Please note – there are spoilers included in this review.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve been turned on to the “Metroid-vania” genre of gaming. After playing games like Dead Cells and Hollow Knight, I had OATBF on my radar. I know I’m late to this one, but once I began playing, I was kicking myself for not starting it sooner!
Developed by Moon Studios, this game plunges you inside an awesomely vibrant world with meticulous design. The graphics alone make it stand out as arguably one of the most beautiful games in its genre. The game takes place in the beautiful world of Nibel, and running around it is like being in a dream you don’t want to wake up from.
What I loved
- Graphics are insane – it’s no shock that Microsoft acquired OATBF a year after its release. The tribe of developers who built this game poured their heart and souls into it. All the different regions of the game have their own unique feel. Some areas are light-hearted and friendly, while others are menacing and unforgiving. No matter where you are, you’ll feel the energy.
- Story is beautiful – a huge part of what makes OATBF a great game is its touching tale. Ori is a cute, cuddly-looking creature who falls from the Spirit Tree during a storm. After a destructive event rids the forests of Nibel its key elements, Ori must seek out and restore the forest before all hope is lost. The story is simple, but is told in a magical way.
- Game play is intuitive – creating a great game requires the synchronization of multiple factors. Nothing’s worse than playing a beautiful game with clunky player movement, or vice versa. I’m glad to say that OATBF feels smooth and balanced. Once you get a feel for how Ori moves, you’ll be dancing around the game’s various landscapes in no time.
- Puzzles galore – the world of Nibel is filled with quizzical obstacles Ori must navigate in order to advance to the next part of her quest. Other items, like ability points and life cells, are almost always a direct prize for a series of quick-fingered reflexes.
What was “meh”
- Difficulty setting is key – I may get roasted for this, but I tend to play most games on the standard difficulty setting, or “normal”. Playing OATBF, I found myself breezing through most of the areas in the game. Some of the puzzles held me up, but were conquerable within 3-5 attempts. Ori has a skill tree with three skills you can upgrade. I was able to beat the game while only upgrading to about 75% of the ability tree (there’s even an achievement for beating the game with no skill upgrades).
- Combat is limited to few abilities – this may come as no surprise, since Ori is so innocent-looking and she doesn’t do her own fighting (that skill comes from her luminescent escort, Sein). Except for a few upgradable attacks, Ori doesn’t evolve much in the way of combat. Most of the foes in one part of the game are re-skinned and have the same attacks in another, leaving little room for combat evolution.
Plot summary (skip down to analysis if you don’t want to read summary): As mentioned above, the story focuses on Ori, a guardian creature who falls from the Spirit Tree during a storm. Ori is adopted by a loving, ape-like creature known as Naru. After Nibel loses its key elements, Naru dies from starvation and leaves Ori to explore the forest on her own.
We’re aware of Kuro and how she steals the Spirit Core (the catalyst that rids Nibel of its key elements) from the top of the Spirit Tree. However, later in the game, we come to learn why Kuro does this. When Ori fell from the Spirit Tree, it released a blinding wave of light to search for the fallen Ori. This light also happens to incinerate Kuro’s three owl chicks while she’s out foraging food for them (as a new father, this resonated with me and I immediately empathized with Kuro). Later in the game, Ori discovers that Kuro has one unhatched egg, which explains why she’s so hostile towards Ori and her mission to return the Spirit Core.
At the end of the game, Ori outruns Kuro from the raging inferno inside Mount Horu and is knocked unconscious at the feet of Kuro. At this moment, a resurrected Naru (from the help of a spider-like creature called Gumo, stops Kuro and picks up Ori. Kuro sees the love between Naru and Ori and thinks back on her own love for her deceased chicks. Not wanting to cause anymore destruction, Kuro swiftly carries the Spirit Core back to the Spirit Tree, where upon placing the core in its home, she meets the same fate as her baby chicks. The game ends with Ori, Naru and Gumo enjoying a beautifully-revived Nibel, with the addition of one baby owl egg.
Plot Analysis: My initial thought is that OATBF is a metaphor for humans and their increasing deforestation of the world. Ori and her kind are symbolic of humans and their great power. Humans are brilliant creatures with amazing potential, but are often blind to their selfish natures and the effects it has on their surrounding habitats.
When Ori falls from the Spirit Tree, the tree releases a blinding wave of light to try and find her. We can assume the tree is either unaware of the destructive capability of the light or simply doesn’t care. This is a prime example of human selfishness – sacrificing the lives of living creatures in a vain attempt to locate a lost member of their family.
The game also tells the brief tale of Gumo, whose spider-like tribe of Gumons were destroyed after Kuro took the Spirit Core. I won’t get into too much detail about this, but it’s interesting to note that Kuro displayed a similar course of action to the Spirit Tree after losing her babies. Her actions wiped out Gumo’s entire clan. Also, Gumo didn’t react spitefully to the death of his clan, which is opposite to Kuro’s reaction.
Despite its small flaws, this game is worth every penny. The graphics and story are worth your time alone, but there are many more fascinating aspects to the game (did I forget to mention the amazing soundtrack?). I’ve already begun playing Ori and the Will of the Wisps (watch out for that review coming soon).
OATBF is a game that will enthrall you with its heart and spirit. Just make sure you’re ready to wake up when you’re finished.
What did you think of the game and my review? Whether you agree or disagree, drop a comment below and let’s talk about it!