Ori and the Blind Forest

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Ori and the Blind Forest
Ori and the Blind Forest Logo.jpg
Developer(s) Moon Studios
Publisher(s) Microsoft Studios
Distributor(s) Nordic Games (PC)
Director(s) Thomas Mahler
Producer(s) Gennadiy Korol
Designer(s) Thomas Mahler
Programmer(s) Gennadiy Korol
Artist(s) Johannes Figlhuber
Writer(s) Thomas Mahler
Composer(s) Gareth Coker
Engine Unity
Platform(s)
Release
  • WW: March 11, 2015
Genre(s) Platform-adventure, Metroidvania
Mode(s) Single-player

Ori and the Blind Forest is a single-player platform-adventure Metroidvania video game designed by Moon Studios, an independent developer, and published by Microsoft Studios. The game was released on March 11, 2015 for Microsoft Windows and Xbox One. A Definitive Edition was released for Xbox One on March 11, 2016, and for Windows on April 27, 2016.

Players assume control of Ori, a white guardian spirit, and Sein, the "light and eyes" of the Forest's Spirit Tree. To progress in the game, players are tasked to move between platforms and solve puzzles. The game features a system called "soul links", which allows players to save at will, and an upgrade system that gives players the ability to strengthen Ori's skills.

The game was developed by Moon Studios. The game was acquired by Microsoft Studios a year after the beginning of the game's development. The game story was inspired by The Lion King and The Iron Giant, while some of the gameplay elements were inspired by Rayman and Metroid franchises.

Upon release, the game received critical acclaim, with players praising the game's gameplay, art style, story, action sequences, musical score, and environmental design. Moon Studios co-founder Gennadiy Korol said the game was profitable for the company within a few weeks after its initial launch. A sequel, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, was announced during Electronic Entertainment Expo 2017.

Gameplay[edit]

Gameplay screenshot showing Ori and Sein (blue orb above Ori's head) The HUD at the bottom represents Ori's power and health, as well as the progress towards the next level up.

Ori and the Blind Forest is a 2D platform game, the player controls Ori, a white guardian spirit.[1] They[2] have the ability to jump and climb and many other abilities. Sein can shoot Spirit Flames to combat enemies or obstacles. Ori is required to interact with their environment as they jump from platforms and solve puzzles. Ori is faced with enemies as they make their way to restoring the forest. The player helps Ori collect health shards, energy shards, new abilities, and upgrades. Beside Ori is Sein, who is the light and eyes of the Spirit Tree.[3] The game world unfolds to the player in the fashion of a Metroidvania, with new abilities allowing the player to access previously inaccessible areas.

In addition to save-points scattered in the game, players can create "soul links" at any time they choose to serve as checkpoints.[4][5] However, soul links can only be created using energy cells collected during gameplay; the needed energy is not in abundant supply, forcing players to create them only when necessary.[5] The player can gain ability points to buy various perks and upgrades, such as increasing the damage of the spirit flame. These upgrades can be bought anywhere a soul link has been created and if the player has enough ability points to buy the skill they desire. An ability point is created when Ori collects enough experience by killing enemies and destroying various plants found throughout. Each skill must be bought in sequential order from one of three trees to allow the next, more expensive skill to be accessible.

Plot[edit]

The voice of the Spirit Tree in the forest of Nibel narrates the story of when Ori fell from the tree during a storm as a newborn and was adopted by a creature named Naru, who raised Ori as her own.[6] A cataclysmic event soon makes the forest and its food supply wither, and Naru dies. Newly orphaned, Ori was left to explore the forest on their own.[4][6][7] After collapsing near the Spirit Tree of the forest and being restored to life by it, Ori later meets Sein (pronounced /sn/), a being who both guides Ori on their adventure and attacks enemies.[5] To restore the forest, Sein guides Ori to recover the light of three main elements supporting the balance of Nibel: Waters, Winds and Warmth.

