Ori and the Blind Forest – Definitive Edition Review (Xbox One)

Dax takes on Moon Studios’ beautiful 2D platformers to see if there’s something magical to be found…

When Ori and the Blind Forest originally released in March 2015, it was met with critical-acclaim (and rightfully so) with the game’s design, game play, music and emotional story being highlights of every review. Exactly a year after the original title launched, Moon Studios has presented us with the definitive edition of their labour of love, providing two new areas and two new abilities to utilise in Ori’s adventures. Additionally, you are now able to fast travel between areas, saving time on back-tracking as well as adding a theatre mode where you can view trailers, cut scenes and concept art. Included are difficulty settings (Easy, Normal, Hard and One Life) which is another welcomed addition from the original due to the challenging nature of the game.

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To those new to Ori and the Blind Forest, I will immediately say that if you love a challenging 2D platformer, with outstanding gameplay, an amazing story that tugs on the heart-strings, and a moving music score, then this game should be on your radar, and further, with this Definitive Edition, you now have every reason to jump in and play. It must be noted that if you have played the original Ori, unfortunately saves won’t be transferable to the Definitive Edition, but you will be able to upgrade for a fraction of the fee.

My time in Ori and the Blind Forest was astounding, met with a mixture of frustration and a sense of accomplishment. During my 12.5 hour playtime, my character perished 691 times, attesting to the challenge that Ori and the Blind Forest presents.

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Ori‘s gameplay mechanics are precise and there is no hand-holding at all. Throughout the game, you learn abilities (skills) that help the main character Ori traverse the forest world of Nibel. With abilities such as wall-climbing, a skill to redirect projectiles while launching you in the opposite direction, and the new Dash and Light Burst (which you obtain through the exploration of the two new areas included in the Definitive Edition), you’re forced to overcome some pretty tough obstacles. Gameplay is incredibly smooth, complimenting the slick platforming experience, and not once did I experience any frame rate drops or glitches throughout my time with the game.

The world of Nibel is beautiful. It sounds clichéd, but Moon Studios has provided us with an amazing world to explore, navigate and wonder through. Elemental puzzles are designed to challenge you, requiring that you use your ever-evolving skills, where enemies are either a hindrance to your progression or a means to continue on your way. There is a steep difficulty curve in Ori and the Blind Forest and the inclusion of selecting a difficulty level will benefit new comers while still providing players with a healthy challenge.

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The Definitive Edition’s additional levels, Black Root Burrows and Lost Grove, are beautifully-designed inclusions, with both adding a backstory to one of the game’s central characters, Naru. The new Dash and Light Burst skills are obtained in these areas and are where you learn to utilise them, and they also fit into the original game seamlessly, which is a testament to Moon Studios’ clinical design.

Where Ori and the Blind Forest really shines is through its musical score which encapsulates the simple yet emotionally engrossing story, and the two are interwoven and complement each other excellently. The story is presented with cut-scenes and the subtitled narrative from the Spirit Tree, which is neither distracting nor feels out of place.

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Menus and Maps are simple yet fit with the art design. Ability upgrades are obtained through gaining experience from enemies, through collecting ability points or collecting experience orbs.

Ability upgrades follow three ability trees that enhances current skills or provide you with newer abilities that aid you through your quest with each upgrade being well explained and all of them providing relevant enhancements makes the game’s progression feel purposeful.

Another interesting element is that instead of set checkpoints or save points, you create your own throughout the game at the expense of Energy Orbs, which you collect through your adventure. Life Cells are also collected in the same way that extend your ‘Life’. Both are simplistic ideas that are fantastic and provide you with more than enough reason to backtrack and explore the forest world of Nibel. Although absent from the original game, you can now fast travel between locations provided you have found and activated special Spirit Wells which, in addition, act as special save points which simultaneously replenish your Energy and Life Cells.

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Ori and the Blind Forest – Definitive Edition shows us that good story telling, a beautifully mesmerising world, emotionally on-point music, as well as meticulous design and thought to gameplay mechanics, are vital ingredients in the creation of an outstanding experience. Additionally, Moon Studios have done a sterling job at including the gamer on their journey as well as Ori’s. Regardless of the frustration I experienced whilst tackling the challenging puzzles and platforming, the accomplishment that I felt after completing them was well worth it. Ori is a game that all gamers should at least attempt and experience, and even with the steep difficulty curve, perseverance is always rewarded and Ori and the Blind Forest Definitive Edition has set the bar for which all future 2D platformers are to be measured by.

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