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Review: Child of Light – Illuminating the Way to a Better Future in Gaming

by on April 28, 2014 12:00 PM 59

In a faraway kingdom lived a princess named Aurora

Her mother dearly departed and by her father, beloved

One day, what was thought to be death’s door

Whisked her away to another world, Lemuria, above

 

Lemuria’s light was stolen: the Sun, Moon and Stars

By the Dark Queen Umbra, usurper of the throne

Aurora, the Child of Light, must fight creatures of dark alongside new allies

To find Queen Umbra’s mirror, which will open the path to home.

   Child of Light5

As outlined in my stunning poem up there, Child of Light revolves around Princess Aurora, the daughter of a duchess and duke from 1895 Austria. She’s transported to the kingdom of Lemuria, a world that had its light stolen by the Dark Queen Umbra, and must find her way back home.

Naturally Aurora isn’t alone in her journey — she’s accompanied by a colorful assortment of characters including a sister-brother jester duo, a cowardly dwarf, an enterprising mouse and a firefly named Igniculus. Each party member has their own specialties in battle and their own reason for joining with Aurora in the first place. Igniculus, on the other hand, was created specifically for Aurora and is therefore a bit naive about how the world works.

As you travel along, you’ll notice that enemies are viewable in the field and can be approached or avoided as you please; players can actually stun enemies using Igniculus’s light, then sneak past them. Touching them initiates battle and depending on you and the foes’ position, it will start out normally, as a surprise attack (in your favor) or an ambush (in the foes’ favor).

Combat in this title is a loving tribute to JRPGs of old, and Ubisoft has managed to combine strategic depth with surprisingly fast-paced action (think Final Fantasy X‘s class-based character switching system combined with the  speed and flow of X-2). Party members, as mentioned before, have their own classes; battles are essentially speed chess matches that require players to switch out members to suit your own needs and the changing flow of combat.

A small detail but I adore the fact that most of the characters don’t actual resemble stereotypical classes seen in most JPRGs: for instance the healer/supports are two clowns with a mean physical attack, the dwarf is a black mage, the mouse specializes in archery and of course a little girl is the hard hitter of the group.

Child of Light2

The turn-based aspect of this game is rather unique. Pictured above is the Action bar and every character in battle is represented on it. The bar section represents the Wait period while the red area is for any casting. When a party member or foe reaches the line separating the two sections, they get to choose a command and/or skills. Each skill or command has a certain charge time (Instant, Short, Medium, Long and Very Long) that determines how quickly the character will move through the cast period.

Igniculus can cast his light on enemies to blind them and make them wait and cast much slower. And if one character attacks another while casting, it interrupts them and they get set back to the beginning of the bar. It sounds simple enough but much of your strategy in battle will revolve around manipulating this gauge to benefit you and disfavor your enemies.

Difficulty is what makes combat truly shine. Each random encounter is difficult enough alone but bosses battles make you feel like your in an epic struggle for your life. However, the game never crosses the line into fake difficulty. You feel the insurmountable odds but there’s also a certain rush; the best way to explain it is that you know if you just keep at it and never give in, you’ll eventually succeed. That’s what a truly fantasy JRPG should feel like.

There is a slight difference between your typical JRPG and Child of Light, which is the leveling system. Games in the former category tend to use a more straightforward approach of “gained levels = gained skills.” This game uses skill trees, giving more customization options to allies, due to the fact that there are three entry points in said trees that host a different group of skills. An important part of growth is choosing what skills you want your allies to specialize in, since skill points are hard to come by.

Another difference between JRPGs of yore and this title deals with the lack of actual equipment. Instead, players must craft gems called Oculi that power up offense, defense and host other properties. Each Oculi falls under a rank that defines its quality — Rough, Tumbled, Faceted and Brilliant — and the main goal is to craft lower ranks into higher ranking ones. You can also mix and match different types to make different Oculi. Once again this may seem simple, but the process is deep and can take quite a while to fully master.