Ori and Sein come across two beings in their quest: Gumo, the last survivor of the spider-like Gumon clan and whose home supports the Wind element; and Kuro, a giant owl who is hostile toward Ori. Her hostility and the forest's cataclysm are explained in flashbacks. When Ori was lost, the Spirit Tree released a flash of light to look for them, which killed all of Kuro's recently hatched offspring. To prevent this from happening to her yet unborn child, Kuro took away the core on top of the Spirit Tree, which is actually Sein. Without the Spirit Tree's support, the three elements cannot be sustained, and Nibel lost its balance. As the element of Wind is rekindled, Gumo, realizing what Ori and Sein intend to do, uses his clan treasure that stores the light from the Spirit Tree to revive Naru, and takes her to where Ori is.

After the final element, Warmth, is restored in the volcano Mount Horu, Kuro captures Ori and Sein as the fire from Horu starts to spread. Naru, who had been separated from Gumo, arrives to find Ori unconscious and is heartbroken, which makes Kuro remember how she also was struck by the pain of losing her children. As the fire spreads and is about to reach her remaining egg, Kuro takes Sein back to the Spirit Tree, which emits a flash of bright light that dissipates the fire and restores the forest, but Kuro is destroyed by the light. Time passes as the forest begins to flourish once more, and Ori is shown sitting on a log watching new spirits being born in the field at the foot of the Spirit Tree. Gumo and Naru watch together from afar, before the latter goes home, where Kuro's egg now rests, just in time to see it hatch.

Development[edit]

Ori and the Blind Forest was developed by Moon Studios, a worldwide collaboration of designers and programmers who have been working on the game four years before it was released, with Microsoft acquiring the game about a year after development started.[5][8] One of the lead team members is Thomas Mahler, an artist formerly working with Blizzard Entertainment.[6] According to Microsoft producer Daniel Smith, Moon Studios is not located in any one location, but instead staffers can be found throughout the world, from Austria to Australia and Israel to the United States.[9] Gameplay programmer David Clark described the team as being inspired by current and classic adventure games, notably the Rayman and Metroid franchises, and that Ori is intended as a "love letter" to those games.[7]

The designers say they were guided by works such as The Lion King and The Iron Giant and that it is a "coming-of-age story".[7] The designers were also heavily influenced by the work of Hayao Miyazaki, particularly with one of the levels "Valley of the Wind", being a nod to Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.[10][11] The art style is meant to appear hand-drawn, similar to the more recent Rayman titles that utilize Ubisoft's "UbiArt" graphics engine; the game instead uses the Unity engine.[4][7] The game takes place in one large map, rendered at 1080p and 60 frames per second with no visible loading time as the player explores.[4][9] According to Mahler, the game's backgrounds are all individual components, with none duplicated as in other similar titles. As an example, Mahler explained, "You see this tree in the background and this mushroom and this rock? That's the one and only place you'll ever see those assets."[8]

The game was first unveiled at E3 2014 during Microsoft's pre-show press conference at the Galen Center;[6] E3 was also the first time a number of Moon Studios employees actually met face-to-face.[8] Microsoft's Yusuf Mehdi, in charge of marketing for Xbox One, stated that they considered opening the conference with Ori, but instead chose Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.[6] During E3, attendees waited in long lines to play a demo version of the game, often waiting in queues 7-8 people deep for each of the four consoles featuring the game.[6]

Sometime after E3, Moon Studios announced on the game website that an Xbox 360 version of Ori and the Blind Forest was in development and planned for release sometime in early 2015. In November 2014, Moon Studios updated the status of the game and announced plans to push back the launch of the title into "early 2015" for Xbox One and PC, but no further mention of the Xbox 360 version was made at the time. Asked to clarify the status of the Xbox 360 edition, Moon Studios confirmed it was still in development and would be released later in 2015.[12] As of February 2017, there has been no further announcement on the status of the Xbox 360 release.

