Ori and the Blind Forest
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep.”
Ori and the Blind Forest is a metriodvania style action platformer that boasts a minimalist narrative, fun mechanics, and amazing storybook style visuals. Set in the mythical forest of Nibel the game follows Ori, an adorable creature who looks like a combination of Eevee from Pokemon and Stitch from Disney’s Lilo and Stitch. Light on details and lacking any real attempt at world building, the story isn’t all that substantial. This is to the game’s strength, though, as the diverse setting of Nibel and the broadly defined characters that inhabit it are enough to draw the player into the world. A different game might have burdened the player with long cutscenes that delved into a meandering plot, but Ori keeps things simple and let’s the beauty of the visuals speak for themselves.
In the story Ori sets out to replenish the depleted spirit of the forest by restoring the three elements that keep it alive: Water, Wind, and Warmth. The forest of Nibel is divided intro 9 regions, each unique in their look and feel. The Valley of the Wind, for example, is cavernous and a gust of wind blows through large sections of it, giving Ori the chance to rise rapidly in the air while dodging enemy fire. Elsewhere in the Ginso Tree area, clumps of blue mist provide teleporting puzzles akin to Valve’s Portal series against the backdrop of mossy woods and swamps.
The predominant theme of the game is the balance of nature, with overtones of spirituality. Ori can find ancestral trees throughout the world that house the souls of those long gone to improve her abilities. She starts with little health, a single jump, and no attacks, but by the end of the game Ori has a variety of ways to navigate the environment. Ori and the Blind Forest is a game that’s largely about exploration, so it’s good that the act of movement is always fun, no matter what obstacle you’re scaling. Abilities acquired throughout the game include the double jump, wall climbing, and the in air dash.
Early in the game you’ll encounter Sein, a white ball of light who acts as Ori’s guide as well as her main weapon when confronting enemies. Enemies for the most part are bulbous, thorny, and glow an odd hue of red-pink. At first it seems like attacking is incidental to the overall experience of the game because Sein will lock onto whatever enemy you’re closest too, allowing you to simply move in close and mash the attack button. However, even after collecting a large number of health upgrades Ori is still pretty vulnerable, so the fact that you have to move in close for Sein to strike your enemies is reason enough to keep you alert and cautious during your play through. This style of combat, much like the story, is simple and puts more of an emphasis on avoiding enemy projectiles rather than precise aiming.
Ori feels acrobatic and graceful as she moves on the screen. Forgoing boss fights; the game instead punctuates its set piece moments with time sensitive platforming sections that have you out running things like a torrent of rushing water, or the massive owl Kuro, who also serves as the game’s antagonist. In these moments the game feels delightfully frantic and challenging with all of Ori’s platforming skills being put to the test.
The biggest achievement of Ori and the Blind Forest is that it’s a game that’s just as fun to play as it is beautiful to look at. You’ll want to see every inch of the forest of Nibel, from the fiery tunnels of Mt. Huro all the way to the stony, wintery world of the Forlorn Ruins and beyond.
It’s a game that I can easily recommend to all kinds of gamers, but unfortunately I have to issue a word of strong warning: During my time with the game I encountered what amounted to a game breaking glitch 98% of the way through the story. A critical door wouldn’t open even though I had satisfied the conditions needed to move the plot forward and I had to find a work around to continue. Thankfully, there’s a simple solution for the PC version of the game in the Steam forums, which can be found here. As far as I can tell, no solution exists for the glitch in the Xbox One version of the game, and I couldn’t find any message from the developers saying that they were working on a patch. With that said, many players haven’t reported encountering this glitch and it seems like most people don’t see any glitches at all. However, just to be safe I’d recommend getting it on Steam if you have the option.
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