Ori and the Blind Forest is the first game by Moon Studios – an international group of developers from all across the world, working in unison to bring us this title. Having been four years in development (three of which under Microsoft’s roof), Ori and the Blind Forest is finally ready for a more thorough showing. This Gamescom, we met the developers and had a chance to talk to them about the game as well as try out a more complete level than what was shown in E3. An entire level was available for playing, showing off some advanced mechanics as well as a new move and an end-level challenge.
For those of you who haven’t had a chance to read up on this indie creation, Ori and the Blind Forest is a platforming game with a strong focus on exploration and character development. You play as Ori, a white guardian spirit, as he embarks on a journey to save the land of Nibel from an evil entity by the name of Kuro who kidnaps Ori’s mother, forcing him to finally set out on his own and explore the world. In his travels, Ori is accompanied by Sein – another entity of light – who will act as Ori’s guide and companion. Together, the two set out to defeat Kuro and save Nibel from its malicious influence.
Before we get to the breakdown of what’s new, we’ve taken the time to ask the developers a few questions to help us better understand their vision of the game. They were kind enough to provide us some information which we’d like to share with you, regarding many of the game’s aspects.
To start things off, you should know that Ori and the Blind Forest is a fairly hefty game – an average playthrough clocks at around 10 hours. It doesn’t mean that you can’t finish the game faster if you’d like – in fact, the level progression is somewhat open and non-linear and the order in which you play the levels is up to you. As Ori and the Blind Forest was inspired by gaming classics like Legend of Zelda and Metroid, the only thing that will bar your progress is your access to certain skills (like the newly-demonstrated “Bash” skill which we’ll discuss shortly). Still, a 10-hour run is just the average, with the completionists among us obviously clocking more.
Since I’ve mentioned it, I’d like to expand on the ability demonstrated to us today: Bash. Bash is a skill used for both offense and utility – what it does is send Ori bashing into things at lightning speed, making the combat application somewhat obvious. However, it also allows you to propel Ori off of other objects – hanging vines, for example, or the very projectiles fired at you by your enemies. What’s more is that a bashed enemy shot will react as you would expect it to – it is deflected in the direction opposite to Ori. You’ll end up using the bash skill quite a lot – in the demo level we’ve played, it was key to traversing some of the larger gaps, together with Ori’s double-jump ability.
Another thing to set Ori apart from some of the better-known platformers is the lack of boss battles. That’s right – in the words of the developers interviewed by us today, the logic behind the decision to remove boss monsters is quite simple: There’s no gameplay sense in ending a level with a large monster you have to shoot several times in the weak spot before it explodes and you can move on. Instead, Ori has a thematically-viable end-of-level challenge. In the demo level we’ve played, the “boss” was actually an ever-increasing water level. You had to act fast and jump up quickly to stay ahead of the rising tide or drown. While not the equivalent of a giant monster, the challenge certainly does add that special feeling to beating a level – wrapped up in a nice and logical package.
Last but not least, I’d like to write a few words about the game’s difficulty. First of all, there is no setting for it – no easy/medium/hard option to be found. The difficulty is set to what should in theory be a comfortable level to the majority of gamers – indeed, we had a fairly good amount of challenge clearing the level without it turning into a Dark Souls style death-and-repeat cycle. To make things somewhat easier, Ori and the Blind Forest also implements a flexible checkpoint mechanic. Apart from the checkpoints placed throughout the levels, at any moment Ori is standing on firm ground you can create a Soul Link, a checkpoint of your own devise, by consuming a special blue power crystal. If you do happen to die, you will respawn at your own custom checkpoint instead of the game’s preset one, allowing you to either prepare for what appears to be a tough challenge or better yet – save mid-puzzle to retain at least some of your progress should you fail. The power crystals are a finite resource, though, you will do well to not squander them.
Ori and the Blind Forest will be releasing for Xbox One and PC in late 2014 with a planned Xbox 360 release sometime in 2015.