A "Definitive Edition" was announced at Gamescom 2015. The expansion contains new areas, mechanics, and artwork.[13] Specifically, it adds in an easier difficulty level, and enables fast-travel between spirit wells to help traverse the game's world. This version was released on March 11, 2016 for Xbox One, on the one-year anniversary of the game, while the Windows version was released shortly afterwards on April 27, 2016. Those who have already purchased the original game are able to upgrade to the Definitive Edition for $5.00.[14][15] In May 2016, Nordic Games announced that they had partnered with Moon Studios and Microsoft to release a retail version of The Definitive Edition for Microsoft Windows. It was released on June 14, 2016.[16]

Reception[edit]

Reception
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings (PC) 89.20%[17]
(XONE) 88.52%[18]
Metacritic (PC) 88/100[19]
(XONE) 88/100[20]
Review scores
Publication Score
Destructoid 9.5/10[21]
EGM 9/10[22]
Game Informer 9.5/10[23]
Game Revolution 4/5 stars[24]
GameSpot 9/10[26]
GamesRadar 4/5 stars[25]
GameTrailers 8.6/10[27]
IGN 8.5/10[28]
OXM (UK) 4.5/5 stars[29]
PC Gamer (US) 87/100[30]
Polygon 9/10[31]
VideoGamer.com 9/10[32]

Ori and the Blind Forest received generally favourable reviews, according to video game review aggregator Metacritic, with praise particularly directed to the game's story, visuals, gameplay, music, exploration, and environmental design. Aggregating review websites GameRankings and Metacritic gave the Microsoft Windows version 89.20% based on five reviews and 88/100 based on 12 reviews[17][19] and the Xbox One version 88.52% based on 52 reviews and 88/100 based on 73 reviews[18][20]

Writing for "Game Informer", Andrew Reiner gave the game a 9.5/10, praising its accessible yet challenging gameplay, well-designed controls, strong storytelling, surprising plot twists, rewarding exploration, orchestrated music, breathtaking and mesmerizing environmental design, as well as the wonderfully scripted challenges, which requires players to utilize creative thinking. However, he stated that the combat system in the game is not as refined as the platforming. He named the game "one of the best games of the year" and claimed that "There isn’t a bad moment in 'Ori and the Blind Forest'".[23] Chris Carter from Destructoid gave the game a 9.5/10, praising its well-executed and light narrative, satisfying upgrades as well as the visuals, which he compared to the Rayman series, but he stated that "[Ori] easily surpass them in quality." He also praised the game for allowing players to set their own checkpoints anytime. He summarized the review by saying that "It succeeds in being both a great introduction to the genre and a rewarding experience for the hardcore audience" and called the game "a new classic [as a metroidvania]"[21]

Ray Carsillo from Electronic Gaming Monthly praised the huge variety of environments, the delicate hand-drawn art style, remarkable and memorable story, and the quick save system, which has effectively avoided annoyance and frustration. He also praised the game for putting emphasis on platforming, puzzle-solving, and exploration instead of combat as it allows players to fully appreciate the level design. He also praised the game for capturing the balance between too forgiving and too punishing. However, he criticized the framerate issue as well as the game for forbidding players to re-enter certain areas. He stated that "[Ori and the Blind Forest] is polished enough to rarely break the immersion it inspires. It’s one of my favorite titles of 2015 so far and an unforgettable debut for indie developer Moon Studios."[22] Kevin VanOrd from GameSpot gave the game a 9/10, praising its vibrant visuals, carefully designed levels, thrilling and exciting escape sequence, terrific pacing, rewarding challenges, as well as the narrative, which he compared to "Okami" and "Panzer Dragoon Orta." He also praised the game's opening sequence, calling it "among the best story sequences of any game." However, he criticized the occasionally frustrating levels.[26]

Lucas Sullivan from GamesRadar gave the game a 8/10, praising its exquisite animation, phenomenal atmosphere, uplifting music, and intuitive gameplay, which he stated "has conveyed a real sense of lightweight agility." However, he criticized the save system, which may lead to constant death, the difficulty spikes during the escape sequences. He summarized the game by saying that "Completing Ori's six-to-nine-hour journey will certainly leave you feeling warm, fuzzy, and accomplished - just be ready to dig in for some particularly trying segments."[25] Nick Tan from Game Revolution gave the game a 4/5, criticizing the short length, meaningless health bar, low replay value, and the game not providing direction and guidelines to players in escape sequences.[24]

