First Impressions: Ori and the Blind Forest
*Disclaimer* This is not, nor should it be taken as, a review. This is simply my initial thoughts of Ori and the Blind Forest after around four hours of game time.
Ori and the Blind Forest begins with a melancholy sequence of friendship, adventure, and loss. The opening sequence was extremely powerful and definitely causes a tear to be shed. The game follows Ori, who is the small being of light that you control. At the beginning, you simply possess the ability to run and jump. As you make your way through the level, you meet Sein, who befriends you and provides a means of attacking enemies. My first issue with the game lies with the combat system. For the four or so hours that I played, it seemed that I was only spamming the ‘X’ button on my controller. The combat felt as if there was little flow and very little skill involved. Which I felt was a shame, considering how much of the game actually consists of combat. I felt like every fight was becoming a chore and even went out of my way to avoid enemies. Even after unlocking two new combat moves, the game still lacked a certain fun factor when it came to combat. On top of the combat being a bit dull, I also noticed a ton of frame stutter that occurred, even though my frame counter showed the game to be running at a consistent 160-250 fps. This stutter often occurred during extremely difficult platforming sequences that required a great deal of precision. Needless to say, this was very frustrating and caused more than a few of my deaths in the game. In terms of the games options on PC, the menu was very barebones, containing only a resolution, full screen, and vsync option. However, this being a 2-D game, it is a bit more justifiable. Still, I would have liked to have seen some visual presets, but the game ran very smoothly (over 200 fps on average) on my machine, which runs an SLI setup with GTX 760s.
Now that we’ve gotten through my dislikes of the game, let’s focus on what I really enjoyed. First thing’s first, the visuals are just stunning. I have never taken as many screenshots of a game as I have during my time so far in Ori and the Blind Forest. The game just oozes beauty, and it seems as if every screen is another opportunity for a fantastic desktop wallpaper. The character and enemy design is sublime. I found the visual variety of the enemies did help to break up some of the monotony of the combat as the game progressed. Ori and the Blind Forest is on par with, if not better than the Trine series in terms of its visuals. Accompanying the gorgeous visuals is a fantastic soundtrack that just adds to the atmosphere of Nibel. It could even be said that Ori and the Blind Forest is a relaxing game, if you find a section with no enemies and pause to enjoy the visuals and the soundtrack.
Along with the visuals and soundtrack, Ori and the Blind Forest contains some very interesting mechanics. One of my personal favorites was the ability to use your energy, which is like mana, to create a save point at any location. This definitely made some of the more difficult parts of the game seem much less so, because you could save either right before or right after you complete them if you have enough energy. However, there are some sections where, if you do not conserve your energy properly, you will be left without the opportunity to save through many difficult platforming sections. The ability to save anywhere is one of my favorite features in Ori and the Blind Forest. Another mechanic that was very fun was the dash mechanic. This mechanic allows you to freeze time shortly, and dash towards an enemy projectile or lanterns that are located throughout the level. Dashing towards enemy projectiles also allows you to reflect them back at the enemy, or at destructible objects in the environment. The dash was the most fun mechanic that I have uncovered in my time so far with Ori and the Blind Forest. Finally, the addition of a skill tree really added to my desire to explore because I knew that the more experience orbs I discovered, the more abilities I would be able to unlock in the ability tree. I spent most of my time upgrading various combat abilities in an attempt to freshen up the combat system, but you can also upgrade the benefits of various pickups, and other things such as having your save points heal you.
Ori and the Blind Forest is a fun, gorgeous adventure platforming game that I would highly recommend that anyone play if they are at all interested in the genre. The platforming is mostly tight, and the visuals and soundtrack are amazing. Turn off the lights, turn up the volume, and allow yourself to experience the interesting world of Nibel and the story that Moon Games has to tell. With four hours sunken into Ori and the Blind Forest, I can honestly say that I am ready to sink many more exploring the beautiful landscapes and discovering the various secrets the game has to offer.