With the likes of Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time and Spelunky 2 hitting the shelves within 2020, the year has been great for long-awaited platformers. None have stood out, however, quite as much as Ori and the Will of the Wisps. This spectacular follow up to 2015's Ori and the Blind Forest had us constantly in awe of our surroundings, especially when playing on the Xbox Series X in the special 6K Supersampled Rendering Mode. Will of the Wisps cracks our top ten, as it has managed to defy the odds and provide a superior experience across the board compared to its already excellent predecessor.
We couldn't have been the only ones to have shed a tear at the game's opening cinematic, could we? Things get off to a heart-wrenching start as Ku, Ori's new Owl companion is whisked away by a violent storm after desperately learning how to fly. The few moments before this catastrophe are so touching, despite not a single word being spoken in English. Ku, being an owl, is obviously devastated that she cannot fly due to a broken wing and Ori comes to comfort her and gives her a feather that enables her to fly. This we found to be one of our favourite game openings of the year as it wonderfully teaches players the basics of the controls whilst also providing a touching glimpse into the pair's relationship.
Just like The Blind Forest before it, Will of the Wisps is a Metroidvania that features a whole range of abilities that can be used when traversing the environment and battling foes. Ori can fire arrows, dash in mid-air, and propel itself forward by redirecting projectiles. One thing that we loved about Will of the Wisps is how it rewarded inquisitive players for using these abilities and exploring off of the beaten path. There's additional side quests that can be completed, spirit shards that can be obtained, and also life cell fragments for more health. The map is pretty darn huge compared to tiny Ori and there's so much replayability, as you are always unlocking new ways to reach areas that were previously inaccessible.
The sequel wonderfully ties these abilities together with the combat, as boss encounters are often a fancy way for you to put your newfound abilities to the test. The second boss, for example, is a giant fire-breathing beetle that you encounter after gaining the dash ability. Here you have to use the dash to leap over its waves of fire and slip underneath it once it flies up and prepares to slam its face into the ground. The combat and world mechanics just feel so interlinked here that they quickly become ingrained when you are playing.
If we had such an award here at Gamereactor, then Will of the Wisps would certainly be a contender for 'Best Looking Game of the Year.' The whole game looks like a watercolour painting come to life and on occasion we found ourselves tumbling into a pit of spikes, as we were so taken back by the gorgeous scenery. Even on the Nintendo Switch and vanilla Xbox One versions things look impressive, but are pale in comparison to what the Xbox Series X offers. The game can be played in 4K at a silky smooth frame rate of 120 fps or in the 6K Supersampled Rendering Mode with a locked frame rate of 60 fps.
Will of the Wisps is the sequel that we have been desperately hungering for after reaching the credits of The Blind Forest back in 2015. Its story is heartfelt, its visuals are drop dead gorgeous, and its platforming and combat elements feel wonderfully interlinked. What Moon Studios has accomplished here is a superior sequel in every way, and we hope that the series manages to deliver an equally memorable outing if it is to make a return in future.