The game is considered an example of video games becoming closer to art. For example, Chris Melissinos commented that the video game audience was not used to seeing Ori and the Blind Forest's dreamlike sensitivity style of art usually reserved for high profile animated films.[33]

Sales[edit]

According to Moon Studios' Thomas Mahler, Ori and the Blind Forest became profitable for Microsoft within one week of the game's launch on Xbox One and PC; and Gennadiy Korol, co-founder of Moon Studios, said the game was profitable for the studio itself within "a couple of weeks."[34] Mahler described Microsoft as being "super-happy" with Ori and hinted that the franchise may see a future installment. He also stated that the Xbox 360 version of the game was still in development and was expected to launch later in the spring (Q2) of 2015.[34]

Awards[edit]

List of awards and nominations
Award Category Result Ref.
Golden Joystick Awards 2015 Best Original Game Nominated [35]
Best Visual Design Nominated
Game of the Year Nominated
Best Audio Won [36]
Xbox Game of the Year Won
The Game Awards 2015 Best Independent Game Nominated [37]
Best Score/Soundtrack Nominated
Best Action/Adventure Nominated
Best Art Direction Won
2016 British Academy Games Awards Original Property Nominated [38]
Music Nominated
Debut Game Nominated
Artistic Achievement Won
2016 DICE Awards Game of the Year Nominated [39]
Adventure Game of the Year Nominated
Outstanding Achievement in Animation Won
Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction Won
Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition Won
Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design Nominated
National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers (NAVGTR) awards Game, Original Adventure Won [40]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Ori and the Blind Forest Combines Beauty and Skill". news.xbox.com. Microsoft Corporation. June 10, 2014. Retrieved June 23, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Moon Studios AMA". Retrieved June 22, 2017. 
  3. ^ "ORI AND THE BLIND FOREST: EXTENDED 1080P60 GAMEPLAY - IGN LIVE: GAMESCOM 2014". IGN. Retrieved March 20, 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c d Brian Hoss (June 19, 2014). "Once Secret, Now Known: 'Ori and the Blind Forest' for the Xbox One Shined Brightly at E3". highdefdigest.com. Internet Brands, Inc. Retrieved June 24, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c d Leah B. Jackson (June 12, 2014). "E3 2014: The Enchanting Beauty of Ori and The Blind Forest". ign.com. Ziff Davis. Retrieved June 23, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f Todd Martens (June 12, 2014). "E3 2014: 'Ori and the Blind Forest' finds a challenge in sadness". latimes.com. Tribune Newspapers. Retrieved June 24, 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c d Alex Newhouse (June 16, 2014). "E3 2014: Ori and the Blind Forest is a Beautiful Metroidvania". gamespot.com. CBS Interactive, Inc. Retrieved June 23, 2014. 
  8. ^ a b c Jeffrey Matulef (July 7, 2014). "Ori and the Blind Forest looks great, but plays even better". eurogamer.net. Retrieved July 7, 2014. 
  9. ^ a b Mike Minotti (June 18, 2014). "Ori and the Blind Forest’s producer wants his beautiful Xbox One exclusive to play as good as it looks (interview)". Yahoo! Games. Yahoo!, Inc. Retrieved June 23, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Ori and the Blind Forest is a beautiful metroidvania". Destructoid. June 10, 2014. Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
  11. ^ "Ori and the Blind Forest: A beautiful version of gaming’s good ole days". The Washington's Post. March 17, 2015. Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
