Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition is the natural progression of what is already a superbly tight platformer. Definitive Edition is not a remaster or a remake, but the final polishing of game to realise the true vision of its designers. It stands as what the developers want you to know the game as, and it has something for both those who fell in love with Ori the first time and for newcomers alike.
I played the original game on the Xbox One last year, so what do I think of this new version? Is it truly definitive, or was the original a sufficient declaration of a vision?
In 2015 Moon Studios demonstrated that Nintendo now has some serious competition in platformers from indie developers. While major publishers have largely left the platformer genre to Nintendo, indie developers have created a number of unique, challenging and quirky platformers. Ori and the Blind Forest is one of the latest in this series of platformers, taking significant history from the Metroid and Castlevania games.
In essence, Ori is a metroidvania that combines twitch platforming with exploration, combat and action sequences. On top of that it has a stunning art direction which has been extremely well executed. If that’s the sort of game that sounds attractive to you, and you haven’t played Ori at all, then there’s almost no need to read the rest of this review. Go out and download this game now, safe in the knowledge that what awaits you will be a challenging adventure. If you’re still not convinced, then I hope what follows will take you over the line.
Ori begins with a very Up-like beginning that will leave you emotional as anything. Though the actual content amounts tired trope, it is performed so excellently with such great character animations that it can’t help but be affecting. Over the course of the game the omnipresent narrator fleshes out what has happened to the forest and Ori’s unique role in bringing it back from the brink of destruction. While the story begins strongly I never felt compelled by it after that. It reeks of melodrama and generally takes itself rather too seriously. That said, it never really gets in the way too much and does nicely link into the environment at times.
All this the new Definitive Edition retains from the original. There are a couple of extra areas that flesh out some more of the background details of the narrative. Some other welcome additions are cross-save between the Xbox One and Windows 10 devices and support for 4K and ultra-wide displays. There has also been some quality of life improvements such as the addition of teleporting between regions at wells. Teleportation in particular greatly incentives more exploration than the original, where it was tedious (and difficult!) to backtrack to old areas.
Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition retains the game’s trademark gorgeous environments that slowly unlock as you gain new abilities to smash walls and unlock new areas.
But don’t let those looks fool you. Ori is an incredibly complex game, mechanically speaking. Almost from the earliest stages you will be tasked with fairly advanced platforming mechanics that are most definitely not welcoming to new players. At times this felt a bit unfair, with points of failure impossible to see beforehand or even to predict. Too many times I dropped or climbed up to a new area only to be quickly dispatched by an unknown environmental obstacle or enemy.
Fortunately, the game resets quickly, allowing you to try again (and again) without lengthy loading screens. The feeling of accomplishment after completing a particularly gnarly section is immense, though particular areas point much more to frustration than adulation. These environmental challenges are somewhat softened by the ability to save almost anywhere in the game.
The self-selecting save point ability remains as one of the more innovative and welcome design decisions. That said, if you play on anything but easy expect to be frustrated at many points in your journey. Speaking of, the Definitive Edition allows you to cut down the difficulty even further through the addition of an Easy mode. But be careful, changing it down to easy resets your leaderboards. This won’t be an issue for most who will play Ori as a single-player game, but for those looking to compete it’s worth noting.
I recommend playing Ori on the largest screen with the lowest refresh rate. If you’re on a TV make sure that it’s on the “Game” mode – where most TV post-processing is turned off. Input lag can be extremely detrimental so eliminating it as much as possible is essential.
You’re also mad if you play Ori with a mouse and keyboard – I recommend either a PS4 (through enabling software such as DS4Windows) or an Xbox One controller. The disappointing D-Pad on the Xbox 360 controller makes it less suitable, though still workable.
Finally, Ori in its definitive edition is now available on the Windows Store, but using that version led to a number of headaches for me – all avoidable if playing the game sourced from other storefronts. It had a hard time downloading in the first place, going full screen and hiding the Windows taskbar, and in detecting my controller.
Ori’s Definitive Edition is a strangely-priced $6.65 (AUD) upgrade for existing game owners and $26.95 (AUD) for new owners. So is it worth the upgrade?
If you’re a completionist and want to spend as much time in the Ori’s forest home, then the new edition will be a boon to you. Alternatively, if the immense difficulty of the game has put you off ever trying it, the new easy mode should help you along. Despite important issues and frustrations with the core platforming, the whole package of Ori continues to be a stunning display of what a modern platformer can be. It’s a fine contribution and heir of masterful game design, and something that’s well worth experiencing on your own.
Released: April 2016
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC (Windows 7 or higher)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Platformer
Developer: Moon Studios
Publisher: Moon Studios