I am so very, very in love.
I’m also aware that I’m a bit late to the game here. Ori and the Blind Forest has been sitting in my Steam library for months awaiting attention, and I’ve only just convinced myself to give it a go. I initially bought it purely on the basis that it looks incredible; the visuals are absolutely stunning, and no matter how much I play, I can’t get over how devastatingly beautiful Ori is – but I was prepared for that. What I wasn’t prepared for were all of these feelings.
The story follows the tiny guardian spirit Ori in her quest to restore her homeland of Nibel to its former glory, after the giant owl Kuro throws the world out of balance. It’s a simple, beautiful story, inspired by the likes of Hayao Miyazaki, The Lion King, and The Iron Giant – which wasn’t difficult to see, especially while I was sobbing into my cornflakes just watching the damn prologue. I love a story that makes me cry but I hate a story that makes me cry.
In order to restore her home, Ori must recover the lights of Water, Wind, and Warmth, the three elements that hold Nibel in balance. She encounters her share of obstacles, but with the help of her tiny little spirit friend Sein – and through her own kindness – the tiny little guardian spirit certainly stands a chance. There are very few actual characters in Ori – about six, if you include the Spirit Tree himself, who serves as the story’s narrator – but sometimes, fewer characters make for a better story. It does mean that exploring Nibel can be an almost lonely experience – the presence of Sein helps a little, but I always found myself inexplicably relieved when another character appeared on-screen. This loneliness does seem to emphasise the vastness of the forest and thus the enormousness of Ori’s task – making her courage and determination all the more admirable. (Yes, I have grown very attached to her, to nobody’s surprise.)
As I’ve mentioned, Ori’s graphics are unbelievably gorgeous. Every cutscene, every environment, every character has been lovingly rendered to bring out every inch of pure beauty that could possibly exist within a game – that being said, though, this does present a problem when it comes to performance. I could continue to wax poetic all day about how magnificent the graphics are, but if, like me, you run pretty low-performance hardware because you’re too poor to afford better equipment, getting through the cutscenes alone can be a test in patience – and in how many feelings you can endure before you implode. Imagine watching the ending of The Iron Giant in slow-motion.
What makes this all the more frustrating is that, due to the way the game was made, there are no options to sacrifice graphics for performance – the best you can do is play windowed, tamper with your graphics card settings, and hope for the best. I’ve officially given up on this game because of the performance issues – I just had to play a single event about a dozen times over because my game consistently crashed, purely due to the fact that it couldn’t handle so much water being present on the screen. I don’t doubt that it would’ve been a great sequence if my computer had the hardware to run it properly, but alas – it was not to be.
Ori and the Blind Forest is a Metroidvania, and honestly, that bothers me. I hate seeing areas that I can’t currently access because I haven’t unlocked the relevant powers yet – I can be a perfectionist when it comes to games, but I’m also lazy and don’t have the patience to be constantly backtracking, trying to uncover all of the secrets a game has to offer. And Ori offers a lot; I was as thorough as I could be in the very first level, trying to get everywhere I could for where I was in the game, and I only managed to discover about 12% of the first level. 12%! I simply don't have the patience to repeatedly backtrack in order to access the other 88%.
On the other hand, it is a good way to offer more gameplay, and if my computer had the guts to run the game properly, I would be all about that life. Even if it takes me half an hour to master the precise actions you need to execute in order to get that one health booster, boy sh*t will I do it. I’m a sucker for punishment, but an even bigger sucker for that pretty little 100% completion stat.
Overall, Ori and the Blind Forest is absolutely worth the purchase – if your computer can run it properly. I still don’t regret buying it, partly because I like to support indie developers, but also because even though I wasn’t able to finish it due to its performance issues, it’s still a beautiful piece of storytelling and – cheesy as it sounds – I’m all the richer for having experienced it.
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