Launched back in March, Ori & the Will of the Wisps received a lot of glowing reviews but was damaged by performance issues. But since I only got around to finally playing it last week those issues have been resolved and new, shiny Xbox Series X and Series enhancements came out. In other words, I played Ori & the Will of the Wisps in its best form, blissfully unaware of any launch woes it might have suffered from. And I’m so glad I stumbled upon it this way, because it’s a glorious, playful, vibrant, wonderful game and feels like it has been vastly overlooked and underappreciated, despite it being on Games Pass.
The first thing to know is that Ori & the Will of the Wisps is eye-bleedingly gorgeous to look at, a painting brought to life. There are vibrant areas filled with colour and beauty, and then there are haunting beautiful areas that have been destroyed by decay. There isn’t a moment when this game doesn’t look stunning, and if you have a 4K TV with HDR support then you go look forward to a sumptious feast for your squishy eyeballs.
The core of Ori & the Will of the Wisp is a metroidvania, sending you scampering back and forth across the world as you unlock and discover new abilities and items that help you navigate. It’s also a platformer, and a bloody good one. The controls are responsive, movement is smooth and the range of motion you have is superb. You can climb, jump, air-dash, grapple, glide and you can even use enemy projectiles as launch pads to hurl yourself in different directions in mid-air. I can’t begin to tell you how good moving around feels in this game. It’s sublime, and if you’re willing to spend some time with the game you can smack enemies around without touching the ground. It’s…ugh, it’s just feels so fucking good to play!
It’s an emotional game, too, driven by simple but effective storytelling. Spoken word is quite rare and even when it does pop up it’s in a fictional language with subtitles. For the most part, everything is conveyed through the colours, the animations and the outstanding soundtrack by Gareth Coker who can seemingly shove his hand into your chest and play with your heartstrings whenever he pleases. It’s a tale of finding your family and doing whatever it takes to hold onto them. Despite the simplicity of the narrative, Will of the Wisps consistently managed to punch me in the gut and make me leak a strange liquid from my eyes.
Sometimes you play a game and you can almost literally feel the passion and the love that the developers put into it leaking out through the screen and into your soul. Ori & the Will of the Wisps is one of those games. It’s so clearly a labour of love from people who wanted to make something special, something awesome. Do yourself a favour and go play this wonderous, hopefully, colourful game. It’ll make your life better.