Eight months after its initial release, Ori and the Will of the Wisps received some impressive technical upgrades on the Xbox Series X and Series S. The optimized version of the game hits an ultra-smooth 60-120 frames per second on both next-gen consoles at varying resolutions. It's a huge comeback for a game that was initially subject to wonky technical issues. In the next generation, Ori sheds its graphical hangups and becomes more impressive for it.
Both consoles have frame rate-prioritizing "performance" and visually minded "fidelity" modes, but neither one feels like a compromise. On the Series S, you get to choose between 1080p with HDR at 120fps, or an upscaled 4K at 60fps. On the Series X, you can choose to play the game in 4K with HDR at a performance-focused 120fps, or goose the graphics in a supersampled 6K resolution, running at 60fps with HDR. Regardless of your settings, Will of the Wisps also benefits from enhanced load times and improved audio fidelity.
Supersampling, for anyone perplexed by the idea of playing an Xbox One-era game in 6K, processes an image at a higher resolution, then compresses it down to your TV or monitor's resolution. You know how a screenshot gets blurry when you make it ten times larger? It's kind of like the opposite of that… But happening in real-time because it's a video game and not a static image. The thing you need to know is, when using 6K mode in Will of the Wisps, you aren't actually playing in 6K, but what you are playing does get a nice visual boost over the standard 4K setting.
In anecdotal, eyeball-based terms, the colorful forests of Ori's opening hours look better in the 6K mode. Environmental elements like flowers hanging off walls and thorny spikes stick out more sharply against the background. These are small enough differences that you probably won't notice them during an intense platforming challenge. If you stop and look around, though, you'll appreciate what you see. Will of the Wisps still looks incredible in 4K; it's colorful, vibrant, and sharp. If you want to wring the absolute best visuals out of the Series X--or if, like me, you do not have a TV or monitor capable of rendering 4K and HDR at 120fps--6K is a nice little high-fidelity nudge.
Speaking of which, let's talk about performance. When it first launched, Will of the Wisps suffered from some technical setbacks, including stutters and screen tearing due to inconsistent frame rates. Not only are those issues gone now, but the game now sets a high bar for technical performance. Its animation is silky smooth at 60 frames per second. In the first four hours, I didn't see a single, momentary hitch. As I just noted above, I tested the 6K/60Hz mode but also ran the 4K/120Hz performance mode on a TV maxing out at 60Hz, so I cannot attest to how it fares when pushed in performance mode.
Beyond that, Ori and the Will of the Wisps remains an incredible action-platformer. As Steve Watts explained in GameSpot's original review earlier this year, "While Ori is ostensibly a metroidvania, Will of the Wisps is less focused on exploration and backtracking than is typical for the genre. Your objectives are usually clear, straight lines, and shortcuts littered throughout the environments get you back to the main path quickly." Will of the Wisps streamlines the exploration- and puzzle-heavy gameplay into something more straightforward. It retains the original's tight, graceful platforming and brings the same precision to its expanded combat systems. "Around the mid-game I realized I had become adept at stringing together platforming and combat skills," Watts said, "air-dashing and bounding between threats with balletic rhythm and barely touching the ground until the screen had been cleared."
Will of the Wisps was always an impressive visual showpiece, despite the technical flaws that initially held it back. It's more straightforward, combat-heavy flow may still put off die-hard fans of the original Ori, but there's that's a small nitpick for a game that retains its identity while finding a new flow. Most importantly for the Series X and S upgrades, next-gen hardware turns one of Will of the Wisps' original weaknesses into a point of pride, and that's worth celebrating.