A tiny light of hope can change the world.
Ori and the Blind Forest is a 2D Platformer with Metroidvania-style progression featuring lots of puzzles to solve, secrets to explore and a fair bit of simple combat. More than following its general storyline the game tries to create a stunning atmosphere with its beatiful visuals and gorgeous soundtrack, at which it fully succeeds.
Gameplay & Quality
Not a game, a journey.
The game's undeniable strong point is its style. Not only visually, but in combination with the over 30 soundtracks, individually looped and perfectly timed to events, for each area and story sequence, the subtle yet deep underlying story and the gameplay giving the player's action the feeling of meaning and importance, does it create a beautiful journey you will remember even long after the game is finished.
The art of storytelling and creating immersion is most crucial for atmospheric games like these, and Ori does one of the best, most critically acclaimed, jobs with it having become one of the biggest milestones in its genre for a good reason. Though, it still is a game, so gameplay is an important factor too, so let's talk about your part in this journey:
The game consists of an open world with multiple connected areas and some secluded dungeons, but is rather linear in its progression. New areas become available by unlocking the ability required to reach them, which you will inevitably find and need to find by following the storyline. There are 11 of these abilities throughout the game, constantly unlocking new movement and sometimes combat mechanics encouraging you to backtrack through older areas to reach new secrets and find more collectibles.
Some of the abilities can even be upgraded, alongside new unlockable passive abilities and buffs, in the skill tree. Beating enemies - which respawn upon leaving and entering an area - drops varying amounts of "Spirit Light" used to level up, granting skill points to spend in the three progressive branches of the skill tree. And while grinding enemies over and over again is a viable option, there are collectible large spirit orbs hidden in the world granting either lots of spirit light at once or entire skill points, encouraging backtracking even more.
Besides spirit orbs there are two more collectible resources in the game - life cells, increasing your max health, and energy cells, increasing your max energy which is used to create a save point at any time and needed for certain abilities. As a result, saving has to be done manually either by reaching a warp stone or creating a new "Soul Link" - something you can easily forget while backtracking, turning your overconfidence into the loss of much progress.
Said warp stones are found usually once in each area and can be used to save and fully restore life and energy, as well as fast traveling between them. Another feature of each area is the map stone, which unlocks a preview of the area's entire map, usually found shortly after officially traversing through a new area. To unlock those stones you need a map stone fragment, though you can use a fragment from any area for any map stone, giving the ability to skip some parts.
As stated before, combat is very simple. After clearing the prologue and obtaining your first ability - a short range auto-aim attack - you mostly only spam one button for the rest of the game. There are other attacks unlocked later on and all of them can be upgraded, but those are mostly used for reaching new areas by breaking walls and such.
Spamming the attack button while focussing on dodging enemies' attacks and environmental hazards is what you mostly do. And dodging will become a notable challenge soon enough.
Furthermore there are only a few minion enemy types appearing throughout all areas, and no bosses with combat - the dungeons' final challenge is always an escape sequence.
The controls are smooth and comfortably mapped by default, though as the store page boldly states and should be obvious for this genre, playing with a controller is a very big recommendation.
The skill tree and the zoomed out overview map.
Story, Content & Runtime
What can you expect from this game?
A story about hope and despair, light and darkness and all the details in between.
Ori, a lost spirit separated from the Spirit Tree during a devastating storm and kindly adopted by Naru, will soon have to go on a fateful journey. The Spirit Tree is dying, and with its protective light fading from the forest of Nibel darkness is taking over the land, bringing death.
Ori, the last remaining spirit, who once again lost everything to this tragedy has to embark on an adventure to save the forest before everything is too late, uncovering a tragic past along the way.
Though there are those who want to see the world full of light end, having once lost everything too, and will fight to stop Ori...
The game has a captivating story, though as stated before focusses more on creating an emotional atmosphere for every given moment than actual storytelling. Through lots of cutscenes, interactive as well as view-only, short explanations from your companion and short moments of narration, the story is told through more visual action and music than monologue.
Aside from that, Ori and the Blind Forest takes short of 10h for a first playthrough while 100%ing the game. There are three different difficulties to play with a fourth "one life" challenge to unlock after the first playthrough, so beginners and veterans alike can get something out of this game. Although generally the game is relatively easy compared to other known titles of this genre, seeing as the combat is mostly trivial and the only challenge coming from the platformer puzzles and dodging parts.
The Definitive Edition furthermore offers some concept artworks, behind the scenes and old promotion material to view, alongside all the six major cutscenes, in the main menu. And as stated before, for all the collectors, old-school fans and interested people a free copy of the original version of the game is included too, for if you want to experience the game in its original state once again.
A map stone, unlocking an entire area's map preview, and underwater elements showcase.
Definitive vs. Original
New box, but what's inside?
Personally, I haven't played the original version of this game, for the simple reason that both the shop page and most of the players who did agree that playing the Definitive Edition is the overall better experience for new players. If you want to see the original in comparison afterwards, go ahead.
As a very generous act - one which many other developers and publishers could take an example from as they are selling their overpriced "reworks" twice - the original version of the game is included, for free, for everyone buying the Definitive Edition while the original version isn't for sale anymore. So if you are interested to find out what has changed yourself and travel back to the roots of the journey that is Ori, feel free to give it a try.
According to descriptions, the Definitive Edition includes - in comparison to the original - the difficulty selector, two new sub-areas bringing a new side-story with them, the "dash" and "light burst" abilities, more secrets and story sequences and the general ability to backtrack to any area and teleport between Spirit Wells - the warp stones.
Players argue that the removal of the story progression area lock and addition of simple backtrackability take a notable chunk of replayability and the feeling of urgency out of the game, though the other additions make it sound like a closed case for me.
Considering the Definitive Edition first introduces the ability to fast-travel and the dash ability - the number one skill you will use to travel in the later game to make it not feel too tedious to backtrack - makes this version much more comfortable to complete 100%. The story sequences are what gives Ori's story the most depth and emotion, so taking them out would also take out a notable part of the immersion. The difficulty selector is generally a great addition to make the game more accessable for players of all skill groups (especially with the one life challenge mode) and more content is always good.
So, in conclusion, playing the Definitive Edition clearly sounds like the better choice, and for all the collectors and fans out there the original version comes as a free gift along the purchase.
Is this game worth it?
Absolutely! Unless you are looking for the most intense combat action or the most challenging platformer in existence, this beautifully crafted masterpiece is a must-have. One of the best soundtracks of any game I ever played, captivating visuals, an emotional story and not too frustrating gameplay, alongside a free copy of the original game for a nearly non-existent price?
I don't see any reason not to buy.
If you aren't scared off by the soundtrack costing twice the game (it's so worth it though), I personally recommend buying the entire Ori series bundle with a little discount.
Because you know, the next sale is always around the corner!