Ori and the Blind Forest is an Indie creation in a genre that doesn’t see much innovation and is mostly dominated by a few periodical franchises. It is a game I was determined to experience, especially when it’s being released for the new generation, with all the technical possibilities it brings. After some delays and setbacks, Ori and the Blind Forest has finally arrived and it is time, controller in hand, to see what Nibel has to offer.

As far as the story goes, Ori and the Blind Forest takes us through an interactive prologue which serves mostly to set the mood before handing control over to the player. While not original, the story serves its purpose – it gives you, the player, a sense of accomplishment and even urgency as you fight to free Nibel (that’s the Blind Forest) from the darkness. It contains all the classic elements of a hero’s journey tale so nothing is really surprising. The plot is remarkably linear, but touching nonetheless. As the story unfolds through (mostly) cutscenes, you’ll grow to love the characters and sympathize with their plight – even though the ending is quite obvious from the beginning.

As a platformer, Ori and the Blind Forest dots all the i’s and crosses all the t’s. You begin with just your basic running and jumping skills which are quickly joined by other genre-staple maneuvers like the double jump and the wall jump. After a while you unlock some of the more creative moves like the bash/deflect as well as various combat moves which also partially aid in traversal. To top it off, Ori and the Blind Forest also employs an experience point system which means that apart from story-unlocked skills, you can spend skill points to purchase other improvements at your own pace (like a  triple jump or an ability to breathe underwater). Those improvements, while optional, definitely enhance your experience, and I recommend you don’t rush through the game but rather explore the levels to find all the hidden caches and bonuses – you won’t be disappointed.

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On the subject of levels, I really only have two ways of describing them: huge and beautiful. From the bottom of the Misty Woods to the top of Mount Horu, Ori and the Blind Forest is one of the prettiest looking platformers I’ve seen. Everything looks hand-drawn and the attention to detail, even on the smallest things, is amazing. Running past tall grass or plants will have them swaying gently, while in the background the world feels like a living thing, where you are just a small part. Each environment feels like a different region in terms of both mechanics and style, lending a certain sense of grandeur to the world as a whole.

The levels in Ori and the Blind Forest aren’t just pretty scenery but are also huge in size, which is especially true if you’re aiming for 100% exploration. Taking a page from other famous titles like The Legend of Zelda, not everything is accessible to you right from the bat, and some areas will only unlock once a certain upgrade has been earned through either story progression or the experience system. While backtracking is sometimes a chore, it is never without reward. It is also mostly optional and up to the player to decide whether a little extra reward is worth the detour. Those rewards can run the gamut from increasing the maximum life or energy to just extra experience in the form of soul containers, so it is generally a good idea to explore everywhere – Ori and the Blind Forest is not a game that should be rushed, anyway.

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Back in Gamescom, we were told that one of the unique features planned for Ori and the Blind Forest is the lack of boss battles. While it seemed an odd choice back then, now that I had the opportunity to play through the game as a whole, this seems to fit perfectly. I’m not saying that there’s no villain to the game, mind you – the villain is presented as early as the game’s opening sequence – but the game’s flow does just fine without a typical hero vs. area boss face-off. In fact, I can honestly say that the end puzzles that replace boss battles are every bit as challenging and rewarding as a boss battle would have been, while simultaneously fitting the world much better. In fact, you can see the influence of the “no bosses” philosophy in the regular enemies as well – they’re mostly regular creatures you can expect to find in a forest, although changed by the darkness. The environment is the main adversary to overcome and the challenges you’ll face are mostly getting from point A to point B with rare enemy-centric challenges added for variety.

Ori and the Blind Forest is a classical platformer rendered for the new generation. Its smooth animations, beautiful levels and attention to detail firmly plant it in the current generation while its traditional gameplay mechanics are a clear nod to the platformers we all grew up on. Either way, it’s a great game that delivers exactly what it promises both in terms of story and mechanics, and it definitely belongs in your game library.


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