Ori and the Blind Forest: A Triumph of Handcrafted Beauty

Amy Fenton
Authored by Amy Fenton
Posted: Tuesday, April 30, 2024 - 23:22

With its breathtaking painted visuals and fluid animation, Ori and the Blind Forest has been widely hailed as one of the most beautifully crafted games ever made. The 2015 indie platformer conjures a fantasy world brimming with colour, detail, and artistic passion. Ori's hand-painted forest brings together the nostalgic charm of traditional media with cutting-edge interactivity. Through its incredible art direction, Ori demonstrates how games can be elevated into stunning works of visual artistry. This platforming masterpiece sets a new benchmark for aesthetic excellence in the medium.

Origins of the Blind Forest

Ori and the Blind Forest started as a student project by Vienna-based Moon Studios. The indie studio wanted to create a Metroidvania-style platformer that stood out through artistic excellence. Inspired by animated films like Princess Mononoke and paintings by Paul Gauguin, Moon Studios honed an interactive art style combining hand-painted environments with fluid character animations. The ecru colour code provides a soothing neutral tone throughout the environments. After five years of development, their labour of love was released in 2015 to critical acclaim, and praised as one of the most beautiful games ever crafted.

A Painterly Game World Brought to Life

Ori's forest world is utterly mesmerising in its artistry. Described as a "living painting", with dappled sunlight filtering through leaves, rippling water, and swaying grass, locations like the sun-dappled Swallows Nest and the ominous Misty Woods burst with colour and detail. The backgrounds are pre-rendered paintings overlaid with dynamic lighting and particle effects, blending traditional media with real-time rendering. This gives the world a magical, storybook feel while remaining fully interactive.

Vibrant Colours and Soothing Tones

Ori uses a rich, vibrant colour palette dominated by oranges, greens, blues and purples. These hues bring the natural beauty of the forest to life and distinguish different environments like the moonlit Thornfelt Swamp and fiery Mount Horu. Within the environments, there is careful use of contrasting and complementary shades to make elements stand out. For example, green plants pop against ecru stone textures. The colours are never garish but rather soft and blended, as in impressionist paintings. This creates a visual feast that delights the eyes.

Matchless Artistic Cohesion

Every element in Ori, from environments to characters, adheres to the same stylistic principles. Smooth, curved shapes dominate, with ornate decorative patterns used to embellish structures and props. The characters are cutesy anthropomorphic beings with large heads, nimble bodies and textured fur. Their emotive animations, especially Ori's nimble movements, bring them to life. The visuals form a unified artistic whole rather than seeming disjointed or clashing. This level of cohesion and harmony between all gameplay elements is rarely matched in other games.

Mesmerising Attention to Detail

What really brings Ori's world to life is the incredible attention to detail. The stunning environments overflow with tiny touches that make them feel real and lived-in, from swaying lamps to scurrying creatures. Interactive elements like flowing water or gusting winds are seamlessly integrated into the painterly backgrounds. Small visual flourishes abound, rewarding keen-eyed players who take the time to appreciate them. This level of care infuses the Blind Forest with a sense of place and immersion few virtual worlds can match.

A Work of Interactive Art

Ori goes far beyond the visuals typically expected of platformer games. Moon Studios wanted to make players feel like they are navigating an interactive painting. The stunning environments overflow with tiny touches that make them feel real and lived-in and boy have they succeeded. While many games rely on technical brilliance, Ori succeeds through sheer artistry and attention to detail. Every screenshot is worthy of framing and admiration. Its graceful beauty has expanded perceptions of what is possible with handcrafted game artwork. Ori and the Blind Forest will be remembered as one of the most gorgeous masterpieces the genre has ever produced.

The Artistic Legacy Continues

Ori's stunning visual heritage lives on in its 2020 sequel, Ori and the Will of the Wisps. While expanding the scope and gameplay, Moon Studios retains the series' signature art style that made the first game so iconic. New creatures and areas reveal even richer environmental detail and lighting effects. The painterly backgrounds are more vibrant than ever, from the blooming meadows to haunted wastelands. By remaining true to its artistic vision, the Ori series has defined a bold new stylistic direction for the platforming genre. The Blind Forest and its sequel are interactive art of the highest calibre, and both are fantastic games to play.