I'm not a gamer. Normally, I don't play video games, casually or otherwise. However, from time to time I enjoy certain titles. I loved Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 4, spent countless hours playing Max Payne 2, Portal (1 & 2), GTA 2, Doom, an assortment of Need for Speed games. I played Factorio for a while; I absolutely love Sayonara Wild Hearts and played a ton of Asphalt 8 and 9. This is more or less complete history of my relationship with video games. So when I say that I consider Ori and the Blind Forest to be the greatest game of all time, take it with a grain of salt.
Ori and the Blind Forest
The original Ori was a revelation. It's stunningly beautiful, the story is gentle and touching, characters are relatable, the world of Nibel makes sense, music is absolutely breathtakingly beautiful, and controls are easy to learn. This game quickly became our family's favorite; we played it for months, and then played it again and again. After "The Definitive Edition" came out, we played it as well, more than once. In 2017 the studio behind Ori announced a sequel, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, and I couldn't have been more excited about it! A new adventure of Ori and his friends in a magical world of mesmerizing beauty and immersive music! I'd followed the development and new announcements very closely, and after quite a few delays, the game came out in March 2020.
I was thrilled! A friend helped me get a copy of the game right away, and I've ordered the Collector's Edition as soon as it became available.
And then everything fell apart...
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
First, without any reservations, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is absolutely fantastic. It's unbelievably beautiful, and every frame, every scene is a true gem. The details are just beyond anything I've ever seen on a TV screen. The spirit and overall atmosphere of the game is truly captivating.
Music... It's otherworldly. It just takes you away in a swirl of themes and you just float there, weightless and enchanted. My descriptions don't do OST justice it deserves. Here, enjoy!
The story... It makes sense. It's a logical follow-up to the Blind Forest. We've met all the characters before, we know their backstory and what they went through to arrive here. We know their previous struggles, and we are presented with a new challenge in a captivating intro. Right away, we get a feel of the new Ori world — so familiar yet new and exciting!
And then the struggle begins. This is purely subjective personal opinion of a non-gamer with limited console experience (well, limited to the previous Ori game, really).
Controls are impossible to remember. Original Ori was introducing new control options throughout the game. All the way to the very end you were gently trained how to use certain abilities, how to do various tricks. By the end of the game, you were using every button of a controller and you got there naturally. In the Will of the Wisps, you're thrown right in, and just a few minutes into the game you have to assign different actions to different buttons, shuffle abilities and their combinations, and constantly keep it all in mind as you go. The learning curve just cannot be any steeper. I'm sure it's not an issue for someone who plays a lot, but it's a showstopper for a casual gamer. And it's a significant change from the original Ori. This alone made the Will of the Wisps if not entirely unplayable for me, but extremely challenging and very difficult if not impossible to enjoy.
What happened with straightforward, logical, easy to follow story? Who are these people Ori has to interact constantly? Why all these side quests? What's with a slew of "currencies" you need to collect? Merchants? What's going on?! Not only it's difficult to control the character, but the game is now constantly interrupted by a crowd of random needy characters, who constantly make you do stuff. It feels so besides the main story line, and much more difficult to follow what's going on, what's next and why you're doing all these quests. Again, I understand that for gamers it's probably a new and exciting development, but for a casual player it's just beyond confusing.
Achievements and Abilities
This was the last straw. There are like 5 screens of different types of achievements, abilities, collectible items, tokes, coins, a variety of energy points, combinations of different things. I just couldn't follow it all. What goes where? Do I need more tokens, icons, coins or keys? How do I get each, and where do I spend it? Do I exchange tokens for abilities or energy? Unsurprisingly, all of this made it definitively impossible to keep playing the game.
As much as I loved Ori and the Blind Forest, I just can't play Ori and the Will of the Wisps. It's way too complicated, convoluted, overly complex, full of interruptions and non-linear intermissions. It's way more work and effort. It's not a smooth flow that just takes you along with the story, it's a struggle to keep up with controls, track resources, manage abilities and purchase achievements.
It makes me very sad. I understand that the Will of the Wisps is an upgrade in every sense of the word, but it clearly is geared to attract more hardcore gamers. I totally understand this, and I don't blame the studio for trying to capture this audience. But for me... I'm just left out. The new Ori is here, but I can no longer enjoy it. I will probably watch a video walk-through, and would still probably enjoy it, but it's not something I'm looking forward to. One of the best games ever made is no longer accessible to those who loved the original for its simplicity.
Oh, well. I guess, it's just life.