Big-budget gaming tends to follow the trends. You’ll see shooters, racers, and human stories with hyper-realistic graphics and enough content to fill hundreds of hours of gameplay. If you’re lucky, you’ll get all of it with only one $60 purchase! Indies have always had this innate grasp on me. The stories of a small team can be much more personal and human than anything thrown together and out the door by a billion-dollar corporation. Moon Studios happens to be one of the most forward-thinking developers in the industry. Providing expansive experiences from decentralized developers. In a quarantined world, working from home is a disruption, but Moon has been doing it since their inception. They happen to be so special that Microsoft cut several deals with them! Will I see the magic so many have?

The Spirit Tree is the source of all light in Nibel Forest, but a grave storm has taken one of his guardian spirits from him. As the Spirit Tree begins to fade, and the forest withers, Ori is raised by one kind creature. In the famine, Naru starves, and it is up to Ori to restore the elements and save Nibel. Orphaned, Ori must place their trust in the spirit Sein to guide them. The two will go through many trials, but the Spirit Tree knows that Ori’s kindness will get them through.

Ori and the Blind Forest is a pure-blooded Metroidvania. You’ll travel all over Nibel in your search to restore the elements. Ori is nimble but does not have many direct means of attack. You’re in constant control of both, but they act as one. Ori is the movement, and Sein is the brawler. Every move the duo could perform felt natural and fun. I had thought Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze would be the best swimming in a side-scroller but Ori and the Blind Forest proved me wrong. I’ve never played a Metroidvania that felt so smooth.

Nibel feels just as great as Ori herself does. Each area of the map feels well connected, and there are always at least two entrances and exits to each room. I never felt like I was trapped in one spot, but I also never felt lost. Each segment of the map felt distinct, and I never felt like areas looked too similar.

Ori and the Blind Forest might have my favorite save system in any game. At any time, you can sacrifice an orb of energy to place down a permanent save-point. This is the same energy used to perform certain types of attacks. If you’ve collected enough EXP from enemies, you can spend levels on upgrading one of your skill trees. From boosting attack, having more items show on your map, and gaining upgraded or new skills, there’s a lot to factor! You’ll find permanent health and energy upgrades hidden throughout the world.

I think the images tell you more about the graphics and atmosphere than I ever could. Each area feels natural, vibrant, and colorful. Each song is memorable and inspiring. I always knew where I wanted to go, but I found myself lost in the world my character was exploring. Though they were never obscured, I’d completely miss enemies and spikes while I admired the scenery.

Ori and the Blind Forest tells a beautiful, human, story in a fantastical world. Just as Ori, the promising and caring child, explores the world of wonders and nightmares, you feel the same emotions. This is the first Metroidvania to personally leave a mark. The Definitive Edition gives you two extra areas that expand on the lore and do it well. While I ran into a crash at the very end of my adventure, the rest ran perfectly. You could play for the beautiful world, fluid movement, or heartfelt story, but no matter what you play for, you’ll find something to love about Ori and the Blind Forest.

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