Child of Light4

Platforming is equally as strong, with fluid controls and subtle puzzle designs that blend in with the environment. In the beginning Aurora can only run and jump but later she’s given a pair of beautiful wings for flying. At first, I was worried that she would have a limit to how long she could fly or that platforming would be ground based. Thankfully, I was proven wrong almost immediately. Aurora can float in the air as long as possible, and platforming takes full advantage of her ability by creating environments that often defy physics and test your maneuvering skills.

What Child of Light really excels in is the art of no hand-holding. I’m sure old school RPG fans know what I’m talking about; for those who don’t, the RPG genre tends to be a major offender of the “too long and unnecessary” tutorials. This title, however, makes learning about the gameplay mechanics as seamless as possible. Platforming is never explained outright, instead you learn it naturally through trial and error, while the game drops little hint boxes throughout. Combat follows the same rule of thumb, to the point that enemy types themselves become the subtle training for game mechanics and new party members.

Child of Light6

The plot unfolds completely in poetry, whether in dialogue, messages or narration, and is both simplistic yet highly engaging with some excellent twists thrown in. Child of Light‘s stunning art designs shape the storybook world even further. The amazing soundtrack inhances this effect, with a special mention to the varied and lovely battle and boss themes that truly immerses you in a frenzied fight for your life. Playing this title is like diving into a colorful children’s picture book filled with charming characters and poetry, beautiful artwork and music, and a brave little girl that matures gracefully throughout the story.

I’m always taken aback by how much detail Ubisoft Montreal injected this game with. When Aurora first enters Lumeria, she’s walking along and suddenly I see and hear this strong shaking. Immediately I began to panic as I assume an enemy is nearby and rushing to attack me, but when I looked over I found it was a enormous giant peacefully meandering in the far background. It’s other things too, like the amount of detail in each character’s animation, such as the way Aurora’s hair flows or her dress flutters when she flies. These also extend into battle, with every type of attack having a unique animation and each foe type possessing their own movements. Coupled with the excellent designs and it’s a true feast for the eyes.

Controls on the Wii U version of this game are quite smooth. Aurora is controlled using the left analog stick on the Gamepad, while Igniculus can be directed by either the right analog stick or with the touch screen. Both methods are completely viable and can actually be used in conjunction (this is my preferred method). A second player can also jump in with a Wii Remote and control Igniculus that way, but it’s rather boring for the second player and not really needed.

Lastly, Uplay deserves a special mention. Uplay is a digital service created by Ubisoft and launched back in 2009. Many gamers are still skeptical of the service due to the disastrous always online element of its early launch, which has been mostly eliminated. While Uplay is a part of Child of Light, players need not worry, as the service merely serves as a source of Trophies/Achievements. One could literally play the entire game (offline I might add) on a console and not activate Uplay once.

Child of Light7

What’s magical about Child of Light is that it’s one of those rare games that transcends the boundaries of its genre to create an experience nearly any gamer can enjoy. A spectacular feat and one worthy of the highest praise.

Now that the review’s wrapped up, I think in the spirit of things it would make sense to finish the way I began — with poetry.

From trials and hardships Aurora has grown

Into a woman, a Queen, a savior and more

Child of Light portrays this through polish, style and grace

And for its troubles, a perfect score

rated rating-10.0
Review: Child of Light – Illuminating the Way to a Better Future in Gaming
  • Child of Light
  • Wii U
  • Ubisoft Montreal
  • Ubisoft
  • April 28, 2014
  • $14.99
  • PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows
  • Review copy provided by the publisher.

Join the Discussion

  • Matt Dickinson

    10?!

    • Delsin Rowe

      what’ wrong with it dude ? this game is awesome. you should play it sometimes. you won’t regret it .

    • Allisa James

      !!!

      • Matt Dickinson

        better not be a 9.5!!

