- Format: PC (version reviewed),Wii U, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One,
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Ubisoft
- Developer: Ubisoft
- Players: 1
- Site: childoflight.ubi.com
There are things that just seem far too disparate to mingle well: peanut butter and jam, rap and rock, sci-fi and fantasy, etc. Whether the disconnect is a matter of taste or ideologies, they often end up coming together in a surprisingly cohesive delight – one which Ubisoft hope to achieve in Child of Light, tying the platformer and RPG genres together with stunning artwork in the inviting world of Lemuria.
Child of Light is the tale of the recently deceased Aurora and her firefly sidekick, Igniculus, as she struggles to get back home. Aurora traverses the tangible world via the left stick while Igniculus enjoys more liberal interpretations of the laws of physics on the right stick, able to pass freely through walls and glow.
This is used for several things during the platformer segments of the game, notably collecting tough to reach items – whether they’re on the wrong side of a wall or require Igniculus’ glow to open – and solving puzzles. These are pretty standard teamwork-based affairs requiring Aurora to move objects around while Igniculus uses his ability to glow in tandem, reflecting symbols on doors and the like. It works well, but the puzzles never really gain much depth or become a challenge.
Aurora learns to fly very early in the game, opening each area up to a ton of exploration: Extra bosses, stat boosts, equipment, and notes containing lore are all scattered throughout the world of Lemuria. If you head off in whatever direction you please and explore the the first nook you see, you’ll find something rewarding.
The battles are RPG encounters with a heavy influence from Final Fantasy games, a timeline gauge in the bottom right of the screen that acts similarly to ATB. Each participant in the battle moves along the blue gauge until they reach the red cast zone, where they select their move from all the RPG standards. Should they be attacked here, they’ll be interrupted and forced back down the timeline.
Igniculus plays a key role here, his ability to glow used to slow the enemies’ progress on the timeline. Manipulated correctly this becomes a highly tactical asset used to interrupt the enemy, becoming trickier when their numbers grow and they begin to move at more varied speeds, and when enemies counter either physical or magical interruptions. This can lead to some challenging boss fights during the middle of the game, and even the standard battles are a rush when trying to pull it off perfectly.
Managing these mechanics along with the usual health and mana bars, elemental weaknesses and resistances, physical or magical resistances, and status effects – which the game communicates very well – makes for a highly engaging combat system with a huge sense of activity, albeit one that is never quite elaborated upon enough to be hard.
The game does feature a skill tree, though it’s essentially just three paths that probably should have been presented as such. The equipment system is somewhat better, though; Aurora will gather oculi during the course of her journey, crystals that can be equipped to grant properties ranging from elemental resistances to reductions in casting time. These can be combined to produce new oculi, providing a lot of experimentation and customisation.
Child of Light’s story is about both the joy and sadness of growing up that builds to a few profoundly touching moments, perfectly capturing the classic fairytale tone with seemingly innocent elements that carry some adult implications. Dialogue is written entirely in rhyme – a fact that might put some off – but it is communicative and often endearing.
Aurora gathers a fairly sizeable party, all of them written with charm: Rubella the clown, for example, is constantly corrected by the rest of the party for her inability to rhyme, while Finn is a sheltered member of the gnome-like Copilli race. The subtly expressive artwork aids in this too, such as Rubella’s sad smile and Gen’s subdued determination.
There’s a lot of dignity to this artwork, as well as a strong fairytale vibe as though pulled from a child’s storybook – a dark and washed out palette providing somber undertones. It presents a once-vibrant world besieged by darkness flawlessly through little touches such as ruins littering the background, an allegory for the mournful loss of youth. It’s a fantastically realised world that is a joy to travel through.
The emotionally captivating soundtrack is the surprise star of the game providing Child of Light with what some might call its heart: It is the musical embodiment of the fairytale adventure that ruthlessly nails down the game’s deeply sorrowful undercurrent, some of the songs alone outright heartbreaking to listen to. The songs used in battles are also utterly fantastic pieces of music, complementing the fast pace and activity present.
It’s a real shame that most of these wonderful components fall apart at the end: puzzles never reach their full potential, an insultingly easy final boss that adds nothing new, and a criminally underdeveloped cast cap off a near-perfect game with a dissatisfying finale. Regardless, Child of Light’s rich setting and engaging combat make it one of the most fun RPGs in a very long time, if not one of the deepest.