REVIEW: Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition

Friday, October 11th, 2019

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As if that wasn’t enough, Ori also has an Ability Tree. At any save point, you can use Energy either found in the world or obtained from beating enough enemies to purchase new powers. Some are passive, and others are new, modified versions of your skills. There are three branching paths for you to explore, and the only proviso is you need to purchase the abilities in sequence, and they progressively cost more Energy. In my 9 hours with the game, I only managed to fully acquire one branch of the Ability Tree, and found around a third of the Energy Meter (which dictates how many times you can use certain attacks) and Health upgrades. I’m sure there are other gamers much more hardcore than myself who not only managed to 100% the game, but did so in a fraction of my playtime. I tip my hat to them, but feel my experience much more accurately represents the average gamer. Oh, and back to the topic of save points, while there are stationary ones that heal you fully, called Spirit Wells, the vast majority you make yourself. This is done when you have enough excess Energy, and you hold A to create a save point wherever you like. Or mostly wherever, since the game won’t let you make them in mid-air or in areas it considers unsafe. Though, honestly, the entire game is dripping with menace, so that’s a somewhat dubious distinction.

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Now, I’ve spent a lot of time talking about Ori, but it wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t spend a little time talking about the game’s villain, Kuro the owl. Calling Kuro a mere owl denies the scale and menace of the bird, not to mention her cruel intelligence. Kuro is responsible for the state of things, and she will ruthlessly hound you at key points in the game. Ori is a infinitesimal speck compared to Kuro’s size, and if she catches him, he’s done for instantly. Thankfully, whenever you encounter her, the game conveniently autosaves so you don’t start over from the very beginning of the stage when you die again and again. At first I completely loathed Kuro, but about halfway through the game the truth of her story is revealed, and I found I had a ton of sympathy and newfound understanding for the villain. It takes a special game to accomplish that sort of feat.

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While Kuro is undeniably the primary antagonist in Ori and the Blind Forest, the game doesn’t really have traditional boss fights. Sure, there are a couple areas you face mini-boss encounters, typically against a recurring foe, this leaping tentacle monster that erupts from the floor to harass you. But, in lieu of real boss fights, the game instead has epic chase sequences. One of Ori’s goals to restore the Forest of Nibel is to find and restore the three Elemental Lights. These each represent a distinct element, namely Water, Wind, and Fire. But, as a result of the corruption of each of these elements, upon restoring them they blaze wildly out of control, and you have to run like hell to survive. These are heart-pounding and harrowing sequences, and they provide a huge challenge. Though they are all more than epic, I found the first one to actually be the most challenging, racing against rushing waters seeking to drown Ori in the Ginso Tree. While I don’t mind the difficulty of these overmuch, I still found myself longing for a more traditional gauntlet of boss fights. That said, if the game eschewed these sequences for big bosses, it wouldn’t feel nearly as unique. That said, I most definitely have a love/hate relationship with these chases.

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For the most part, I feel the level of challenge in Ori is fair, but there’s a couple areas that were overwhelming for the wrong reasons. On occasion, I found the controls to be a bit unresponsive, such as leaping from a wall and double jumping. Sometimes it just doesn’t work properly, and I ended up falling to my death. Regarding my issues with the Bash skill, a good example of my frustration is the following. There’s a late-game area called Sorrow Pass, and it has beams of light that instantly kill you. Your goal is to push boulders to block these beams, as well as pushing them to the right positions. Problem is, often I had to leap in mid-air after launching one to redirect them with another Bash, which was incredibly difficult. Lastly, I faced some frustration when I encountered barriers that none of my skills or abilities could open up. I know you do get a couple powers from optional areas, the Black Root Burrows and Lost Grove, so it’s possible that’s why I couldn’t figure them out, but it was still annoying. Lastly, while I like how Ori skitters about, oftentimes he’s too floaty for his own good, and I would end up overshooting things. I understand his movements are dictated by his physical attributes, but I would have killed for his platforming to be a bit more precise.

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Visually, Ori and the Blind Forest is a transcendent experience. I almost always take my own screenshots while playing Switch games I review, and I easily took more than 200 while I played. This is just a beautiful and melancholy world, where darkness swallows all but a speck of light. Yet it’s a world full of natural and unnatural beauty, such as purple thorny bushes, huge mushrooms and incandescent infernos. Though there’s not a ton of different foes, they all look and act differently, such as heavy leaping toads, explosive larvae that erupt into smaller threats, and much more. I love the use of dark blue colors in the game, and the clever use of lighter hues to illuminate it. Musically, Ori is even more breathtaking. Though there’s not a ton of different tracks, they each serve a distinct purpose, as do the many sound effects. More importantly, the music is very emotional, which helps ground the tone of the game. I even found the occasional use of silence was genius, and did a great job of building the tension or momentary peace in this world.

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I can’t help but love Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition. Sure, it’s far harder than I expected, even on Normal, but that doesn’t take away from the glory of this experience. In my playthrough, I uncovered about 75% of the map, and still have plenty to unlock. And that’s not taking into account the many achievements you can fulfill (though I’m not even trying for Unhinged). For only $19.99, it’s hard to turn it down. While it’s true some of the mechanics and controls were a bit finicky for me, overall the game played like a dream. If you love emotional and unique experiences that truly draw you into the game, you have to play Ori and the Blind Forest. Even if you don’t think you’re good at platformers, you can always try on the easiest difficulty, because this is an adventure that demands to be experienced. Kudos to Moon Studios for developing it and to Microsoft for bringing it to another console.

Ori and the Blind Forest | Victory

Review Score

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About Josh Speer

Josh is a passionate gamer, finding time to clock in around 30-40 hours of gaming a week. He discovered Operation Rainfall while avidly following the localization of the Big 3 Wii RPGs. He enjoys SHMUPS, Platformers, RPGs, Roguelikes and the occasional Fighter. He’s also an unashamedly giant Mega Man fan, having played the series since he was eight. As Head Editor and Review Manager, he spends far too much time editing reviews and random articles. In his limited spare time he devours indies whole and anticipates the release of quirky, unpredictable and innovative games.

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