Frido takes a look at the award winning Ori and The Blind Forest.
Developed by Moon Studios, Ori and The Blind Forest is a beautiful masterpiece with a wonderful art style. When the game was released in March of 2015, it was met with high praise. Ori and The Blind Forest is not only loved by fans but critics as well, winning the BAFTA Game Award for Artistic Achievement and The Game Awards award for Best Art Direction. Very slight spoiler ahead, but it takes place in the first five minutes of the game.
Ori and The Blind Forest begins with a giant, astounding tree overlooking a vast forest. The wind is blowing hard, and it releases a leaf. The wind blows this little leaf towards a being called Naru. Naru follows the leaf, and as it lands, it becomes a little creature: Ori. Naru adopts Ori as one of her own, and the two care for each other, hunting for what looks like apricots and living in a cave that they’ve made their own. During the scenes with Naru we can see that the forest is beginning to die. The Spirit Tree in the distance is no longer the proud one that it was. As Naru searches for food for Ori, she is unable to locate any but a single piece of fruit which she gives to Ori. The forests are barren. The scene changes to Ori very high in a tree. Ori finds a bushel of fruit and begins to take it back to Naru. Naru is asleep on the floor, and Ori pushes on her to awaken. Naru does not wake up. Ori falls asleep on her, whimpering.
Ori awakens and decides it’s time for her to leave this life behind. As she leaves she discovers a little wisp named Sein. Sein is the light and eyes of the Spirit Tree. Sein protects Ori by shooting little flames to kill enemies and to open up pathways. Sein helps Ori reach the Spirit Tree where Ori learns that they are the light for The Spirit Tree and the forest and that Ori must help the Spirit Tree reawaken and the Forest of Nibel and help it grow. They must also defeat the one who is killing the forest and The Spirit Tree, Kuro. And thus starts the adventure!
Ori and The Blind Forest is a platformer RPG with a skill tree for players to use, which is unlike most platformers of its kind that are just letting players go on a straight line towards an ending. Ori and The Blind Forest gives off some Castelvania and Metroid vibes where players come back to an area when they have a piece of equipment that allows them to progress. The Forest of Nibel is full of secrets and collectibles to help Ori grow to defeat Kuro. There are energy cells, map stone fragments, spirit light containers, and key stones, all of which help Ori progress through Nibel.
The level up system for Ori is simple. You collect spirit light by defeating enemies or finding spirit light containers that give you a bulk of them. Ori has a little circle at the bottom of the screen, and once that circle fills up, players obtain a skill point which can be used to unlock certain skills for Ori. The skill tree is split into three parts: utility, efficiency, and combat. All of the skills range from 1-3 skill points per purchase, and you must have the previous skill to get the next one. The skill tree is very well developed. Players can grind early in the game to achieve skills further up in the skill tree by killing reappearing enemies. The lower skills are more for helping players get around the environment. The combat skill tree really isn’t necessary to level up until later in the game. The enemies aren’t hard if players learn how to dodge attacks. Some bigger ones require more whittling down, but defense is the best offense and the other skill trees work better at the beginning of the game. It’s a little weird though because when you think about it, the spirit light from the enemies defeated are literally souls; Ori is absorbing souls into their body for strength.
Ori uses their energy cells to create soul links to save in the game. These can be achieved anywhere in the world of Nibel as long as there are no enemies nearby. It’s a better system than games like Fallout that won’t you wait because enemies are nearby, even though you see no enemies. The bright colors and sounds of Ori make it obvious when there’s an enemy, and as long as there is no enemy on your immediate screen, you can create a soul link save point. To the left of the experience gauge are your soul link orbs. As long as one of those orbs is active, players can save. Energy cells replenish over time and can be found in the wild on little plants.
The first couple of fights between enemies are simple; if players understand the dodge system. The attacks are small and there’s only one attack that does a decent amount of damage from an enemy which is a sort of monkey thing. Most of the beginning enemies are slow, ranged, and easy to dodge. If players don’t learn to dodge the attacks, each enemy can take a decent chunk of health. If you’re just sitting there taking it, however, you deserve it. The first boss fight is fairly easy as well, although they do get harder later game.
Ori and The Blind Forest is a rather hard platformer, and I don’t say that lightly. Adding an attack and dodge system to an already difficult platformer adds a challenge that I was not prepared for. This isn’t your typical Mario platformer; this is a new type all its own. I recommend Ori and The Blind Forest if you enjoy platformers. It’s also a good game just for the experience and story, but if you’re not good at platformers, it can be really challenging. And can we just talk about how much Ori resembles Sparky from Stitch: The Movie? Or was that just me?