Story-based platformers aren’t exactly the rarest thing in the world, and we’ve had quite our fair share of emotional/story-based platformers this generations so far, like Valiant Hearts, Child of Eden and such. The bar this generation had been set quite high, but every once in a while a special kind of game comes along, one which manages to capture the essence of not only gaming in general, but the essence of themes that are relevant to our everyday lives, and manage to immerse us in a world that is not only out of this world, but also captures the depth of our own.The tale of Ori and the Blind Forest beings as we meet Ori, a Forest Spirit that was separated from his home as a baby. As Ori withered away into the wild, he is discovered by Naru, who takes him in as his own. Raised as her own, Ori and Naru grow incredibly close together, and their amazing bond is set-up in a powerful prologue that may not be long, but it’ll follow players long into the game. After a terrible series of devastating events is set in motion, Ori’s world starts to fall into decay, and the young orphan must find his strength to fulfil the destiny that lies ahead of him and save the world that he became to call home.
At first sight Ori and the Blind Forest may seem light-hearted, but its themes can be incredibly mature throughout the narrative. One could call the world cute, but it can have a serious bite as a whole. The game has little to no voice acting, aside from some narrative speak, which is spoken in a language of the universe itself and translated visually with stylised subtitles, which are told from the point of view of an important related character. Themes like loss, responsibility and such are echoed continuously throughout the narrative, which effectively adds emotional weight to the shoulder of the player. Despite the lack of actual voices, Ori and all surrounding characters are simply as engaging as can be, and Ori’s body language alone can tell a thousand words, ranging from sadness to happiness, and all emotions in the spectrum in-between.
The world of Ori and the Blind Forest is full of depth, and both the background information and main narrative are some of the most well realised pieces of writing that I’ve encountered in gaming in a long time, and possibly even film. Every piece of gameplay, area and characters is woven into the intricately-detailed universe in a natural way, in which every piece of story, gameplay and design has its rightful place in the universe. Moon hasn’t just succeeded in creating a coherent story, but a story that genuiniely connects with players, and lets players not only move throughout its world with purpose, but with a clear goal and motivation.