When I played Ori and the Blind Forest back in 2015, I didn't think there could be a prettier Metroidvania. Luckily, game developer Moon Studios has proven me wrong with Ori and the Will of the Wisps, which is set to debut sometime in 2019 as an Xbox exclusive.
I spent about a half-hour exploring the new game and it's even more captivating than the first. But don't let the pretty backdrops fool you; this is a game of puzzle solving and quick reflexes that can get difficult before you know it.
Like the original game, you're playing as Ori, a guardian spirit in charge of protecting the forest and its denizens as well as the light from the darkness. Similar to other Metroidvanias, Will of the Wisps' levels run side to side and are loaded with challenges that can only be overcome by discovering new abilities.
For example, I stumbled about the Burrow ability during my demo which allowed me to guide Ori through the sand to access new paths and treasures, including a Barrier attribute that reduced the amount of damage Ori would take by 20 percent. And even after 20 minutes, I could still see points on the map that I couldn't yet access.
Speaking of maps, instead of making your way blindly through a level, there's now a map seller. I also ran across a forest dweller that requested my help finding a particular item. It's a far cry from the whispers and shadows Ori had to interact from the first game. It gives some real stakes to what you're ultimately fighting for.
Will of the Wisps' art style is ethereal and whimsical with an undercurrent of menace. I felt like I was navigating my way through a Germanic fairytale. But while there is a sense of danger, the game doesn't drown the background in dark colors. On the contrary, the enemies I encountered were colored a deep magenta or navy blue. It's so pretty, you're almost compelled to want to touch everything in the game, even the extra pointy spikes littered throughout the landscape.
I'm really looking forward to playing Ori and the Will of the Wisps when it comes out next year. I'm also excited to see the subsequent speed runs that gamers more talented than me will make. But the game is a solid Xbox exclusive that will be a welcome relief for people looking for a break from the typical run and gun.