Published on July 31st, 2014 | by Matt Wolsfeld0
Child of Light
Child of Light is a game that can fill you with a sense of wonder, even though its brilliance is hindered by certain little faults.
Ahhh, the Steam Summer Sale. That magical time of year when Gabe Newell brings forth his sorcerer’s staff and a newborn lamb free of sin to conjure up the swirling, black morass of “savings” satiated only by the slow draining of my wallet. Each year the Summer Sale ever so faithfully begs me to ask the same question: there are HOW many games in my Steam library I haven’t played yet?
This time around I managed to exercise a remarkable degree of restraint and limited myself to one new purchase. Child of Light caught my eye with its gorgeous hand drawn visuals and whimsical storybook plot. This Ubisoft Montreal developed gem seemed to fly under my radar during its initial release, though I’m glad it caught my attention this summer. It has rekindled my sense of childhood wonder as I experienced a blend of Western and Japanese RPG elements seen in precious few other titles. Child of Light is a captivating trip through the storybook worlds of your youth hindered only by a few small faults that I can’t help but feel are a result of being smothered by a developer too large for its goals.
The game revolves around Aurora, the daughter of an Austrian duke who, after falling ill with some form of sleeping sickness, awakens in the magical land of Lemuria. Having been told that Lemuria has had its sun, moon, and stars stolen by Umbra (Queen of the Night), Aurora learns that she must recover the missing cosmic entities before she can be reunited with her father. With a cavalcade of allies including a lovelorn and amusingly capitalist mouse archer and a pair of sibling sky jesters abandoned by their floating circus, Aurora sets out to become the princess of her own fairytale and save Lemuria.
The most notable aspect of Child of Light is its breathtaking visuals. Featuring a hand drawn art style inspired by Studio Ghibli and Yoshitaka Amano, the game fortifies its fanciful aesthetic with gorgeous and colorful backdrops set against the sharply animated cast of gnomes, golems, giant spiders, and other mythical creatures that call Lemuria their home. I found myself often taking times just to soar through the air with Aurora’s magically-bestowed wings and explore the vast and open maps to see what new surprises might be hiding behind a waterfall cascading from a mountain giant’s mouth.
The game’s combat system is also interesting, choosing a fusion style of Western and JRPG combat which focuses on the precise timing of attacks in order to counter your enemy’s. While I found the initial process of figuring out how to best time your attacks to be frustrating, the payoff was a satisfying combat experience dictated by personal choices. The typical RPG archetypes have also been shuffled to allow for variation in how you use your teammates in combat. I found that on the normal difficulty setting it mattered little which party members you chose to engage the opponent and more so on the selection of which types of magic countered certain opponents (frustratingly dictated by slight changes in color palettes and further complicated by the unpredictable assortment of enemy encounters).
My primary gripe with Child of Light was in its writing. Each and every line uttered in the game is meant to rhyme like you might hear in an orated fairytale. Unfortunately, it seems the writers in charge of this concept may have been unaware of even elementary poetic concepts. Rhyming schemes switch haphazardly, words are mispronounced to force rhymes, and the end result is a mishmash of unnecessary language that breaks the immersion of an otherwise beautiful game. I can’t help but think that Ubisoft, the studio so notorious for forcing conventions like UPlay on its customers, may have been at play in forcing the developers hands on something so trivial but noticeable.
Overall, Child of Light was a fantastic and whimsical experience, short of a somewhat repetitive style of gameplay towards the end and the aforementioned dialogue issues. The faults I found in the game were not enough to tear away the beauty of the backdrops or the noble quest of a young princess trying to save her family. Its fusion-style RPG gameplay is shared only by a scant few other titles throughout history and is pulled off with satisfying success. Despite the signs of meddling from developer Ubisoft, it’s a fresh take on a genre not often explored by major publishers and one that I’m glad to see shine through. The game is available on all major platforms at the affordable price of $15. If you’re looking to step through the looking glass and explore the forgotten realms of your childhood on the cheap, there’s few other ways I would recommend sooner than Child of Light.