A year ago, a video game was ported from the Xbox One to the Nintendo Switch that I’d had my eye on for quite a while. Ori and the Blind Forest, a lush Metroidvania, once an Xbox exclusive, was making its way to the Switch, as announced in a Nintendo Indie World Showcase. I was always interested in this game, but I was saddened that I’d likely never be able to play it as a non-Xbox-owner. When it was announced for the Switch, I decided that I would play it upon release. I loved every minute of my experience with it.
This past spring, Moon Studios, the brains behind the Ori series, released the game’s sequel, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, (formerly) an exclusive title for Windows and Xbox One. I found myself similarly dismayed, only for the game’s sequel to also miraculously appear on the Switch in late September of this year. I finished my play-through of it over the weekend, and it’s easily one of the best Metroidvanias I’ve ever played.
Side note: for non-gaming readers, Metroidvania is a genre that blends the core mechanics of 2D platforming and nonlinear exploration commonly found in both the Metroid and Castlevania franchises.
Both Ori games are quite challenging, as the games frequently throw you into precise platforming challenges and escape sequences. The sequel even includes harrowing, colossal boss fights with copious amounts of HP. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is difficult, but it’s seldom frustrating or unfair. It helps that you’re always finding yourself in idyllic landscapes, beautifully ornate and bucolic. But looking at this world that Moon Studios built, I realize how varied each of these environments is. There’s the floral greenery of Kwolok’s Hollow, the frigid mountains of Baur’s Reach, the eerie darkness of Mouldwood Depths, the scorching dunes of Windswept Wastes, and the crystalline ambiance of Luma Pools.
When I played this game’s predecessor, I was preparing for a road trip to New Orleans to see a friend, traversing through Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, and, finally, Louisiana. After beating the original, I had other places to explore outside of the fictional universe of Nibel. But after defeating the punishing final boss of Ori and the Will of the Wisps, I had nowhere else to go.
This made me further appreciate the world of Niwen, this game’s primary locale. Currently, I consider it unsafe to travel, which is strangely a controversial opinion. I have a lot of wanderlust; I’m always wanting to visit someplace I haven’t been to before. Considering I have asthma and live in the cesspool that’s the United States, I can’t rationalize traveling anywhere. But that’s what Metroidvanias, and particularly Ori and the Will of the Wisps, excel at: establishing a sense of place and immersion without physically transporting you to a different space. Moon Studios offers a wide swath of environments laden with secrets and collectibles, incentivizing the player to explore the gargantuan world they’ve made.
Side note: This isn’t even the full map. Not even close.
For how notoriously difficult this game is, it brings with it a generous amount of tranquility and comfort. This game is daunting in its sheer scope, but it’s contemporaneously soothing because of the excess of environs it gives to the player, virtually all at once. In a world where most travel is dangerous, Ori and the Will of the Wisps lets the player experience new places when it feels impossible to do so. Moon Studios fosters an impeccable degree of immersion, as the game is accompanied by Gareth Coker’s fantastic score, a poignant narrative, and breathtaking visuals. This game may seem scarily big at first glance, but there’s solace in untrodden territory.