Ori and the Blind Forest is a game that I got lost in. It is a 2D platformer very much inspired by older Metroid and Castlevania titles. This means that you will traverse a large map using a set of abilities unlocked over hours of playtime. As you progress and unlock new mechanics, new areas of the world will become available for entry. You will encounter many different types of enemies as you make your way through the superbly designed and executed levels, and your new abilities will grant you powerful new means of dispatching them.
A Beautiful Tale
The story of Ori and the Blind Forest focuses on the adventures of Ori, a small animal made of light that resembles a fox or a cat of some kind. The game begins with a large storm blowing Ori away from the Spirit Tree. He is left cold and alone until he is found by another strange creature named Naru, who raises Ori in a homelike cave far away from the Spirit Tree. One day, for reasons unclear at the time, the Spirit Tree is damaged. As the Spirit Tree withers, the entire forest recesses into “blindness,” causing the trees to die and the waters to become toxic. Shortly after this, Naru dies, leaving Ori once again alone in a strange and dangerous land. Ori must set out to restore the Spirit Tree by exploring what are essentially dungeons, and restoring elemental forces in the forest such as water, wind, and heat.
These characters feel real…
This story may not sound especially groundbreaking, but it is executed very well. Most of the story points are portrayed through a handful of brief cutscenes and text prompts from your spirit helper or the narrator. There is no voice over in the game whatsoever. Even with these limitations, I found myself having much more sympathy towards the main antagonist, than the vast majority of AAA game protagonists I have ever played. These characters feel real and I actually cared about them and the world that they inhabit.
There are moments of heartbreak, joy, and excitement that I was surprised to find in a 2D platformer. The scope of the game felt just right. An epic that takes place in one forest.
Just Look at This Thing
Ori is the most beautiful game that I have ever played. The art direction is lush and saturated in beautiful colors. The game takes place in a large forest complete with marshes, caves, huge trees, and more. The backgrounds are so detailed and beautiful that there were times it was difficult to discern between them and the dangers in the foreground. The world feels alive, and you often feel like you are disrupting the environments you traverse. Stationary dangers, such as thorns, bristle when you come near. Animations are gorgeous and easily some of the very best that I have ever seen in a 2D game.
When it comes to how the game performed, there were certainly times where the beautiful animations on several explosions happening at once caused a very noticeable drop in frame rate. These moments were much more common as offensive abilities are upgraded and enemies are dispatched in a fraction of the time early encounters took. While annoying, these drops only last for moments, and the game maintains a steady performance through the vast majority of playtime.
The sound design is well done also. The score is quiet and lonesome and beautiful for much of the game, which matches the overall tone so well. During the tense moments the music amplifies the action, at times making the game feel nearly out of control, with you hanging on as the world comes flying apart.
But How Does it Play?
The mechanics of Ori are sound and make the gameplay loop of discovering a new area, exploring everything accessible to you with your current skill set, and continuing towards the next objective a satisfying one. Controls are responsive and I never really felt like I died due to a missed input, or for some other fault than my own. Some older Metroid-vanian games could be punishing to players as the next objective was not always clear, leading to time wasted searching through explored areas for clues as to where to go next. This was not a problem for me at all with Ori. New objectives are visible on the minimap at any time, so traversing the deadly paths along the way is enjoyable and challenging.
The platforming in Ori is both challenging and rewarding.
Speaking of challenge, I was pleasantly surprised at how difficult the game is. The platforming in Ori is both challenging and rewarding. It rewards careful and planned out actions above speed, and as a result makes progress much more rewarding to the player. The game offers a save feature that allows you to mark your progress at almost any point in the game in exchange for some of your resources. This lets players save immediately after particularly difficult sections to prevent having to repeat them over and over again. I know that I would have put the game away if I had to repeat many parts of the later dungeons more than I did. There was one section of the game that I did feel was frustratingly difficult though where a mechanic requiring you to escape from an enemy that will kill you if you are standing in the open for more than a few moments was not previously explained in the game. This caused me to spend over thirty minutes trying every trick I could think of to progress past this point, before accidentally stumbling on the solution. This story is the exception and not the rule however, and even when new mechanics and scenarios are introduced (and many are over the game), I felt that I could understand them within the first two or three resulting deaths. This game may not be for you though if you do not have much experience with 2D platformers.
The combat in Ori is a relative weakness for the title. The primary means of attack is to shoot fireballs from your spirit companion that is with you the entire game. These fireballs cannot be aimed, and rather fire at targets within a certain proximity to you. There were many times where this was frustrating, as being able to aim projectiles across rooms would have been very helpful, but admittedly, midair combat would have been incredibly difficult. Given the amount of time the player spends leaping, falling, and floating in the game, I think the designers made the right choice in the end. Combat becomes more enjoyable than the frantic button mashing fireball frenzy as more skills are unlocked including ground pound, a charged bomb like ability, and an inventive projectile redirection leaping mechanic that was very satisfying.
There is also a progression system in Ori that allows the player to upgrade the skills in a skill tree after gaining ability points from enemies and pick ups. The tree is divided into offensive skills, navigation and resource collection skills, and health and energy boosting skills. The boosts are noticeable and worth your time to grind out, but the skill tree was not a focus of gameplay for me.
I did find it interesting that there are really no boss fights in the whole game. Instead, there are exciting escape sequences at the end of each of the dungeons. For some people this might be viewed as a weakness of the title, but I did not find that the game suffered from it.
Ori and the Blind Forest features the very best of old school platforming mechanics, and new school presentation and design. The game allows the player to try to fix a gorgeous world, and the sublime understated character moments were some of the most beautiful I have had in any game. This game is beautiful in every way and I would highly recommend it to anyone who likes platformers in general, or games that reward exploration. This game was enjoyable through and through.
Save the Forest and the Trees
Presentation and Platforming
For details on release dates and other related info, head to Ori and the Blind Forest’s game page.
** When is it worth the price? — In lieu of review scores, we opt to give our opinion on whether the game is worthy of it’s release day price, or if you should wait for a patch or a sale. **
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