When Microsoft and Moon Studios' Ori and the Blind Forest launched on Xbox One last year, it quickly became a sleeper hit. Ori's emotional introduction sequence, vibrantly colorful world, and challenging Metroidvania gameplay won gamers' hearts as well as numerous awards. But Ori was not a perfect game, with the lack of fast travel leading standing out as its greatest problem.
This year, Ori gets another chance at perfection with Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition. The new edition contains all of the original game's greatness, plus many improvements like fast travel, a new area, and new moves. We played Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition at the Xbox Spring Showcase and met the game's producer from Microsoft. Read on for full impressions and video with interview and gameplay!
The Definitive Edition brings a number of enhancements to Ori and the Blind Forest:
Definitive Edition adds one vast new area called Black Root Burrows, which you can see in our gameplay and interview video. Here players will learn the backstory of Naru, the motherly character who cares for Ori and definitely lives a long and happy life. Is Naru a descendant of the mighty Totoro? You'll have to play to find out!
Black Root Burrows begins in total darkness. Our hero Ori must navigate the dark and dangerous realms by carrying a glowing orb that lights the immediate vicinity and causes hidden platforms to temporarily become visible. The orb somewhat limits Ori's mobility, exposing you to increased danger from enemies and other threats. Although Definitive Edition features a new Easy mode, the realm of Black Root Burrows still features an abundance of instant-death spikes. This is still Ori and the Blind Forest, after all.
Players won't be able to fully explore Black Root Burrows on their first visit. Ori is a Metroidvania game – an explorative action-platformer with an emphasis on backtracking. So like other areas of the game, portions of the new realm will be inaccessible until Ori discovers a new ability later in the game. And thanks to the new Fast Travel option, returning to further explore the Black Root Burrows will be a snap.
Black Root Burrows boasts brand new music from the original Ori composer, Gareth Coker. Microsoft also promises "new secret areas" have been added to Ori's land of Nibel, so it sounds like existing areas will be at least a little larger as well.
Two new abilities
As with other Metroidvania games, our protagonist Ori gains new abilities throughout the game. Some of these provide new combat powers, whereas others simply allow Ori to reach new areas.
Definitive Edition adds two new abilities for Ori to discover: Dash and Light Burst. As you'd expect, Dash allows the hero to gain a quick burst of speed. With further upgrades, players will also be able to dash in the air and attack enemies by dashing.
The Light Burst is a combat-focused ability. By pressing and holding the button, players can aim and throw a grenade made of light. Tapping the button simply lobs an explosive projectile at the nearest enemy. Although Light Burst acts primarily as an attack, it can also be used to trigger switches and solve puzzles.
Although the original Ori is a Metroidvania game, it's also one of the more challenging examples of the genre. The level design relies heavily on spikes that instantly kill Ori, so death is never far away. The ability to save anywhere (provided you have enough energy) somewhat alleviates the 1-hit kill issue, but not entirely. And the occasional forced scrolling sections don't allow saving anyway. As a result, some Metroidvania fans found the game too challenging.
Definitive Edition solves the challenge issue by adding a new Easy mode. This optional difficulty changes the game in several ways, such as reducing the health of enemies and adding checkpoints to the forced scrolling sections. I still found Easy a bit hard during my brief gameplay session, but it should still lessen frustration and open up Ori to more gamers.
Experienced gamers can still play Ori on Normal, Hard, or the new 1-Life Mode. The original game had an Achievement for finishing with only one life, but it wasn't a user-selectable mode. Now, when you choose 1-Life Mode, you won't be able to back up your save. When Ori dies, the game will simply end. And yes, there's an Achievement for completing 1-Life Mode.
In my review of Ori and the Blind Forest, I complained about the lack of Fast Travel – the ability to jump back and forth between areas at will. The locations on the map known as Spirit Wells "would have functioned perfectly well as fast travel locations," I noted.
Moon Studios must have agreed, because the Definitive Edition now allows players to Fast Travel between any Spirit Wells they have discovered. That should make returning to previous areas and looking for collectibles so much more pleasant.
Cross-save with Windows 10
Although the Windows 10 version of Ori: Definitive Edition has no release date yet and won't launch alongside the Xbox version this month, it will bring a very welcome feature when it finally shows up – cross-save support! That means the Xbox One and Windows 10 versions of Ori: Definitive Edition will share save data via the cloud.
Players will be able to start playing one version and then resume seamlessly on the other version, provided they own the game on both Xbox One and Windows 10. Ori will not be a cross-buy title, unfortunately. To take advantage of the cross-save feature, you'll have to buy both versions of the game.
A separate game
The Definitive Edition will be considered a separate game from the original Ori and the Blind Forest. It will not be released as downloadable content or a title update for the existing game. In fact, the original game will be retired (made unavailable for future purchase) and replaced by the new version.
The upside to this is the Definitive Edition will (presumably) have its own separate Achievement list from the original. Hardcore Ori fans who pick up the new game will not only be able to play through it again and experience the Definitive improvements, they will also be able to earn a whole 1,000 Gamerscore worth of new Achievements in the process.
On the other hand, existing Ori and the Blind forest owners won't receive a free upgrade to the Definitive Edition. They'll have to part with some money to explore the Black Root Burrows. Luckily, Microsoft tells us there will be "an upgrade path" for people with the original Ori. They'll be able to pick up the Definitive Edition at a discount – not unlike how Xbox 360 Minecraft owners can get the Xbox One version for only five bucks.
Although Ori and the Blind Forest Definitive Edition arrives in less than two weeks, Microsoft has not yet announced pricing for either the full game or the upgrade for existing Ori owners. The first Ori launched at $19.99, so hopefully the Definitive Edition won't cost much more than that. As for the Definitive Edition upgrade, I'm betting it will clock in at $10 for those who already own Ori.
We'll learn more about Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition's pricing sometime between now and the launch of the Xbox One version on Friday, March 11. The Windows 10 game will arrive in the future as a separate purchase. We're definitely looking forward to playing it on both platforms.