E3 2014: Hands-on: Ori and the Blind Forest

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

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Ori and the Blind Forest

There were plenty of surprising things shown during the Microsoft Press Conference at E3 2014. Barring the tease of Conker in Project Spark, none surprised me more than Ori and the Blind Forest. This absolutely breathtaking “Metroidvania Platformer” from Moon Studios has the potential to be one of the most memorable games in the Xbox One library. I played the game for about twenty minutes or so on the show floor. Here’s everything you need to know:

E3 2014 - Ori and the Blind Forest | oprainfall E3 2014 - Ori and the Blind Forest | oprainfall
E3 2014 - Ori and the Blind Forest | oprainfall E3 2014 - Ori and the Blind Forest | oprainfall

The gameplay of Ori and the Blind Forest is meant to start out simple, then evolve (at a reasonable pace) into something more and more complex. Ori starts out only able to jump and avoid enemies. It eventually finds the means to fight back, wall-jump and much, much more. The basic premise that moves the player forward works like any game in the genre should, but the skills you gain and the things you do will eventually defy expectations. The game tracks your progress by way of a massive map; when I zoomed out to see where I was in the grand scheme of things, a massive world was revealed. There looks to be so much to explore!

Going a little further into some gameplay elements: Saving your progress is left mostly up to the player by way of forming a Soul Link. Gather enough blue lights, and you’ll gain the ability to form a Soul Link wherever you’d like on your journey. If you forget, then die–you start at the last Soul Link you created, or at the last place you gained an ability/furthered the story. Finding the proper place to save is left entirely up to the player; it adds a sense of challenge that’s a real rarity for the genre. Ori itself is pretty fragile in the beginning, but you eventually gain more Life Points that make it more durable.

E3 2014 - Ori and the Blind Forest | oprainfall E3 2014 - Ori and the Blind Forest | oprainfall
E3 2014 - Ori and the Blind Forest | oprainfall E3 2014 - Ori and the Blind Forest | oprainfall

The trailer does a very good job of presenting the game’s keen sense of artistry. Environments are colorful, and Ori and enemies are easily distinguishable within them. The soundtrack is absolutely amazing, filled with tunes that suit the many places Ori can explore. The world is left open to you. If you reach a place that doesn’t seem passable right away, you’ll probably come back to it later on when you unlock the next ability. Speaking of which, abilities are customizable, and can be changed with each Soul Link or checkpoint you visit. There are also places in the game to refill your health. One last note on presentation: the story seems like it will be something special–it seems ultimately simple, but something with the potential for a lot of hidden layers.

Playing through a game as polished as Ori and the Blind Forest was such a blast. It was far and away the most impressive game I saw on the show floor from Microsoft. The game isn’t exclusive to Xbox One, though. Ori and the Blind Forest will come to both Xbox One and PC this Fall. For more information, check out the game’s official website, or follow the official Ori and the Blind Forest Twitter account.