My Top Ten Games of 2015
#10 MASSIVE CHALICE
#7 Ori and the Blind Forest
When you first see screenshots or videos of Ori and the Blind Forest your initial reaction is probably, “ohh, pretty.” Your second reaction might be, “oh, another indie metroidvania.” Stylistic action-platformers have become all the rage in the indie gaming scene, and Ori isn’t even technically an indie game, having been published by Microsoft Studios.
I dismissed it at first but readily admit to my terrible mistake. Ori and the Blind Forest is indeed beautifully drawn and emotionally engaging. Cute characters in peril tear at your heart strings. But the hidden depth and challenging difficulty are what really make Ori stand out as one of the shining examples of the genre.
Ori is a tree spirit that became lost from its parent tree after a violent storm. You must navigate through a beautiful but deadly fairy tale-like forest. You soon meet Sein, a glowing ball spirit that acts as a weapon, and your helpful companion.
Like any good metroidvania you start out extremely weak, with little health and limited abilities. Throughout the game you gain experience orbs to level up new abilities, and gain critical powers at regular intervals in the game world.
The map is nothing short of amazing. It does an incredible job showing you how to navigate the world full of underwater caverns and fiery temples. The main story is a linear journey through wildly different zones, but the world design opens up a bit more with each new ability gained, whether it’s gliding on wind or climbing walls.
Massive puzzle-filled dungeons punctuate the end of each zone, giving the game a distinctive Zelda flavoring that goes down real smooth. Like Zelda each dungeon utilizes a new power or ability, along with a challenging boss battle and/or platforming race at the end.
Through little dialogue the story still manages to convey a simple but dramatic journey, along with a major twist involving the frightening giant bird that serves as your primary antagonist. Several key moments provide some harrowing timed puzzles and platforming with Kuro the bird, serving up regular intervals of humble pie for little Ori.
The game is well aware of its challenge. Dying is frequent. A major gameplay mechanic is the ability to expend some energy to create manual checkpoints called Soul Links. This lets you attempt numerous tricky platforming sections with the safety of quick respawns. It’s very hard in the early game but after a time I always had plenty of energy to create a save point wherever I needed. Still, by the end I had well over 150 deaths.
If you’re at all a fan of action-platformers, Ori and the Blind Forest is just about the best I’ve played. It’s the complete package from tight controls to a fun world to explore to a story you actually care about. Don’t dismiss it as just another pretty indie game, Ori and the Blind Forest is well worth your time.