‘Ori and the Blind Forest’ is a single-player platform fantasy adventure video game, that tells the tale of Ori, a forest guardian, and its partner Sein, a forest spirit. Simply put, their job is to traverse through different areas of the forest and restore the elements of Water, Wind, and Warmth in order to bring back balance in the land of Nibel. Along the way, Ori will gain new powers that will help it navigate the forest and will have to defeat Kuro (the villainess and the main reason behind the devastation of the forest) and other corrupted spirits and obstacles, as well as befriend other forest dwellers in order to gain their trust and aid.
I have to admit, initially, the gameplay nor the premise sold this game for me, as I’m not a huge fan of platform games—it was the soundtrack and the graphics (which were both showcased during the menu); they were insanely gorgeous and emotionally captivating, and it helped that one of my favourite singers did most of the vocals in the soundtrack and provided the voice for Sein as well. But I soon found out that the developers wasted no time getting to the meat of things—by the first ten minutes, players would have already been subjected to an emotional rollercoaster of family, friendship, love, loss, and loneliness—and I was instantly hooked from then on. The rest of the game follows Ori’s journey through the forest multiple challenging yet unique tasks that Ori must complete in order to move forward.
I love how every character was created in an anthropomorphic fashion and so have their own distinct personalities and traits. My favourite character has to be Naru, Ori’s mother figure. She doesn’t show up much in the game, but for every scene she’s in, she just wins my heart over and over with her compassion, selflessness, and conditional love for Ori. I did think Ori’s characterisation was lacking, but I didn’t mind it much as I assumed Ori was meant to be a ‘blank slate’ so that players could, in a sense, step into Ori’s shoes and enjoy the game in its entirety.
I appreciated how the forest was constructed—it’s massive, intricately designed, with lots of hidden areas (which may or may not be found, depending on a) how keen the players are and/or b) how many power ups they have collected so far) with multiple different threats in different areas, which provided a variety of obstacles for the players to pass through. I thought it really helped with the immersion process and the developers made sure that the world building was put to full-effect because of this. My favourite bit was the water area, as not only was it the least confusing one to navigate (which isn’t saying much when it comes to me), but the soundtrack played during the final scene in it was my favourite one as well, so it was a double win for me. My only problem was that navigating the forest took up a lot of my time and a lot of the game required a lot of running back and forth between areas, so that often times frustrated me.
‘Ori and the Blind Forest’ is a gorgeous game with a riveting plot and fantastic world building and characterisation. The forest design, the character dynamics, the different stages and challenges, as well as the many, many chilling scenes, accompanied by the emotionally harrowing and/or adrenaline-rushing soundtrack, will surely win the hearts of many.