The sequel to the hugely popular Ori and the Blind Forest will be released within days, and gamers can look forward to new characters, features and music from a 72-piece orchestra.
Available from March 11, Ori and the Will of the Wisps tells the story of a spirit guardian on a quest to reunite with his friends, while gaining new abilities and facing enemies along the way.
The platformer game takes place in a series of expansive 2D worlds. The player is free to explore each one but may find they meet enemies too strong for Ori. They can revisit areas to find hidden secrets that will help them progress.
The first game, Ori and the Blind Forest, was the debut title for Moon Studios. It won a BAFTA Choice Award for artistic achievement and two Golden Joystick awards. One driver of the game’s success was the storyline and characters, aspects that Daniel Smith, Senior Producer at Xbox Game Studios, was keen to develop further in the sequel.
“We wanted the story to be a direct continuation of Blind Forest, mainly because people just wanted more after they finished playing it. So, the first game ends with an egg, and Will of the Wisps starts with it hatching,” he said.
Characters from the first game continue into Will of the Wisps, with Ori, Naru and Gumo featuring from the start. The group find an owl, who they raise and teach to fly. In return, it shares new abilities with Ori and supports the Spirit Guardian through its adventures.
The addition of the owl and other new characters was driven by the audience’s “affinity to the characters in Blind Forest, and the emotional attachment to them”, Smith said.
Expanding the depth of storytelling in Will of the Wisps didn’t just apply to the friendly characters – it also includes a range of enemies that want to stop Ori. “The large bosses aren’t necessarily just fights,” Smith added. “They’re incorporated into the storyline. There’s a lot of sort of allegory stitched into their story arcs, potentially with some of those characters being misunderstood at first.”
Creating further depth in Will of the Wisps meant expanding on another award-winning component of Blind Forest – the music. “I really feel like music plays one of the most important roles in conveying emotion in video games,” Smith said. “We’ve gone quite a bit bigger this time.”
Gareth Coker, the composer on the original game, returned to manage a live choir and 72-piece orchestra – twice the size of the one used for Blind Forest – in London’s AIR Studios.
Will of the Wisps launches on Xbox One, PC and with Xbox Game Pass. Smith said Game Pass offered studios an amazing opportunity to put their work in front of many more people. “It has had tonnes of upside for us,” he said. “So much hard work, dedication and passion has gone into creating this game and we just want people to love it. Game Pass really widens the funnel of people who will get to experience what we’ve created.”