I often approach sequels with a bit of trepidation. A fair number have either been a disappointment in their own right or fell short due to overly high expectations. Fortunately, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is one of those happy cases where the sequel is just as good as, if not better, than the original. The story follows right after the first game, Ori and the Blind Forest, where Ori, Naru, and Gumo are taking care of Kuro’s (the villain from the first game) baby, a little owl named Ku. At first, Ku struggles to fly until they attach her mother’s feather to her bad wing. At this point, Ku makes no delay in taking Ori on a flight, though the happy moment leads to disaster when they are separated in a storm and end up split up in a new land called Niwen, which is not only falling to Decay after the death of the Sprit Willow, but is also being terrorized by a nasty owl by the name of Shriek.
Too many sequels lose a lot of what made the first game special (I’m looking at you, Ni no Kuni 2). Fortunately, Will of the Wisps does a great job building off its predecessor, adding new features while still feeling very familiar. The game has the same beautiful graphics and poignant story, and I personally enjoyed the music even more this time and am so glad the game came with a code to download a free copy of the soundtrack. Thank you, Moon Studios, you’re too kind.
Ori himself is still the adorable and nimble little guy we’re used to, though this game does have a greater emphasis on combat, though I don’t think it detracts from the gameplay we grew accustomed to. A variety of abilities can be obtained throughout the game, both those used to attack your foes and to help Ori to become increasingly agile. This game also introduces a few boss fights, which were largely pretty fun, as well.
In a lot of ways, Will of the Wisps is even better than the first game. I feel like this game had a better variety of locations than the first one, with snow, some really creepy dark caves, and even a desert thrown in for good measure. Also, the game gives you even more freedom, as once you reach the part with the four wisps, you can actually visit the four locations containing said wisps in any order you want.
This game even introduces NPC’s and side quests you can complete for different rewards, usually spirit light (which is used as currency), though you can earn an extremely useful reward after you complete the longest side quest in the game, Hand to Hand, as well. Oh, and though they removed the ability to make save points at any time, they replaced it with auto saves, which mostly makes up for it. (I occasionally lost small amounts of progress when I died, but if you forget to create a save point in the first game, the risk is kind of the same.)
This game also introduces shards, which are like the charms in Hollow Knight. They grant you different upgrades, like a triple jump, the ability to stick to walls, or extra life cells, for example. Some even make enemies stronger for a greater reward when defeating them. You can gain more slots for equipping shards by completing combat shrines, giving players an increased ability to pick shards that best fit their playstyle.
I absolutely loved my time with this game, and I loved Ori’s unique new abilities, like the Burrow ability, which allows you to move through sand and even launch yourself out of it for higher jumps. I also found upgrading the little village and building houses for the adorable Moki in the Wellspring Glades to be a particularly satisfying side quest. Overall, I think this game was more enjoyable due to a somewhat lower difficulty, though that’s not to say the game is easy. It can be very difficult, yes, but I think it was generally a better level of challenge than the first game.
Of course, this review wouldn’t be complete without a few complaints. My biggest issue was the fact that the chase/escape sequences remain. I really didn’t enjoy these from the first game, and while I don’t think they’re as bad this time, I still really didn’t like them. Secondly, I would have liked more warp points. I often wanted to warp somewhere on the map and couldn’t find any warp points within a convenient range, meaning I had to do a lot of tedious traveling through places I had already been. Last of all, I played this game on the Switch and experienced some performance issues, especially towards the end. If I moved too quickly (and sometimes, not even then), the game wouldn’t load the next part of the map fast enough, and the camera wouldn’t follow me. Needless to say, this did start to get a bit frustrating from time to time.
Despite a few problems, Will of the Wisps was an amazing sequel to the already fantastic Ori and the Blind Forest. Sure, I initially felt the story wasn’t really adding anything all that new to the series (the villain is yet another angry owl?!), but the unexpected ending more than made up for it. I would highly recommend this game to any Metroidvania fan (especially if you enjoyed the first Ori), and I’m really interested to see where the series will go from here.
Banner from official Nintendo eShop