Before I got to review this game, I had heard about it here and there as a pretty good title that Microsoft produced, and I believe it won an award for a great art direction. Other than that, I pretty much ignored it. I thought to myself “Eh, I might get around to playing it.”
And when I did, I was absolutely blown away.
Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition came out recently for Windows 10 and Xbox One, and it is a beautiful game. Starting with the visuals, Ori looks like it could be a painting. Everything seems to live on the screen, glowing and moving in this magical forest that you roam as a little creature named Ori. Every asset seems to have had the same quality and care as the entire game itself, looking as though someone spent years of their life perfecting each branch on each tree. The art style is unique and refreshing, the animations are smooth and natural, Ori is one of the most beautiful games I have ever played.
Since the visuals are so great, the story is very visual, with only a few brief interludes of narration from Sein, a small orb that acts as your weapon and guide, and The Spirit Tree narrating your adventure as you go along, in a really cool made up language (It is subtitled so you understand it) and a deep ominous voice to go along with it. The first 5 minutes of the game nearly had me in tears, because of its simple yet moving design. I’m actually struggling with words to describe how the story feels, because it feels so real yet magical at the same time. You feel so motivated to save the forest and to defeat the darkness.
Now the game looks well and good. But you came here to play a game! Not some fancy art thing. Well you’re in luck, this game also plays fantastically, with stellar platforming mechanics that are both familiar and well done, and unique and refreshing. It plays a lot like any classic Metroidvania, large persisting map that you have to explore by going up and down, grabbing powerups that improve your ability to jump, etc. You can also gain XP from taking down enemies and get additional skills as well as the ones you find in the world. So you really start to feel powerful towards the end of the game. The platforming is challenging, making you use your abilities creatively to get to other platforms , but not so challenging that you feel like you could never do it. It tells you just enough of how to play the game without holding your hand or leaving abandoned with no idea what to do.
And as if as if the great visuals, story, and gameplay were not enough, the soundtrack is phenomenal. Each piece adds such a powerful atmosphere to the game, and really ties the whole game together. The orchestra that plays is so beautiful and charismatic that it makes the player feel the actual emotional impact of each area, like as if you were in Ori’s place seeing every level first hand. Along with the great sound effects and great voices, the audio in this game is something that every person in the gaming industry should look at as a shining example of how to do a game well.