It goes without saying, I like my games with a lot of action, a lot of guns, and a whole lot of epic storytelling to help tie it all together. But after finishing Gears of War: Ultimate Edition in a single session, I was desperate for a bit of a break from the onslaught of bullets but I wasn’t keen to just take a stroll through Animal Crossing.
I still love a good challenge and it wasn’t long before one of my followers on Twitter suggested I try A Metroidvania style, 2D platformer known as Ori and The Will of The Wisps. But that was a sequel and the tiny streak of OCD in me wouldn’t let me play it until I finished the original game, Ori and The Blind Forest.
So, I downloaded the game through Xbox Game Pass, started a New Save file on Hard mode, and strapped in for a surprising experience, to say the least. All the rumors turned out to be true and I found myself locked in as I overcame each challenge that this dynamite little game could throw at me.
It’s a massive departure for me personally and I wasn’t prepared for how many times my thumb was going to mash that A button. I mean, seriously, I was afraid my controller might give out before I made it to the end but all those poor buttons survived the mashing they endured over the last few days. So, without further ado, let’s see if Ori and The Blind Forest is still good in 2021?
THE BLIND FOREST
So, What’s It All About?
In Ori and The Blind Forest, you play as…Ori (lol). A guardian spirit that has fallen from the Spirit Tree during a great storm and then rescued by another character named Naru, who acts as Ori’s adoptive mother since being separated from the Spirit Tree has left Ori without a home, and Naru senses that Ori needs protection.
The pair live together for quite sometime before the spirit tree emits a blazing light in an attempt to find Ori. For some strange reason, the forest begins to decay and, over time, Naru and Ori’s food supply runs low and Naru bravely sacrifices herself to give Ori the last bit of food.
Realizing that their only parent is now gone, Ori sets out to help restore the balance in the blind forest with a little help from Sein, the eyes and source of the spirit tree’s light. The three Elements of Light must be restored and it’s up to Ori to travel across Nibel and save their forest home.
As a 2D platformer, you’re mostly going to be jumping, dashing, double-jumping, and shooting your way across some gorgeous levels with most of the skills and abilities being unlocked as you progress through the game. It’s the kind of challenge I’ve seen from the likes of Megaman X crossed with the Metroidvania style made famous by the Castlevania series so be prepared for a lot of exploration mixed in various enemies that you’ll have to deal with.
— Stevius Maximus (@SteviusM) January 1, 2021
So, What’s Good About It?
Let’s start things off with the most obvious strength that this game has and that is its visual quality. I mean, there were times where I wasn’t sure if I was playing a video game or watching the latest animation from Pixar or Dreamworks. We’re talking Disney levels of artistic perfection with this one.
As the saying goes, “every frame, a painting” and they pulled it off in spectacular fashion. Each level is so majestic, even when the story and environment take a dark and murky turn, it’s still a pleasure to look at and, when these areas are restored, it makes you want to go back and explore just for the visual feast.
Even Ori’s animations look so smooth no matter what you’re doing in the game. Every action is so fluid that I could spend a good chunk of time just watching Ori leap around, flipping and spinning across the gorgeous scenery like an acrobatic expert, and all that happened from me mashing A, nothing more. My hats off to the Art De[atment at Moon Studios.
I’ll be the first to admit. I’m a jumpy, slidey, shooty-shooty kind of guy that counts on a lot of action to keep me engaged. I was honestly expecting boredom to start creeping in after a while but, after a few hours, this game got me hooked and it was all because of the way these levels were designed.
This map is huge and there are a ton of pathways to take as you traverse through Nibel and not once did I ever feel like I was seeing the same place twice. Every set piece just felt so unique and interesting, offering a new challenge each time with some exciting new gameplay element to spice things up.
There were even moments where I would die just so that I could replay a section one more time because I knew I wasn’t going to find another challenge similar to this throughout the game and I wanted to experience it one last time before I moved on. I’ve never felt that way about a level before and that’s saying something.
Another thing that held my attention throughout my playthrough was the various skills and abilities that you get to unlock. It went a long way to help keep the game fun and interesting and I probably wouldn’t have had such a great time if I was restricted to only doing basic things like jumping to traverse the level.
I also thought it was great that all this mobility meant I didn’t need to take on certain enemies if I didn’t want to. The Bash ability combined with the Air Dash meant I could parkour my way over multiple enemies if I was returning to an area and didn’t want to slog through the same enemies that just respawned.
It’s this kind of freedom to use my imagination that gets me hooked every time and, for me, it’s the key to a great combat system. I don’t always need a multitude of weaponry at my disposal to have fun. Just let me use my brain and let me get creative with how I want to approach combat and you’ll score major points in my book.
So, What’s Bad About It?
Let me start this section off by saying that Ori and The Blind Forest is a technical masterpiece in game design and could easily be the game that inspires young indie developers around the world as it is a masterclass in 2D platforming. I mean, I’m no expert in the genre but this game is the closest thing to flawless that I’ve seen in a while.
Then why do I feel like something’s missing? Why didn’t this game connect with me as so many others did? I was hooked on the gameplay, curious to overcome each new challenge and I felt completely satisfied when it was all over so the fact that I’m not running to my friends to tell them to play this game is very concerning to me. I like it…but I just don’t love it.
The Story or The Challenge?
I think the overall narrative might be the thing to blame here. Not that the writing is terrible or anything. I just didn’t find it to be all that interesting. There are some plot twists for sure and it does a good job of tying everything together but I didn’t turn on this game each time so that I could see the story’s conclusion.
I get that there’s a really deep story underneath it all and they do kind of explore the duality of good and evil with many of the twists but I was more or less just doing what needed to be done and didn’t feel the impact that a lot of reviewers have mentioned when talking about it’s ending.
Maybe it’s my own personal preferences that are to blame even more so. It goes without saying, I love some good run-and-gun action and I feel right at home on the battlefield so it was more or less the challenging level design that kept me going. Overcoming these sections that demanded near-perfect button inputs felt so satisfying to play through and I wanted that satisfaction over and over again.
Well done on that achievement! 💪
— Ori the Game (@OriTheGame) January 6, 2021
So, Should I Play It?
Man, when it comes to whether or not I would recommend this game, I am a bag of mixed emotions. Honestly, there were moments at the beginning where boredom started creeping in and it seemed like this game was going to be a bigger test of my endurance than I initially hoped.
Mashing the A button over and over again can only be fun for so long so Imagine my surprise when this game actually started to grow on me. The further I progressed the more areas I unlocked, the more challenges I encountered, and the more satisfaction I found as I conquered each hurdle.
I can tell that there’s a decent story here and if it connected with you on a deeper level then that’s great. But me personally? I just don’t care for it. It’s not the reason I like this game and that’s okay. I’m sure it won’t stop me from beating the sequel as well, which I definitely plan to do this year as well.
So, if you’re into this genre and are a die-hard fan of indie games then you can’t go wrong with this absolute Masterpiece with smooth platforming. But, if you’re new to the genre and prefer your games with a lot of violence then put this on Hard mode (like me!) and get set for a true test of your gaming prowess. My record is 824 deaths!
Have you played Ori and The Blind Forest? What do you think of this great indie gem? Let me know in the comments section below.