A leaf blows on a fierce wind, travelling far before settling in a tree-full glade, where it is discovered by a loving creature called Naru. The leaf becomes Ori, and your journey begins…
Ori and the Blind Forest is one of the most visually stunning games I have ever played. It’s mixture of incredible assets, painterly backgrounds and smooth animation creates a real sense of a rich and detailed animation that you can control.
It’s a gorgeous thing, especially in its more story-driven moments, making you instantly fall for the non-verbal characters you encounter. But that presentation is just the tip of what the game has to offer.
In some ways, the cute character design and stylised world are designed to lure you into a false sense of security, because Ori is a genuinely challenging game. You’ll quickly find that this world is full of darkness, and most of it can kill you in an instant.
It’s a game which pays homage to the mechanics and feel of past titles, but collects and refines them to make something more than just a revamp. The controls are solid and slick, with even the early sections testing your reflexes to the limit.
You just know you’re going to have to run these leaping gauntlets time and again, so developers Moon Studios have given you a truly special gift – the ability to save exactly where you want. Need to take a breather before that really hard jump or falling block? Just press and hold B to create a ‘soul link’ as a checkpoint.
But here’s where things get really clever – Ori only has a limited amount of energy required to make these soul links, and that power is also required for other abilities in the game. So you’re constantly forced to balance resources and weigh the consequences in your head – a save point now could mean crippling yourself for a future moment, or leaving you with limited health.
This freedom and consequence is a brilliant addition, adding real strategy rather than the mindless checkpointing of most games and letting you play the way you want – while also pushingin you when you inevitably forget to save for many minutes at a time!
There are many more mechanics at play, including picking up XP to upgrade three different trees. Some will lower power cost for more strategic play while others upgrade your attack, etc. Beyond that, spirit trees will unlock new moves in the world – like a double-jump – and give you access to more areas of the map.
There are doors which need a certain amount of energy to open and others that require multiple keys, as well as mapstones to unlock in order to reveal more of the playable area. If I had a criticism of the game, it’s that there are often many different collectibles to consider and the arcane names and uses sometimes get a bit bewildering.
The combat is also oddly flat. Considering the wonderfully fluid running and jumping, it’s a shame that all fights see you running away while mashing the X button to attack. There’s no finesse to it, and no real variation over the entire running time of the game.
The story too gets a bit caught up in its own machinations and gravely intoned pieces of exposition. But these moments are easily forgiven when you witness another detailed animation from Ori or conquer the latest challenging series of pulsing organic perils.
Ori and the Blind Forest is a captivating free-ranging platformer which goes beyond its sumptuous visuals to deliver the most delightful and impeccably crafted title I’ve played in ages. While the game may not be on your radar, you absolutely owe it to yourself to seek it out on Xbox One or PC immediately.
Ori and the Blind Forest is available digitally on Xbox One and PC now for €19.99 – it’s coming to Xbox 360 later in 2015.