Check out the Child of Light review. The game is available as part of the PlayStation Plus September games.
Never in my wildest dreams did I believe a video game could make me believe it was more than just a game. That is, until I played Child of Light. The RPG-platformer’s familiar but moving story is brought to life by some of the most exquisite art design I’ve ever witnessed in game, a moving musical score, and a turn-based combat system that is not only easy to grasp but hard to master. Indeed, Child of Light can only be described as a work of art.
The game’s story follows a young girl named Aurora who sets off to return to her home to save her ailing father and liberate the kingdom of Lemuria from the "Queen of the Night," who has stolen Lemuria’s sun, moon, and stars. Though this story may sound familiar to anyone who has read any fairy tales, its presentation is both welcome and refreshing. Written in verse and rhyme, all the characters speak as if they were in a playable poem reminding me of old Shakespearean plays. On her quest, Aurora encounters plenty of colorful characters that join her party and tell their own magical story. The most important of these characters is Igniculus, a small firefly sent to help Aurora on her quest.
The first thing players will notice about Child of Light is its captivating and gorgeous hand-drawn graphics. Ubisoft’s own Ubi-Art engine has created a living, breathing world with superb animation. Aurora moves with grace and speed as she runs through the 2D environment, while her hair and dress flow gracefully in the wind as she flies with her fairy wings. The game’s art itself looks as if it was created by Final Fantasy’s own Yo****aka Amano, whose art was used as an inspiration for Child of Light’s own aesthetics, so much so that Amano-san himself drew a promotional poster of the title.
Child of Light’s combat system is presented as a turn-based role-playing game. When entering combat, a timeline bar will be displayed on the bottom of the screen, which features an icon for both the player’s party and enemies. The timeline itself consists of a blue "wait" gauge and a red "cast" gauge. When the icons reach the red "cast" gauge, players will be able to act; it is here that gamers will have to utilize strategy for the fastest and easiest victory. If players are attacked while in the "cast" phase, their attacks will be interrupted and they will be moved back on the timeline. This can also be utilized by the player to knock enemies back into the timeline, giving the party more time to act.
Igniculus becomes extremely important in combat. Players are able to control Igniculus with the right analog stick, moving him around the battle screen. Igniculus has two major abilities he is able to utilize. The first is hovering over one of the party members and healing them with the press of the R2 button, while the other is to use his glowing light to blind enemies, slowing them down on the timeline and allowing you just enough time to slip ahead of your opponents. But these abilities can’t be spammed, as Ingiculus has his own usage bar that depletes the more his abilities are used. It’s also worth noting that Ingiculus can be controlled by another player in local co-op.
During combat, I constantly had the urge to attack like I do in most turn-based RPG games, but Child of Light made me utilize all the strengths of its combat system. Allowing me to switch party members during my cast phase to adapt to the situation at hand saved me from the dreaded "Game Over" screen. Enemies will strike with elemental attacks as well as cast buffs and debuffs, making themselves stronger and faster while your party wilters. Battles were difficult enough to demand using enemies’ tactics against them, and I’d often quicken my parties and slow the enemy before proceeding with attacks.
Finn, my magic-casting ally whose spells were a frequent boon for exploiting enemy weaknesses, was used similarly often. Interestingly, the enemy AI reacts to the situation and goes after Finn before he is able to use his magic. I would counter this by throwing in the party’s heavy-hitter to get everyone’s attention with Taunt. Each character has their own strengths and weaknesses, just like the enemies you encounter. Oengus, for example, has great physical strength but will fall quickly to magic attacks. I was always kept on my toes, and my strategies changed to suit every encounter. One boss, in particular, had multiple attack points, with each one having a different weakness, forcing me to constantly change characters to adapt to the situation. It’s as if I was playing a constant game of rock, paper, scissors throughout the 12-hour adventure. Although some players my get frustrated with some of the encounters, especially toward the later half of the game, I found the challenge refreshing.
The game also packs a simple upgrade system that can greatly change the tide of battle. When players level up, they get one skill point to use to acquire new skills or add stat boosts for extra strength or defense. Each character has three different categories. One focuses on physical skills and stats, another focuses on magic abilities, and the third on speed and critical hits. Players have the freedom to upgrade their characters as they see fit.
Another important aspect is the game’s crafting system. As is the case with combat, this system is easy to grasp but hard to master. Players acquire gems throughout their journey–namely, Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald variants–and can equip them to weapon, armor, and accessories. As the game doesn’t have shops to buy new gear, these stones become vital to your progression. Each stone adds a different effect depending on where it’s placed. For example, if a player sockets a Ruby stone into their weapon, it will add an 8-percent fire damage bonus to physical attacks, while equipping it on one’s armor will add 12-percent fire resistance.
These stones can be combined to create not only all-new stones, but enhanced versions of the original stones. Combining three small Ruby stones will net you one medium-size stone, three medium-size stones will net you a large, and so forth. You can also combine different colored stones to create new stones that add different effects, such as gaining extra experience points from battles and increasing your speed on the timeline. Players are encouraged to experiment and create whatever combination of stones they like. It’s also worth noting these stones become very helpful in combat as every enemy in the game has a weakness to some sort of element, so equipping them on different characters will help when you need to switch party members mid-fight.
Child of Light’s on-screen antics are accentuated beautifully by French-Canadian Composer Béatrice Martin’s (Coeur de pirate) orchestral score. The strong use of piano, flute, and violin complement each other and the mystical world of Lemuria perfectly. The small but effective orchestral track depicts the sad and depressing lands Aurora travels through, and the use of piano is heard throughout the journey, enhancing the atmosphere and mood the game instills in and draws from players.
Never have I played a game that moved me like Child of Light. Thanks to its excellently crafted combat, superb art design, and a tear-inducing soundtrack, Child of Light is a game that should not be missed. If someone were to ask me to give an example of why video games are considered art, this would undoubtedly be it. As such, Ubisoft’s must-have RPG was easily one of the best games in 2014.