  12. ^ "'Ori and the Blind Forest' Platformer Delayed to 2015". crunchyroll.com. Crunchyroll. Retrieved November 24, 2014. 
  13. ^ Nunneley, Stephany (August 6, 2015). "Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition coming this fall with new content". VG247. Retrieved August 7, 2015. 
  14. ^ Gies, Arthur (March 1, 2016). "Ori and the Blind Forest Definitive Edition comes to PC, Xbox One on March 11". Polygon. Retrieved March 1, 2016. 
  15. ^ Sarkar, Samit (March 9, 2016). "Ori and the Blind Forest's Definitive Edition delayed on PC". Polygon. Retrieved March 9, 2016. 
  16. ^ Frank, Allegra (May 23, 2016). "Ori and the Blind Forest is finally getting a retail release". Polygon. Retrieved May 23, 2016. 
  17. ^ a b "Ori and the Blind Forest for PC". GameRankings. Retrieved March 20, 2015. 
  18. ^ a b "Ori and the Blind Forest for Xbox One". GameRankings. Retrieved March 20, 2015. 
  19. ^ a b "Ori and the Blind Forest for PC Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved March 20, 2015. 
  20. ^ a b "Ori and the Blind Forest for Xbox One Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved March 20, 2015. 
  21. ^ a b Carter, Chris (March 9, 2015). "Review: Ori and the Blind Forest". Destructoid. Retrieved March 9, 2015. 
  22. ^ a b Carsillo, Ray (March 9, 2015). "Ori and the Blind Forest review". Electronic Gaming Monthly. Retrieved March 9, 2015. 
  23. ^ a b Reiner, Andrew (March 9, 2015). "Beauty In Death - Ori and the Blind Forest". Game Informer. Retrieved March 9, 2015. 
  24. ^ a b Tan, Nick (March 9, 2015). "Ori and the Blind Forest Review". Game Revolution. Retrieved March 9, 2015. 
  25. ^ a b Sullivan, Lucas (March 9, 2015). "Ori and the Blind Forest review". GamesRadar. Retrieved March 9, 2015. 
  26. ^ a b VanOrd, Kevin (March 9, 2015). "Ori and the Blind Forest Review". GameSpot. Retrieved March 9, 2015. 
  27. ^ Bloodworth, Daniel (March 10, 2015). "Ori and the Blind Forest Review". GameTrailers. Retrieved March 10, 2015. 
  28. ^ Reparaz, Mikel (March 9, 2015). "Ori and the Blind Forest Review". IGN. Retrieved March 9, 2015. 
  29. ^ Castle, Matthew (March 9, 2015). "Ori and the Blind Forest review (OXM)". Official Xbox Magazine UK. Retrieved March 9, 2015. 
  30. ^ Wilde, Tyler (March 13, 2015). "Ori and the Blind Forest review". PC Gamer. Retrieved March 13, 2015. 
  31. ^ Gies, Arthur (March 9, 2015). "Ori and the Blind Forest review: the places you'll go". Polygon. Retrieved March 9, 2015. 
  32. ^ Orry, Tom (March 13, 2015). "Ori and the Blind Forest Review". VideoGamer.com. Retrieved March 13, 2015. 
  33. ^ "Can video games be art?". CNN. Retrieved 2017-06-20. 
  34. ^ a b Eddie Makuch (April 9, 2015). "Celebrated Xbox One Game Ori and the Blind Forest Profitable in One Week". gamespot.com. CBS Interactive. Retrieved April 9, 2015. 
  35. ^ Blake, Vikki (September 2, 2015). "Vote for your favourite games in this year's Golden Joystick Awards". Destructoid. Retrieved December 5, 2015. 
  36. ^ Hurley, Leon (October 30, 2015). "The Golden Joystick Awards: all the winners this year". GamesRadar. Retrieved December 5, 2015. 
  37. ^ "Nominees | The Game Awards 2015". The Game Awards. Ola Balola. November 12, 2015. Retrieved November 13, 2015. 
  38. ^ Nunnely, Stephany (March 10, 2016). "Rocket League, The Witcher 3, Fallout 4, others up for BAFTA Best Game Award". VG247. Gamer Network. Retrieved March 10, 2016. 
  39. ^ Pereira, Chris (February 18, 2016). "The 2016 DICE Award Winners [UPDATED]". VG247. GameSpot. Retrieved March 13, 2016. 
  40. ^ "NAVGTR Awards (2015)". National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers. 

External links[edit]