Ori and the Blind Forest released back in March of last year, and by now, you're likely well aware of the indisputable fact that it's a phenomenal game. We awarded it a 9 out of 10 in our review and called it "one of the best games available for the Xbox One," a statement we stand by 100%. With the Definitive Edition arriving just last week, we've had the pleasure of returning to Nibel to see what developer Moon Studios has done to make this the premier Ori and the Blind Forest experience.
In this review, we'll only be focusing on what's new instead of retreading old ground, so please refer to our original Ori and the Blind Forest review if you want an assessment of the broader picture.
When you hear new content is coming to a game that was already great in its original form, the immediate reaction is one of elation. Then anxiety sets in: What if these changes compromise the things that made the game so special in the first place? Thankfully, that's not a concern you need to have when it comes to the Definitive Edition of Ori and the Blind Forest. While there are a couple quibbles to address, the bulk of the changes and inclusions are for the better.
First off, three new difficulty settings – Easy, Hard, and One Life – offer a range of options for players of all skills levels. Easy mode alleviates some stress by minimizing the amount of damage suffered when colliding with enemies and hazards, and it also adds checkpoints into the notoriously difficult escape sequences. Beating the game on Easy still won't be a cakewalk, but it does mitigate the lion's share of the sting. If you want to increase the challenge, hard mode should be enough to chew on. However, if you desire something even more masochistic, One Life provides you with only a single life to complete the entire game. Yes, it's as demanding and tense as it sounds.
But it's not just the new difficulty settings that make Definitive Edition a more considerate game than before. Spirit Wells now serve as fast-travel points, which makes it so you don't always have to repeat troublesome areas if you want to do some backtracking. And speaking of backtracking, you're now able to revisit temples after they've been completed, as well as return to your save file after you've watched the credits roll. These were two of our largest complaints in our original review, and we're very happy to see that they've been addressed.
An all new area called Black Root Burrows has been organically connected to the bowels of Nibel, and it's comprised of two sections. The first is shrouded in darkness, with only the glow of select platforms and foliage to guide you along. Navigating this area before the acquisition of a ball of light that illuminates your immediate surroundings is a guessing game, and for that brief duration, it's not much fun. It's the only actual flaw we found with the new content, but luckily it takes just a few minutes to get past it. The deepest section of the burrows is less gimmicky and, unsurprisingly, much better. Collecting everything in this new system of tunnels takes approximately an hour if you're not prone to dying frequently.
Black Root Burrows also contains two new abilities that make traversal more exhilarating than ever. Dash allows Ori to swiftly shoot forward on the ground and, once upgraded, through the air, while Light Burst grants the power to throw grenade-like balls of light at enemies. In addition, these balls of light can be used in conjunction with Bash, which means it's possible to launch yourself up to hard-to-reach places earlier in the game than you could before. Each of these abilities is incorporated into the original world in subtle ways, but they're game changers in terms of speed-running.
In the form of a few brief cutscenes, Definitive Edition sheds some light on why Naru didn't hesitate to rescue and care for Ori at the beginning of the story. This is a question that didn't really need an answer, as the thought of Naru being an empathetic motherly character was enough for us to understand and feel emotionally connected to her motivations. For that reason, we're indifferent to these new developments. It doesn't hurt the story or the game, but it doesn't help it either. It's just kind of there.
Despite the unneeded narrative and the misstep in Black Root Burrows, the changes/additions come together to make Ori and the Blind Forest shine brighter than ever. It's the neutered difficulty options that will mean the most to anyone who struggled to survive the savage forest the first time around, while the new areas and tricks should be enticing to returning customers. There might not be enough new content here for people only interested in the prospect of new areas to explore, but for everyone else, Definitive Edition is a great reason to pay attention to Ori and the Blind Forest again. As far as we're concerned, that's a great thing.
Definitive Edition clearly exists to ensure the best possible version of Ori and the Blind Forest is on the market, and Moon Studios has undoubtedly succeeded in that regard. If you haven't made the time for this magical Metroidvania yet, this is the way to go. If you already own a copy of the original game and are itching for another playthrough, readmission is worth the $5 upgrade. The new additions don't extend the length of the game by much, but they do freshen things up and breathe some new life into an already wonderful experience.