Some of our faithful YouTube watchers may recall that I completed a playthrough of Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition in the not too distant past. The experience proved to be more challenging and more rewarding than I ever could have expected. And since then, I’ve taken time to replay it…and boy oh boy, what difference practice makes! Having played through the game already, I knew not only what to expect but how to best tackle some of the game’s more difficult stages, so everything was much easier. And I managed to complete the game in matter of hours rather than…well, months, honestly. (Kind of makes me rethink doing “blind” playthroughs in the future…)
Because I had a better understanding of the game’s mechanics, I was able to free up my mind during the second play through to focus on other things in the game, like its stellar soundtrack. Ori and the Blind Forest is an amazing game, but it’s not an easy one, and one of the things that makes it so compelling is its music. The game’s soundtrack serves almost as support system, one that subconsciously tells you to “keep going!” and “you can do it!” without being overly harsh or pompous. And nowhere is this better illustrated than in the track “Restoring the Light, Facing the Dark.”
This song plays during the game’s first major (and most difficult, in my opinion) escape section. At point it starts, Ori has just made a difficult journey up the spiky interior of the desiccated Ginso Tree, which is responsible for purifying the waters of the forest. Upon reaching the tree’s core, Ori restores it, which causes massive amounts of water to start flooding in from the tree’s lower half. Ori must make a terrifyingly timed escape up and out of the tree before the waters catch up.
Folks, I’ve played a few games, battled tough bosses, and escaped with the best of them. But the Ginso Tree…oh, that Ginso Tree…it nearly proved my undoing. I cannot tell you how many times Ori died or exactly how long it took me to finally and successfully escape the tree, because I cannot count that high. But, what I will tell you is that the music was the only thing that kept me going. In that moment of escaping the Ginso Tree, while the water is nipping at your heels and completely chaos ensues, the song’s incessantly upbeat and uplifting refrain plays. In the video, it’s what you hear from the 0.30 mark to 1.20. It’s a mere 80 seconds long in what feels like an endless challenge, and I use the word “incessant” quite sincerely, because when Ori dies, you have to start the escape all over, so the refrain becomes perfectly relentless – it won’t give up, and it won’t let you give up. It’s astoundingly simple, just a few notes in sequence, and it’s an incredibly powerful motivator. The refrain itself doesn’t really have an end, so eventually, adding to the drive to escape is the desire to find resolution.
Obtaining that resolution means that Ori is finally safe at the top of the tree, and the music becomes achingly beautiful as the player watches Ori catch a moment of rest. Most unfortunately for our weary traveler, that moment doesn’t last for long, because things quickly take a magnificently scary and especially emotional turn. The song abruptly ends as the screen goes dark, and players are left to question Ori’s fate. It’s a brilliant moment that underscores just how different and special Ori and the Blind Forest truly is. Even now, as I listen only to the game’s soundtrack, “Restoring the Light, Facing the Dark” serves a constant reminder of how dogged determination can sometimes lead to something greater.
Lede image © Moon Studio (2015), captured by the author on PC using GeForce® Experience.