I’ve saved the forest! How very satisfying!
I first heard of the Ori franchise from fellow bloggers when the second game was nominated for several awards at the Game Awards in 2020. I became curious and decided to check out the series, and when I do, if I can, I start at the very beginning, so off I went to the forest of Nibel.
People told me that I was going to love the games but also that its beauty would absorb me and it was going to be a very emotional experience, I can say that they were right! Ori and the Blind Forest tells the story of how on one stormy night, one of the newborn guardian spirits, Ori, falls from the spirit tree. They are found and adopted by a creature named Naru and they live peacefully together, but sometime later the forest begins to decay and when Naru dies from starvation, Ori eventually meets a being named Sein and they embark on a journey to restore the forest of Nibel.
The gameplay itself is described as a Metroidvania game and since I played Hollow Knight, I’ve already got some experience. But for a game under that genre, it is actually much shorter than HK. There is lots of platforming involved with Ori gaining new abilities as the game progresses and many times when I have to escape a dire situation, using a new ability is stressed. However, it feels less punishing when I die as long as I save often by creating soul links.
After gaining a new ability or restoring an element, I would frequently backtrack to get more collectables, especially life and energy cells to increase my chances of surviving tougher challenges ahead.
What can I say about Ori? The characters aren’t huge in terms of development which can make the game’s story easy to get into. As I have said, Ori is a spirit separated from their biological family and is determined to save the forest after losing their foster mother Naru. Nibel himself narrates frequently and is like a father to Ori and I didn’t realize that Sein was vital to saving the forest until the end.
At some point in my journey, I met Gumo, the last of his kind who initially acts hostile but Ori’s persistent kindness leads to him embracing the light and he saves Ori not long after. I was so happy with what he decided to do later in the game. Then there’s Naru, who reminds me of a yeti, she raised Ori after finding them stranded in the storm and the prologue was so heartfelt watching them work and live together. I shed tears when she died and really enjoyed exploring the additional area of the Black Root Burrows and Lost Grove that revealed more of her past before the storm. Yes, I played the definitive edition for the additional lore it offered!
Oh man, moments in this game, where do I begin? This game is so emotional but it was still surprisingly easy to pick parts that really stand out. While the prologue really left my heart thumping, I can say that first one of the greatest parts was restoring the water element from the Ginso tree.
All seemed well once I cleansed it with Sein but then all of a sudden the clean water was rushing upward and I climbed as fast as I could, dying several times because I felt like I still hadn’t mastered the new Bash ability. But the incredible music pushed me to keep trying and it brought me to tears due to how beautiful it was. If a game’s score can motivate me to not rage quit then I love it! This particular moment is a score of desperation, motivation and hope and when I finally reached the top it was so satisfying to see the water flowing, even if Kuro appeared right afterwards revealing herself as the game’s antagonist.
I didn’t enjoy navigating the Forlorn Ruins with the gravity shifting since it really messed up my controls at certain times. I think I rage-quit a few times, but escaping it didn’t take as long. All I had to do was just use my feather chute and move carefully.
Afterwards, there was a cutscene of Kuro’s past that made me cry so much knowing that she only did what she did to protect her children and I’ll talk about that in just a moment. Even before that, I got suspicious of what Gumo was about to do when he took the orb that I used to navigate the ruins.
It turns out that I could return to the ruins after restoring the wind element to pick up any collectables I missed, I just couldn’t access the main chamber anymore.
The part later on where I had to escape Kuro without her spotting me was also terrifying, like she was watching from afar and I had to move quickly.
Since I played the definitive edition of this game, there were two additional areas to explore with new abilities to unlock as well. The platforming was challenging but it was worth it as it unlocked scenes of Naru’s backstory about how when she was a child, she previously befriended other spirit guardians like Ori, a relationship that her father did not approve of.
She then left the Lost Grove after her father’s death and then began to search for a new purpose in life which leads to the present moment of the game. I found this very sad to witness because I had felt like I had barely gotten to know Naru before her passing at the beginning of the game.
So, let’s talk about Kuro, our main antagonist. I knew she was going to show up again sometime when I was traversing through Mount Horu. There and the Sorrow Pass really put my skills to the test! Kuro was once a peaceful great owl, and Nibel narrates that she hated the light, but later I learned she wasn’t always like that.
She was once a loving mother until when Nibel cast the light to search for Ori, it somehow killed her three children, save for one unhatched egg. Devastated, Kuro swore to protect her last unborn child and stole Sein from the tree which was what eventually caused the forest to decay and tried to halt Ori every step of the way. It was like she claimed the forest as her own.
Kuro didn’t want to become evil, but she felt like it was the only way to protect the ones she loved. I see that she saw how much damage she caused after attacking Ori outside the volcano. I’m glad she redeemed herself in the end, even through sacrifice.
Simply a beautiful game with a masterpiece of a soundtrack, challenging gameplay and an emotional story. Completely worth my time, I can’t wait to play the sequel!