Still on the metrodivania kick, I picked up Ori and the Will of the Wisps on Switch. I had played the original on PC and was more than pleasantly surprised. The sequel is just as amazing.
Ori is a metroidvania with respect to exploration, non-linear progress, and skills unlocking new areas. That seems somewhat straightforward and evident, but its the differences that make it stand apart.
Ori is really a platformer at heart, parkour to the next level. The closest analogy is Celeste, in the sense of continual movement, without the puzzle element. With the exception of a few bosses, you never need to kill/attack anything. You can, and it’s a way to speed up collection of money to purchase things, but it’s never mandatory. Instead the game puts a ton of emphasis on environmental hazards, spikes, explosions, lasers and so on. It accents this on a more than a few boss battles where you have a wall of death behind you and need to quickly and cleanly escape using a pile of skills. And with the sole exception of the last boss, you should be able to clear the game without getting hit, making hit points not all that relevant.
Ori is also a fable of sorts, where the story is told through a narrator and experienced through the same environment. There are quests throughout, more for exploration than much else. There are a few cut scenes and NPC dialogue, but it’s the world itself that changes around you that resonates the most. You clear a zone, and the world changes. The art is just plain spectacular, and the music is near perfect. If it wasn’t for the difficulty and frequent deaths, I’d consider this zen.
Credit to the non-linear development here. You hit a cross road about a 1/3rd of the way in and have 4 options to take. Each can be completed in the order you want, and gives a skill that allows for further exploration. Aside from a skill that creates a light for dark areas, the other 3 are all movement based to reach new areas. Many metroidvanias give the appearance of choice (Blasphemous actually delivers in the first 1/3rd), but its more artificial as the boss selection is linear. There are no hidden bosses, crazy skills, or major secret areas. Maybe a nook or a cranny here; in general what you see is what’s there.
I’d be remiss not to mention the difficulty here. Metroid Dread can be beat by nearly anyone. Bloodstained takes it up a notch. Blasphemous is next up, and Hollow Knight a sort of pinnacle. Ori is near the top, not because it’s punishing, but because it’s demanding. The final area in particular has some absolutely devastating areas to get through that feel like trial and error, with little respite. It isn’t 1-hit death, and when you do die, you only lose the progress on that attempt.
There aren’t many games like Ori and the Will of the Wisps, and it’s a right joy to play through. It’s a different take on the metroidvania genre, with a much larger focus on precise movement and exploration, rather than difficult combat. Highly recommended.