Checking the Score: Ori and the Will of the Wisps’ OST Gives Life to Natural Themes

Ori and the Will of the Wisps is the sequel to its masterful predecessor, Ori and the Blind Forest. Taking place immediately after the events of the first title, Will of the Wisps sees protagonist Ori searching to restore power to the spirits of the forest in order to resurrect his friend, Ku. What ensues is an emotional and spiritual journey to avert the forces of corruption and save their forest home. Being praised for its art style and deep storytelling, Ori and the Will of the Wisps centers on themes of friendship, family and connection to nature. With the setting taking place primarily in the Silent Woods, composer Gareth Coker has incorporated ethereal melodies and natural sounds to compliment the title’s setting and gameplay. From breathtaking woodwinds to soulful strings, Coker has created a mystifying soundtrack worthy of the title’s subject matter.

While it’s not always necessary for me to do so in Checking the Score, it’s important that we begin with the title’s Main Theme. Beautiful ethereal vocal elements accompanied by a plucky, flowing melody highlight the title’s spiritual themes while maintaining an optimistic tone. The use of strings, vocals and piano help to set the stage for themes to come by creating an uplifting, emotional sound to compliment the story. This track also features a transposition of instruments into a lower key to symbolize Ori’s maturity from the first game. For those new to the Ori franchise, one of the title’s major components is its emotional storytelling. Throughout the whole soundtrack, we hear melodies and compositions that tug at our heartstrings. To understand how Coker bridges the gap between all tracks, the Main Theme is composed with a melody that serves as an overture for Ori’s story. We hear a similar melodic composition throughout many of the tracks that bring us back to the Main Theme. I always have deep respect for composers who are able to create a sense of unity throughout an entire soundtrack because it shows thoughtful commitment to a game’s themes.

A great follow-up track that incorporates the Main Theme’s melodic blueprint while showcasing powerful emotion is “A Shine Upon Inkwater Marsh.” The track opens with mystical harps worthy of a magical forest. Woodwinds in the background help solidify the track in its natural elements with their natural sound. The rhythmic staccato of strings throughout the track helps to give it a playful sound that compliment’s the title’s Metroidvania style. The plucky melody of a staccato can help give life to the frantic jumping and traversal seen in platform games. This melody also compliments the use of percussion to create sounds that evoke natural themes. About midway through the track, the composition transforms to feature beautiful violins that elevate the track to new emotional heights. The entire track is emotional while staying true to the natural elements.

The entire sound is thoughtfully composed to represent Ori’s natural elements, but “Kwolok’s Hollow” stood out the most because of its percussive elements at the beginning. At this point in the story, Ori meets Kwolok the Toad who looks over the Inkwater Marsh. The rattling percussion is reminiscent of the croaking symphony of frogs we may hear in marshy areas. I was instantly transported to my time as a child playing in the creek by my house — as the sun would set, the frogs would strike up their song. The gorgeous cello and violins help create an almost mischievous backdrop to compliment Kwolok’s temperament. It’s a beautiful composition that evokes curiosity in our surroundings while staying true to natural themes.

 Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a true work of art because of its storytelling and visuals. The element that binds all the themes together is its soundtrack. The entire soundtrack is emotional and has been composed with the subject matter at its core. Composer Gareth Coker has taken the title’s natural elements and translated them into beautiful composition that can be heard throughout the entire body of work. The unity found within the soundtrack helps drive Ori‘s identity and themes. The soundtrack is an evolved, mature sound that still draws upon inspiration from its predecessor while staying fresh and original. Even if you haven’t played Ori and the Will of the Wisps, do yourself the favor of listening to its masterful soundtrack.