that egg is an adorable little baby owl named Ku. The cute little baby bird is raised by the three friends but as Ku grows up, they’re called to the sky. There’s just one problem, Ku was born with a busted wing that never really grew its feathers properly. Fortunately, Ori just happens to have a feather big enough to patch Ku’s wing. As Ori and Ku head out on their first test flight they seem to lose track of just how far they’ve gone and end up crash landing and get separated from each other in a land foreign to the both of them. Now, Ori must save Ku from the badlands while helping to restore yet another world that has been slowly dying from corruption much like they did in the first game.

Just like Blind Forest, Will of the Wisps plays out in a metroidvania fashion and players will find themselves going to and from the various areas as they unlock new skills and abilities. Ori will be able to do things like ricochet off of enemy projectiles, use momentum to whip-jump over obstacles, and gain the ability to swim, just to name a few of the more passive skills. There’s also a stronger emphasis being put on combat this time around. Players will now get their hands on a lightsaber-style sword and at certain points they’ll be able to purchase or attain special skills like the ability to summon a spirit that shoots homing projectiles at enemies, or being able to throw ninja stars made of mana.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps is promising more action and much longer game overall.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is promising more action and a much longer game overall.

Players will also be able to purchase tokens that will augment various stats or abilities, like add an extra health slot or turn the bow and arrow’s single shot into a triple shot. Some augments will be upgradeable as well to provide an even stronger boost. At certain points in the game, Ori will also team up with Ku for some flying and gliding-based platforming and puzzling.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps is also looking just flat-out gorgeous. The first game looked great as well, but this time around the characters and backgrounds are very high-res and even more detailed than before. The magical forests, boggy swamps, and dark, desolate badlands invoke memories from classic films like the Secret of Nimh and The Neverending Story. There’s a lot of whimsy to the overall theme and design of Ori and the Will of the Wisps that’s balanced extremely well by some of the darker tones of the story.

From the moment I picked up the controller until I reluctantly had to put it back down, Ori and the Will of the Wisps had me enthralled. Its story pulled on my heartstrings and had me captivated immediately. The gameplay was easy to pick up and once I started exploring I had a hard time stopping. While I only saw about a third of what the final game will have to offer I can’t help but feel that this is another classic in the making. I love a good metroidvania and this is shaping up to be one of the best of the modern games in the genre. Players will get a chance to discover the whimsy and adventure of Ori and the Will of the Wisps for themselves when the game launches on March 11 for the Xbox One and PC and will be available as part of the Xbox Game Pass program.

Reviews Editor

Blake has been writing and making videos about pop-culture and games for over 10 years now. Although he'd probably prefer you thought of him as a musician and listened to his band, www.cartoonviolencemusic.com. If you see him on the street, buy him a taco or something. Follow him on twitter @ProfRobot

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