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Ori And The Will Of The Wisps is the best Xbox game of 2020, and it's not even close. Okay, so you could probably count the number of Xbox exclusives released this year on one hand; and yes, the game also released for PC, and has since come to Nintendo Switch, albeit several months after its Xbox debut. But the fact remains: Ori And The Will Of The Wisps is an Xbox Game Studios title through and through, and a tantalising glimpse of Microsoft's vision for the future of video games.
Moon Studios blew me away back in 2015 with Ori And The Blind Forest, a beautifully made Metroidvania with real heart to it. Will Of The Wisps could easily have been more of the same, and I would have been more than happy to shower it with admiration. But what we got was a sequel that's bigger, better, bolder and braver in every conceivable way.
All of those classic influences are still there. If you've played Super Metroid or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, you'll immediately be familiar with the game's structure, and the intoxicating way in which new areas and secrets become available the more items you find and tricks you learn. That was something Blind Forest excelled at, and Will Of The Wisps has, dare I say it, perfected the formula completely, blending exploration with platforming so seamlessly that making your way through previously travelled areas almost never feels like a chore.
Chaining together jumps, rolls, double jumps, dashes, and grapples can feel a little tricky at first, but the game wisely gives away most of these basic skills early on, giving you the bulk of the adventure to hone your movements and pirouette through areas with stunning grace. There's also a generous fast travel and save system, so the game rarely gobbles up your time in needless ways, something I'm starting to appreciate much more as I get older.
But Will Of The Wisps is also a game that owes as much to the classics as it does to newer releases like Hollow Knight, Dark Souls, and Breath Of The Wild. The bouncy melee combat, myriad of secret areas, and fearsome boss battles invite the most intrepid challengers to see it all.
It can be properly difficult in the way that the games it models itself on are, but accessibility still remains at the heart of the experience, and the adventure can be tailored to suit many playstyles and skill levels. If you just want to stick around for the gorgeous world with its varied areas, fascinating characters, and gut-wrenching story, you can do that without paying the more challenging aspects much mind at all.
You can argue till the wisps come home about which way the developer "intended" you to enjoy this game, but Moon Studios has done such a good job crafting a heartfelt adventure that you'll never truly care. Even the hardest setting is designed in such a way that it never truly feels unfair, and gently invites those that beat the game on the lowest setting to come in and try again with more of a challenge.
I don't really know what else to say, my friends. I spent most of 2020 harping on about exactly why Ori And The Will Of The Wisps was 2020's first must-play title (here's that review). We've had plenty more bangers since then, of course, but Moon Studios' magical action platformer has effortlessly held its own to remain one of the most essential video game experiences of this year. Just play the damn thing, I implore you.
Check out GAMINGbible's picks for other platforms:
PlayStation Game of 2020: 'Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales'
Nintendo Game of 2020: 'Animal Crossing: New Horizons'
PC Game of 2020: 'Hades'
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