There comes a time in every gamer’s life when a form of interactive media can make your heart ache, your eyes tear up, and the feels hit hard. Ori and the Blind Forest is only Microsoft’s latest exclusive to merge an emotional narrative, beautiful melodies, and a wondrous art-style into a game of epic proportions. This is the opposite of Sony’s The Last of Us – instead, it’s a tremendous experience of heartfelt joy and wonder.
Ori and the Blind Forest’s story takes us to the forest of Nible, an enchanted place that’s filled with life. Ori’s a tree spirit that’s taken away by the winds one stormy night and the Spirit Tree’s not too happy. Now an orphan, Ori’s adopted and cared for by a bear-like creature called Naru. After some time, this sets in motion a chain of events that lead to the downfall of Nible. Naru and Ori are driven to the brink of desperation when the forest becomes a decaying wasteland and Naru sadly passes away, leaving Ori to venture on to find the Spirit. Seeing the empty shell of the Spirit Tree, Ori finds another spirit named Sien. Together, they’ll restore the forest by cleansing the darkness from three key locations and bring life back to the Spirit Tree.
The game greatly reminds me of the 2008 release of Prince of Persia, where players are tasked to restore balance to the world by either destroying the darkness or restoring its light. This type of adventure’s thrilling to watch and one that’s so uniquely enjoyable for any open world game. It’s a simple, yet effective story that will never get old and always opens a great deal of game-play possibilities.
However, I do have one slight issue: The ending’s somewhat of a cop out. With the heavy- handed intro that acts as a great emotional kick into your journey, it’s all turned around in the end. I won’t say what it is, but the power of love and it bringing people back to life’s a trope I’m not happy with.
The game’s world is absolutely stunning. It’s refreshing to look upon a game world that’s graphically engineered by hand in a way different from generating 3D models. Just like Child of Light, Moon Studios have developed an organic, detailed looking world like something out of a painting. The game has an impressive power to immerse players, thanks to its wondrous art- style and excellent musical scores that help accompany exploration and epic set pieces – a refreshing look compared to many other titles that focus solely on 3D designs.
Gameplay consists of several different elements, including exploration, platforming, and button-mashing combat. The combat’s simple, yet engaging, with many skills and new powers to acquire, making Ori a stronger and more brutal Spirit of Light. Along with combat, Ori can learn new moves to traverse the world that include the standard double jump, climbing, and gliding. All of these benefit exploration, but can also aid in platforming segments across the game. The game allows for a variation of gameplay opportunities when it comes to platforming, which creates some inventive set pieces and puzzles. They either require speed, endurance, or lateral thinking. It’s nothing original, but Moon Studios have developed a strong design that’s easy to learn and fun to play.
Gaining new powers will help Ori traverse the harder terrain, discover hidden secrets, and gain access to new areas. The world’s easy to navigate through and the map’s clear in detailing different areas, key items and – if you unlock a certain ability – hidden items. There’s no fast travel, but the world’s not so large that it feels like a chore to travel from one point to another.
The save system can work in your favor, or deliver a game that’s extremely punishing if you don’t learn from your failures. It’s a new take on quick saving that allows the player to have more control over their progression and adds tension to the trial and error formula. Not saving regularly, or not having enough energy to save can result in a harsh punishment, mainly taking you back to the last save point, even if it’s a great distance away. It’s entirely up to you to make sure you save, unless you hit a critical plot point where the game auto-saves. It’s a new dynamic element that works well for a trial and error style game.
There are some epic set-pieces that feel energetic and compelling, making good use of a number mechanics that allow variety in gameplay. One of the most common types of set-pieces are the temple escapes. These can be very enjoyable, as well as a little annoying, considering the length of some of these sections and that dying will result in starting your escape again. This means that it’s slow going in learning the route, layout, and how to succeed in your escape. This isn’t something that ruins the game, but the fast-paced action and length of some escapes can make them irritating at best.
The game can last a healthy ten hours if your trying to beat it 100%, but its story can easily be beaten in half that time. It’s sad that the game couldn’t last a little longer, or offer more rewards or unlocks. Shadow Complex was a great game of a similar nature, as it delivered unlocks, rewards, and multiple endings to ensure replay value. It’s nice to play that sort game again, but at the current price tag, its difficult to recommend Ori at full price. Considering games like Strider are much cheaper and indeed last a little longer too.
However, I did encounter at least one glitch that broke the game entirely and stopped my progression. It’s something I have to point out, as it almost ruined the game for me as a whole. This glitch happens in Nuro’s nest, which is two-thirds through the main story. Nothing I did could fix it, so I started again. I was able to bear playing through it again and, thankfully, proceed. This seems to happen to only a small number of people, but I’ll warn you now to be prepared in case this happens to you, as more and more people are reporting it.
While I wish that the game was a little bit longer and that it end on more of dramatic note, overall, I was happy with Ori and The Blind Forest and feel it’s an exclusive that Microsoft should be proud of and Moon Studios should be highly commended for. Add in some replay value and fix the game-breaking glitch and you have yourself a true classic.
[…] If you want to take a closer look at Ori and the Blind Forest, you can check out our review for the original version of the game. […]
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