Platforms PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U
Developer Ubisoft Montreal Publisher Ubisoft
Genre RPG Platform Played On PS4
There is an argument to made be made every year that video games can and should be considered art. While it is never certain what game will be able to make that statement year to year, when it does become certain, it strikes like a lightning bolt. Elegant, charming and beautiful are some of the many descriptors you will likely hear from someone describing Ubisoft’s Child of Light. Perhaps it will be guilty of mild hyperbole in future retrospect, but today it stands as visual splendor and deft execution in a genre that may have very well needed it. Child of Light revolves around the principle of simplicity. It eschews complexity in favor of more direct approaches towards combat, narrative and direction. And while its few flaws may be a result of this simplicity, the overall outcome is an excellent title that will likely be remembered for years to come.
Child of Light is based around the “fairy tale” concept. Our hero, a girl name Aurora, falls into a deep, everlasting slumber, exiting one world and entering another. Essentially dead in one world, destined for something greater in another – it is not unlike many other stories I have heard before. But where it does deviate is in its approach to storytelling. Narrative is dictated in a series of rhymes, and continues to devote itself to this style until the very end. It is as creative as it is ambitious – few stories have attempted to recreate the long poems of old and less so in a video game format. However, it is not always consistent in its structure and sometimes feels a bit much. But I praise the game for maintaining poetic form, and succeeding for the most part. I do not imagine everyone will get behind the use of iambic pentameter, but it is refreshing to see either way. And even though the story has been done before, it is still well presented in a wholly unique way – I won’t say you’ll like it, but I won’t say you won’t either.
Due to the story’s simplicity, there’s very little bogging the player down from everything else the game has to offer. A player can in fact explore every nook and cranny without feeling the pressure of needing to complete the campaign too quickly. Even then, the campaign only takes about twelve hours to complete, with a helping of exploration and quests on the side. In a way, it is reminiscent of a Castlevania title, which allows you to explore as you want upwards, downwards and side-to-side. This is further stressed by Aurora’s ability to fly; this puts a greater stress in exploring vertically.
In addition, Aurora has a companion name Igniculus who is able to survey the area for secrets. Controlling him is as simple as using the right stick. By moving him over shadowy areas and lighting him up will lead the way while keeping a safe distance. This basic mechanic made exploring feel more involved, but remained so simple, I child could do it. The fairy companion has other purposes, but more on that down the line.
The world of Child of Light is known as Lemuria and as I mentioned, it is filled to the brim with hidden nooks and crannies to explore whilst teeming with unique and colorful beasts that seem straight out of Alice in Wonderland. Considering the similarities, I can imagine why. Even the companions you’ll encounter have their own sense of whimsy. But no character really stands out more than the world itself. Lemuria is a visual feast of 2d landscapes as well, and between the character art, the monsters, and the environments, it is a testament to how impressive the UbiArt Framework engine is. However, it is also a testament to how vivid an imagination the developers at Ubisoft Montreal have. This, a JRPG-inspired fairy tale, was created by the same team who brought you Far Cry 3. Who would have thought?
As with any RPG, combat is as large a part of the game as any. While most Western developers will strive for a more action oriented system for battle, that doesn’t seem to be the case this time. Child of Light prefers a more traditional turn based approach. During combat, a bar sits at bottom of the screen indicating the period in which a character on the screen acts – this is also true for monsters. The best comparison is the classic JRPG Grandia, and quite frankly, it is not bad company to be compared to. For those unfamiliar, as a character icon glides up to the final quarter of the bar, they are prompted for an action. At that point, the action will either occur once it reaches the end of the bar, or it will be delayed by being hit by a monster’s own action. It makes a simple battle system a much more methodical one with just a few simple additions.
I mentioned that Aurora’s fairy friend Igniculus has other purposes earlier, and it happens to involve battle. Just like the field, using the right stick allows move Igniculus to manipulate the battle by either absorbing orbs on the field, slowing enemies or even healing players. It is a very simple dynamic, but a dynamic nonetheless. These simple little additions to what is essentially a template of the most basic of battle systems makes all the difference. I won’t lie though, despite these additions, the game is rather… easy. If you are looking for a challenging RPG, Child of Light is not it.
Child of Light is a wonderful surprise. In all honesty, even as the office JRPG enthusiast, I wasn’t all that jazzed about a JRPG being made by a Western company. There was always a sense of skepticism and perhaps a twang of cynicism on my part. Oh, but how I was wrong. Ubisoft Montreal has a wonderful take on turn-based combat while also creating a world I could get lost in several times over. It is not without faults though, as I would have enjoyed a more challenging experience. I will say that its lack of challenge allowed me to enjoy everything Lemuria had to offer. The environments, the creatures, the overall feel of the world is something that only be described as art. Is it a masterpiece? No. But it is excellent and I would recommend everyone to try Child of Light and see for themselves how splendid this little gem is.
+ Unique storytelling in rhyme
+ Fantastic combat
+ Phenomenal art style
– Way too easy
The Score 9.0
Jaime ‘Paco’ Sifontes is an editor at Analog Addiction; you can follow him on @RTBL1990 if you like having a debate about anime, sports or anything really. He tends to ramble though; you’ve been warned!