While waiting for Ori and the Wisps, I had two concerns. The first was the creators reducing the difficulty level to attract new players, and the second was the lack of significant changes compared to the original. Fortunately, both proved baseless. The follow-up look sensational!
At the beginning of the game, the difficulty level did not seem too high. The developers have rightly given up the original, highly problematic manual saving system, in favor of neat, automatic checkpoints. When we die, we're usually respawned in the same spot, just before our death – regardless if we died in combat, or during a platformer stage. This way, there's no longer need to repeat five to ten minutes of playing just because you forgot to take a save, or didn't have enough energy. Another new facilitation is that we acquire HP-replenishing green energy balls more often. They drop from most opponents, so that life points can be regenerated more conveniently.
So how exactly did the developers manage to maintain the level of difficulty? Making checkpoints and HP recovery more readily available, they were able to design shorter, but more complex challenges. Since death doesn't push us several minutes back, dying four or five times in a row isn't so irksome. The battles known from Guacamelee! and Hollow Knight, in which take enemies on in wave, also return.
Another mechanic that may significantly raise the entry threshold, especially for newcomers, is the main characters gains access to new skills pretty quickly; within three hours of playing, I managed to get almost all of those known from Ori and the Blind Forest, as well as a few completely new. Now, I revisited the original game when it was released on Switch, so I felt at home anyway. However, new players may feel overwhelmed at times. Especially since the game requires skillful management of all of the skills rather soon.
So, while Ori and the Will of the Wisps might seemingly look like a good game for casual gamers, including your nephew or partner, it certainly offers a compelling challenge. It is thus not the best introduction to video games, unless you're ok with constantly being asked: "Pass one more stage for me hun?"
Do I smell RPG in here?
So the difficulty was maintained. But what about the new stuff? The differences are apparent at the very beginning. First of all, the combat system was quite dramatically reorganized. The convenient, fire-and-forget balls of energy are no more. After the initial stage, during which we are completely defenceless, Ori quickly acquires a powerful glowing sword, and combat promptly begins to resemble the fights from Hollow Knight. Our character can deliver attacks in several different directions, and even bounce off enemies when attacking from above – with some timing. Fighting feels satisfying from the very beginning. Each blow is accompanied by a spectacular explosion and pleasant noise. About the only drawback is that the special effects are a tad too big, obscuring the opponents, which makes it especially difficult to read the enemies' counterattacks.
The character development system was also revamped. The skill trees have disappeared from the game – instead, we acquire passive abilities that act as Hollow Knight mascots. In this case, we can only use three passive skills at a time, but we switch between them at will. Active abilities such as archery or walking on walls work in much the same way. We also have only three slots for them, but it's possible to change them even in the middle of a fight. We can also improve abilities over time by improving attack values or applying additional effects to them.
During the first three hours of the game, you may encounter many other novelties: the ability to cling to moss and special flowers, the village that can be expanded for raw materials, or quite a few non-player characters that you can talk to, do a small quest for, or buy something interesting from.
That's all very nice, Ori, but I can see you've copied the answers
This would all be quite thrilling, if not for the fact that we've already played this game. It's the aforementioned Hollow Knight. Although Ori and the Will of the Wisps can easily stand its ground, I was under the impression that the inspirations with Team Cherry's fine production were somewhat too conspicuous. Of course, I understand that most games exchange ideas. After all, Hollow Knight is nothing more than Dark Souls in 2D. But nearly all novelties here come from that game.
In the new Ori, much like in Dark Souls or Hollow Knight, the pool of characters is pretty much constant all throughout the game. Sometimes they help you get an item, another time they ask for a small service. In Hollow Knight, one of such characters was the cartographer – a huge beetle that could be found in almost any region of the world. For a small fee, he sold maps of the visited location. It's much the same in Ori and the Will of the Wisps! The strange looking Mr. Cartographer is usually sitting in an inaccessible location, milking the map business. If that was the only such character, it could be considered an easter egg. But there are just too many similarities. I hope that we will see more original ideas in the full version of the game.
Ori and the Blind Forest is, in my opinion, one of the best metroidvania recent years, right next to Hollow Knight and Guacamelee! After a few hours of playing the game, I can say that the follow-up has a good chance to join this glorious club. The game is still complex, beautiful, and incredibly satisfying. Few two-dimensional games can boast equally amazing smoothness of movement of the character. Mastering all of Ori's abilities is not an easy task, but once we do that, we can do miracles. The borrowings from Hollow Knight are a bit conspicuous at times, but that doesn't change the fact that the game promises to be great. Definitely something to look forward to!
Microsoft covered the travel expenses related to the trip for the game's presentation.
Michael Chwistek | Gamepressure.com