        • Allisa James

          LOL

  • truthtellerdealwithit

    Nice :O

  • megablast16

    I’ve actually pre-ordered the Deluxe Edition, which includes a digital code for the game itself and numerous art related goodies, and have just received an e-mail saying it’s been dispatched. Can’t wait now.

    • truthtellerdealwithit

      That sexy little keyring :)

      • megablast16

        Cute innit :)

  • Delsin Rowe

    wooow, An actual 10/10 ? i told you guys. this game is awesome. can’t wait to download it. thanks for the review ;)

    • Sucka Free

      Had a feeling it would be a good game, but wasn’t expecting that. Have to wait a few more days to get mine

      • Delsin Rowe

        Same here. but i’m glad it’s better than we thought !

  • Ryan Meitzler

    Siiiiiiigh… *pre-orders

    • Allisa James

      *cheers*

      • Jessenia Lopez

        mejeje

  • Anon

    If I don’t play this game in coop, will I be missing out on anything? I rarely have someone to play games in coop with, so I don’t want to buy something I can’t do 100% of.

    Please answer this question for me. I have even emailed Ubisoft themselves and the refused to give me an answer.

    • Delsin Rowe

      dude , i’m planning to play this game by myself. i’m sure you wont miss anything.

      • Anon

        I would still prefer an answer from someone that has played the game. I have limited funds, so I would rather know for sure.

        • Delsin Rowe

          i actually read this somewhere else. lol (i dont remember where)
          but i’m sure ubisoft wouldn’t do this kind of stuff to a game. but if you want , wait for an answer from mod ;)

    • Allisa James

      Not at all. You can completely solo in this game without using coop once. That’s basically what I did (I only briefly tried it out for the review).

      • Anon

        I appreciate the response.

  • IncognitosX

    I’ve had $10 burning a hole in my PSN pocket since I purchased the PS4, looks like this is a good place to spend that cash.

  • Galen Nycroft

    Wow…figured it would be a good game, but was not expecting all the glowing reviews of it!

    • mwalker

      Same here. Guess I should buy it

  • http://www.dualshockers.com/ Dianna Lora

    Dammit. WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ME!!! *preorders*

    .. my backloooo~~g!

    • Allisa James

      *backlog intensifies*

  • Craig Sloan

    Damn…..a 10/10. Now this kind of game is not one I’m usually interested in, However the art style looks amazing and I do love RPG’s. There seems to be something enchanting about this game as well. I’m not the biggest fan of the side scrolling genre but this seems to have me interested. A big plus is this not a £50 game but a £16 one. At first I thought this was an indie game not an Ubisoft one. Come April 30th I’ll be picking this game up myself.

    Very good review.

    • Allisa James

      Thank you very much! And yeah that’s why I love it so much, because it can appeal to so many different types of gamers.

      • PreparetoGame

        Nice review, I’m hoping this game will springboard my 7 yo daughter from Mario to RPGs.

        • Allisa James

          Thanks so much!

          And this game would be perfect for her. The heroine is great and her story deals with personal growth and coming of age without adding in any romance.

          The dialogue is easy to understand and gameplay may take her a while but if she plays Mario then I’m sure she can adapt well :)

  • Jecht_Sin

    This is actually the kind of games that graphically I love the most. And it is also an RPG! Glad to see it is scoring quite well all over.

    Just a couple of questions: what’s on Deluxe Edition? And why it isn’t listed (yet) in the PS Store?

    • Allisa James

      Yeah it’s really amazing. And I’m happy to see that as well :)

      Also the Deluxe edition is only for Europe so if you’re in the US, then sorry :(

      • PreparetoGame

        I’m importing mine to US ;) getting the Wii U version too!

  • Homer Ruglia Beoulve

    Ubisoft Montreal, I should say that hats off to you for pulling off a great RPG. Kudos!

  • birdman jr

    if only if it was a guy i was playing, id be more excited -_-

    • Krysanthia
    • http://www.dualshockers.com/ Dianna Lora

      No. Just no.

      • Suzaku Kururugi

        He’s(if it is a he) not allowed to want to play as a guy?

