Child of Light is a 2D RPG that’s story and aesthetic are inspired by classic fairy tales. You play as Aurora, the child of an Austrian duke who awakens in the magical world of Lemuria. The world of Lemuria is one of the title’s greatest strengths. Each of Lemuria’s regions has a distinct tone and each of its peoples has its own culture. From the town of capitalist mice that live on a stone giant to the abandoned monastery stalked by ghosts, each area holds the promise of wholly new experiences. This combined with a variety of enemies and a steadily growing party roster keeps gameplay fresh as you progress through the story.
The gameplay is divided between platforming and combat. The platforming sections give the player the opportunity to explore each area, find items, solve puzzles, and trigger fights with roaming enemies. Navigating these sections requires the use of Aurora’s firefly companion, Igniculus. He can gather items, turn on devices, and stun enemies. These sections are entertaining, showcase the game’s art and music, but they rarely offer much challenge. The puzzles are easily grasped and enemies can often be avoided altogether.
Finding every item and collectible adds another layer of challenge, but if a player wishes to progress straight through they will have little difficulty. However, Child of Light is still an RPG; skipping combat and not exploring is possible, but it can leave your party under leveled and under equipped when fighting is unavoidable.
Advancement and equipment are handled with two straightforward systems: Skill Trees and the Oculi. Each party member has different role that can be further customized through a set of Skill Trees. No matter what, characters steadily grow in strength as they level, so there is little fear of choosing the “wrong” skills. Oculi are gems that Aurora receives through combat, exploration, and as rewards for quests. Any character can use any Oculi and any Oculi can be used in any of the three equipment slots.
The effect of the Oculi depends on the slot. For example, a red Oculi in the weapon slot adds fire damage to attacks and confers fire resistance in the armor slot. Furthermore, Oculi can be combined to create new types with new effects. Both the use and crafting of Oculi are intuitive and encourage flexibility and experimentation. A well-chosen set of Oculi can offer the player a significant advantage in combat.
Child of Light blends real time and turn based combat. The foundation of combat is traditional JRPG turn based combat. One key feature is that if a character is attacked while they are casting, it interrupts the attack and delays their turn. In-between turns the player can use the firefly to heal party members or slow enemies in real time. These two aspects of combat require the player to remain aware and think quickly in order to fight effectively.
If it seems like too much to manage, the game also allows a friend to control Igniculus. In combat the player controls only two members of their party at a time. However, the active members can be switched without giving up a turn, giving the player the option to access to any party member when needed. Each enemy has its own set of abilities and weaknesses that the player must discover through experimentation. This is especially true of the game’s bosses.
Each boss has a different suite of abilities that the player must adapt to as they are revealed. One trait that most bosses have in common is a particularly nasty reprisal when they are interrupted. These abilities force an inversion of the usual strategies. If the player focuses solely on interrupting the boss’ attacks, they may find themselves countered into oblivion. Fighting the various monstrous and devious bosses in Child of Light is always a challenging and rewarding experience.
Child of Light draws the player into a fantastic and whimsical world. While its story is reminiscent of classic fairy tales, it contains enough of its own personality and twists that it does not feel cliché. Its streamlined RPG mechanics make Child of Light approachable for those new to the genre, while still offering enough depth for veterans. At $15 Child of Light is a must-have for fans of RPGs, fairy tales, and games so beautiful that you need to remind yourself to blink.
Title: Child of Light
Developer: Ubisoft Montréal
Release Date: April 30th, 2014
Platforms Available: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Platformed Reviewed: PC
Game provided for review