Ori and the Blind Forest

There’s a million things I could complain about in Ori and the Blind Forest (and I will), But I still kinda liked it. When the graphics, music and the general mood of the game is this pleasant, it’s hard to get too angry about anything.

But to start the complainathon, the enemies suck. 70% of the fights in the game are against blobs. You fight blue blobs, yellow blobs, red blobs. There’re other types of enemies too, but the most common is a blob. Combat mostly involves you standing still and maybe moving a few pixels to the side to avoid projectiles. It feels more like RPG combat than something you’d want in a precision platformer. I’m just speculating here, but it feels like the boring enemy design was a consequence of the amount of time it took to create and animate each one to this level of fidelity. The four main characters in the story look good, but there are no big enemies or creatures, outside of the primary antagonist. The enemies work best when they’re used as part of puzzles, which is thankfully their primary role later in the game.

Most of the work seems to have gone into making the world itself. In terms of artwork the levels all look either great or amazing. But for the first half of the game I felt it was holding back too much, which made it feel like I was going through the motions. Later on it got much better as the level design becomes more complex. But there are so many other platformers out there which have already done the same things Ori and the Blind Forest does, so I found many of the challenges to be bland. When you’re doing things like wall gliding, double jumping, anti-gravity and so on the game doesn’t raise the bar in any way. It does the most obvious things everyone else has already done, outside of one thing, which is the “blast” ability. With this skill you can use enemies and projectiles to hurl yourself in any direction you want. It’s the one good idea the game had of its own, and it does liven things up a bit.

By far the most annoying thing in the game is the chase sequences, where you do several challenges in rapid sequence. I guess the intention was to make these as exciting as possible by throwing tons of hazards into the environment. But the result is that you have so little time to react, and there are so many hazards on screen, that you go into a trial and error cycle, slowly getting closer to the end with each retry. There are no checkpoints during these sequences, which had the effect of wearing me down mentally as I was getting closer to the end. After one of them, I just felt numb. There was no sense of victory, as the price to get there had been too high. This is how soldiers felt in WWI. You have to be lucky in order to breeze past on the first or second attempt. Given the style they chose for the visuals and story; I wish the developers would’ve made it easier.

When it comes to the story, I liked the idea of it more than the execution. The opening scene does a great job of tugging on the heartstrings. But after that it goes off the rails. For what the story tries to do, it’s too thin in what is expressed during both game and cutscenes. Most of the time cutscenes only tell you what to do next, without there being character development, or foreshading or anything. That’d be fine in a different game, but Ori was aiming for more, and falls on its face. There are plot twists which feel totally unearned as they aren’t set up properly. At one point I started to feel disconnected to the story as I didn’t understand what was happening. It’s all “go here, do this”, without adequately explaining WHY. When the last cutscene played, I wasn’t buying into what was happening at all. It's the dramatic highlights of a good story, without the actual meat of it.

But I’m not going to blame you if you like Ori and the Blind Forest more than I did. A lot of people seem to have. For all my complaints, it’s “fine”. I was just hoping for more, especially since it sometimes got very close to being great. Oh well.

Peter HasselströmComment