        It’s alright when females and minorities say that “we want to play as [x] race or gender,” but not okay that a guy wants to play a guy?

        • Malakym

          Yes, because it comes off as somewhat entitled to ask that this game change to suit his needs when there are already so many that do have male protags with no option to choose otherwise.

          • Suzaku Kururugi

            Okay I will remember all of this the next time I see sjws cawwing about female leads.

          • Malakym

            *shrug* do what you like, I don’t really care if he prefers to play as a male character, everybody has their own preferences. Still doesn’t stop him from sounding like an entitled brat when the issue he has is generally so skewed in his favor in the vast majority of other cases.

        • Krysanthia

          Not when nearly every game has a male lead in some form, they are not the minority.
          We don’t go around complaining we can’t play as female protagonist, we would just like more female protagonists period.

          The problem is he wants to take away the choice of a female lead, and have a male instead. If there was a little boy you could play as as well, I would be all for that, more options in games the better.

          If the game is good, it shouldn’t matter what gender the protagonist is, a good character is a good character.

        • http://www.dualshockers.com/ Dianna Lora

          Let’s also nor forget that he said he’s less excited for the game because he’s playing a female lead. As if playing a female lessens the quality of the game for some reason.

          In this case, it isn’t about him wanting a choice its about him questioning the quality of the game because if its female lead.

          • Jon Wareham

            He said nothing about the quality of the game. He only talked about his excitement. There is nothing wrong with someone expressing a preference for the main character and I don’t think it does any good to assume or imply that his comment was offensive or degrading.

            If I said I’d be more excited if the character was a robot would I be implying that playing as a human lessens the quality of the game?

  • Kingdom17

    Hope it sells well. We need more games like this.

    • Allisa James

      Me too :)

  • Yaris_Gutierrez

    *Sigh* Here, Ubisoft. Just take my money and be done with it. Awesome review, Allisa.

    • Allisa James

      lol your poor money. And thank you, I’m glad you liked it!

  • MrTyrant

    While I don’t like their faces I must say the artstyle and the graphics are very impresive. The stages look great too.

    • Allisa James

      The art style is really unique. I can see why you don’t like certain aspects but yeah, overall everything comes together very well.

  • Panzerdrako

    i saw somebody said the game in normal is too easy until near the ending, mean he recomend play it on hard right away…. is this a dark soul mania? o it is just because the need to feel forced too add points to your new skills more strategicly (sp? mi ingles apesta, lo sé)

    • Allisa James

      I’d recommend you try out normal first, to get used to the controls and battle system. Then once you adapt, totally switch to hard. And it’s definitely not like Dark Souls, even the skill tree works a bit differently. You pretty much nailed what the skill tree is like.

      • Panzerdrako

        i didn´t mean it is hard like dark souls, rather “hardcore gamers” need hard games, so will found people that if a game is not hard game is worthless play in normal… but thanks for the advise coz i will get it tomorrow…

        • Allisa James

          Ah I see what you mean. And I think hardcore gamers in general should be okay with the difficulty as long as they adjust.

          No problem, I hope you enjoy!

  • http://console-gamer.com/ Console Gamer

    Thanks for that bit about Uplay. It’s been keeping me from getting Child of Light. You’ve won me over! ;)

    • Allisa James

      No problem at all, I know it was an issue for many gamers (with good reason) so I definitely had to address it.

      Hope you enjoy!

  • UndauntedWizdom

    10? Are you kidding me!!?? This game? If this is the future of gaming then I must say that after 25 years I’ll be finding a new hobby.

    • Sexy Mcgee

      Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

  • http://www.poweronpub.com/ Power on Pub

    Nice review, and nice poetry. I am finding that I need to get into poetry more and more, as the review I wrote for this title seems to be among the few I’ve read that doesn’t include some comment about the poetry, if not actual poetry! Is it possible that I somehow missed out on the video game reviewers meetup group that meets for poetry????

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