-Gregg Dietz (@ChubRockGeek)
When I saw Ori and the Blind Forest being shown at E3 2014, I was interested in the art style because it looked unique. Their wasn’t a lot of information about the gameplay during that time and it kind of fell off my radar before it’s release. I’m glad that we live in a time where we can get updates on information towards our hobbies because this was one of those rare moments where no sort of hype was attributed to my love of this game. Warning; this review will contain some spoilers, if you want to experience Ori and the Blind forest without any further information, please come back after you have played.
This game comes from Moon Studios, Ori and the Blind Forest being their first title. Moon Studios is comprised of former triple A developers and is not in any one location. Which is unique considering just about every game I can think of was produced and developed in house. All of the people that worked on this title are from all reaches of the earth and that makes the beauty of this game so much more.
The story to Ori is very simple, but becomes more complex as you move forward. Ori is the main character and is a white guardian spirit. Ori falls off the spirit tree into the forest and is adopted by a bear like creature named Naru who becomes like family to Ori. One night, the spirit tree expels its light searching for Ori, this all but destroys the forest. Not having any food to eat, Naru dies and Ori must venture out on his own. He almost dies and the spirit tree uses its last bit of energy to revive Ori.
This is the beginning of the game, you barely control Ori and have to experience a major death right off the bat. I adore how this game held no punches to get you into the game. Shortly after that, Ori meets up with Sein, a spirit guide who helps Ori attack enemies and shows the path in which Ori must take to revive the forest. Sein kind of reminds me of Navi from Ocarina of Time except less annoying and more useful.
The gameplay feels very much like an action platformer in the likes of Mario or Sonic, but has the design of a metroidvania. This makes for relatively unique gameplay as exploration is key to becoming stronger but doing this though clever platforming. Ori will find trees that were once spirits and the spirits energy bestows him with a new ability to advance in the game. Some these seem only like new abilities to use to get out of sticky situations but others become so important to your survival that it’s necessary you use them constantly.
You will find items that will increase your Life and Energy. Energy is the most interestingly unique thing in the game as its used for many things. It’s primary purpose is to allow the player to save the game wherever they choose. There is a catch though, once you create a savepoint/checkpoint, you use up an energy sphere, once out of energy, you cannot create another. This makes managing your saves vital to your success. I love this mechanic because as I pointed out in my Shovel Knight review, allows the player to choose how hard they want to make the game.
The visuals are astonishing throughout the whole game. every backdrop is different and fits in the theme of the area. A lot of the time running around the forest, the background is bland, browns and dull greens, somehow it’s still beautiful. But then as your reward, you get to a new location and suddenly your breath is taken away by how utterly gorgeous this new place looks. I was streaming this on Half Empty Energy Tank’s twitch channel and during these moments, everyone in chat was in awe of how amazing it looked. I had to stop so everyone could absorb the detail and color of every image.
The music is something to be admired because they hit the nail on the head for whatever feeling was needed at any given moment. There are some very intense moments throughout this game and the music fits in so perfectly that it became part of the whole experience. The music for the average exploration section gave a sense of adventure, as if I was just wanting to play around and see new areas. The emotions of the music are some of the most powerful I’ve ever heard. If you never play the game, at least seek out the soundtrack.
My gripes with the game are some that I’ve noticed others were having as well so I’m glad it’s not just me. First would be the intense difficulty spike at specific areas, namely the escape segments. The idea of these portions is to use everything you’ve learned and acquired to flawless execution. I’m not against the idea of this but when it becomes memorization over execution, it makes for some of the most frustrated I’ve ever been playing a game. The other thing that became incredibly frustrating was after acquiring the ground pound move, the slightest press in the down direction would have Ori slamming into danger, I had so many deaths due to this.
Overall this game is a masterpiece. It will move you in ways you didn't know you could be moved. It uses a lot of tropes throughout it’s story but in very unique ways. Between the gameplay, visuals, music and story, you will be entranced the whole way though. It isn’t easy though, you will die a lot, I had 384 deaths by the end and most of which were my own fault. This is a game that you can play with your family as it will bring you closer to loved ones. I give Ori and the Blind Forest a 9 outta 10.
What are your thoughts of Ori and the Blind Forest? What are some of your favorite Metroidvania games? Let us know in the comments below, of our facebook fan page or tweet us @MissionstartP.
Image courtesy of Maggy Lisakowski (@MLisakowski)
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