“How can we perfect a Metroidvania?” That is the question that Moon Studios designer Thomas Mahler told me he posed to the rest of the team after taking stock of their beautiful and challenging 2015 platformer/adventure, Ori and the Blind Forest. The answer, as he and the decentralized 50-person development team see it (it’s true; they don’t work in a single office but are all scattered in 40 different countries around the world), is to offer multiple play styles through combat and skill choices that can lead to unique playthroughs for the sequel, 2019’s Ori and the Will of the Wisps.
After getting a demo of a slice of Ori 2 that’s about 4-5 hours into the game (an adventure which, he says, will be longer than Blind Forest), I played it for myself. Not only are Mahler and the Moon team well on their way towards providing a fantastic answer to their own question, but I also can confidently say that Ori and the Will of the Wisps shows no hint that it will disappoint the many, many Xbox fans who enjoyed the original. Ori 2 looks absolutely glorious in 4K, as the painterly art style from Blind Forest Returns, but with, as Mahler notes, a new element of physicality added to the environment, meaning that branches sag under your weight when you jump on them and leaves blow in the wind. You might not even notice it if it weren’t pointed out to you, but it does indeed make Will of the Wisps feel more alive.