Sit down for an honest review, spoiler-free
for a game full of wonder, sorrow, and fun
Child of Light’s great to play, a few things it missed,
but is overall solid, whimsical, a game that does stun.
Within the past month Ubisoft Montreal brought us a beautiful surprise in the form of a side-scroller meets RPG, Child of Light. Built on the same engine from Ubisoft’s Rayman series, Child of Light is less Rayman, and more director Patrick Plourde and writer Jeffrey Yohalem’s homage to fairytales, classic fairytale illustration, fantasy films and Japanese RPGs such as Final Fantasy.
Even Yoshitaka Amano, the artist who produces both concept art, costume design and logo art for the Final Fantasy series contributed either conceptual or promotional art for Child of Light.
A short game, with a somewhat fresh or “indie” feel, it’s a certain departure from grittier or more sophisticated work Ubisoft normally puts out. Smaller, more intimate. Artisan.
Child of Light is centered around a young girl from 1895 Austria, the aptly named (and pink haired!) Aurora. Aurora, the daughter of a Duke, contracts an illness that sends her into a death-like sleep, or rather actually…uh, dies? She however awakes upon an altar in a ruined fantasy land, Lemuria, caught underneath the grip of an evil Dark Queen who hid away the sun, moon and the stars. Aurora, gifted a sword and aided by the (on PC) mouse controlled Igniculus, a “firefly” (more like a will-o’- the-wisp in function, whose design vaguely resembles Slime from Dragon Quest) must set out and reclaim said celestial bodies to bring peace back to Lemuria. Aurora too seeks to return back to her father, who himself is ailing following Aurora’s apparent “death”. Along the way Aurora befriends comrades to the cause, effectively expanding her party.
First, let me say I am not a good gamer. I am really terrible at videogames. Which is why you never see me over here writing for you in this department often, if at all. I don’t think I have yet! I tend to like artsy, heartfelt games that are on the simpler side in execution. Team ICO holds my heart. But, Ubisoft’s desire to create an “interactive painting, a playable poem” and this game’s fairytale allure made me want to try this game. As a deficient gamer, I was lucky, as this game has two settings, more or less “easy” and “hard” modes called “casual” and “expert” respectively, and it was difficult enough for me on “casual” mode. Which is fine. Because I like to play my games well, more leisurely and I still ran into some boss battles and even just situational battles that were less than smooth. But I liked it that way. So, if you’re not a great gamer and want something fun but not too difficult, this game is definitely for you. In fact I think it would be a great introduction to RPG’s for sophisticated kids and tweens and teens. Or really anyone.
This game is a bit unique in that while the lead is a very feminine looking little girl with pink hair, gifted (eventually) fairy wings, and wields light, her main weapon is a big sword. She is the hero. She is not limited by the game makers to traditionally “girly” attacks or themes despite her hyper-feminine appearance and wearing a nightgown/dress. There is additionally no prince for Aurora to fall in love with. No romance. None. Aurora is a great main character, I loved her a lot. Certainly great for kids to see; we need more main characters like her! Actually all the characters have interesting personalities and elements to their individual stories that are good for growth and learning how to cope with things. What we saw of them, I enjoyed them all.
Another highlight, the music composed by the young (twenty-four year old) but terribly talented musician Cœur de pirate (Béatrice Martin) is inspiring and really provides a great atmosphere with the illustration-like visuals. If they ever release an OST I’d snap it up in a second.
Visually the game is stunning. It is an interactive painting. Incredibly difficult to choose where to screenshot that others haven’t already done. Gorgeous, non-objectified character designs for female characters. Everything, from backgrounds to enemies is either hand drawn watercolor or rendered in gorgeous illustration or stained-glass CGI with lots of bloom and shading. Gorgeously animated. The effect is something similar or reminiscent to Okami (with a more western storybook feel instead of sumi-e, the inspiration for the game coming from John Bauer and other “Golden Age of Illustration” illustrators like Arthur Rackham) and due to the side-scrolling nature of the game, at least a little bit; shades of Paper Mario-like interface.
Some glitches on my PC version through Steam were however, noticeable, mostly Aurora’s very animated hair, would disappear in certain battles effectively giving her a Mia Farrow pixie cut. But that didn’t really bug me too much. I thought the storyline was good, definitely not mold breaking by any means, but overall, solid. Not perfect. But “enough”.
The game overall reminds me of the 2D Aquaria, an indie game from a few (woah actually seven!) years back that was very ambitious with it’s paper-y doll illustrated look and I think still holds up strong as a great game today.
The faults in Child of Light, while a solid game with it’s own charm, comes mostly from some underwriting when it came to the main plot, some telling vs. showing, and while overall solid, a limited battle system.
I felt story-wise the writing got a little thin at times; I felt I had missed some much needed back-story regarding some characters and was confused at some characters popping up out of nowhere but proving important to the plot. There are also story points and elements going on that we never get a full explanation about why it’s happening (but sound interesting) or further explore. This somewhat lack of roundness particularly for three characters including the big bad and the disjointed pacing that entailed made the game sometimes feel abrupt or again, that I had missed something. I felt the end also fizzled out or felt a bit rushed, jumping from one boss to the final boss without any break or gameplay in between, not even to adjust your assigned occuli to weapons and defense. The final battle was also visually underwhelming compared to what I was imagining or compared to bosses I had gone up against earlier in the game. To be fair, they have confirmed they cut a level leading up to the final boss, but it was simply game play.
Being said I would have also liked more cut scenes and or plot integration with my party. FFX always comes to mind as an RPG that did party interaction and plot specificity rather right. Okami was never terribly difficult and often repetitive but the sheer number of characters, personalities and side quests with high degrees of interactivity with said characters made the game feel so rich. A bit more of that kind of “oomf” and integration would have really made the game.
Some NPC’s in Child of Light even after you’ve helped them, continue their dialogue as if they were still looking for the object that you delivered and now hold in their hand. Small glitches like that take you out of the game. I additionally thought one party member was a bit redundant despite some great spells, and it would have been fun or different had they “joined” an existing member in your party as a duo thus changing up the roster and the stereotypical RPG format instead of taking up another solo spot.
Additionally, while gameplay was fun; you more or less have most of your character’s attacks already; you gain a few new abilities but in general you have the set attacks already. You can acquire new “passive” attacks or increases in your status that assist in battle but with existing attacks all you can do is advance them to apply to multiple individuals and or increase in damage. This is a bit of a downer as one of the cooler parts of RPGs is unlocking and learning new abilities and seeing them being cast/performed for the first time, especially in a time of need. It also encourages you to cycle through your party more as characters get stronger and more useful as they “grow” into their respective roles and offer even more unique attacks.
Given the small development team and short playing time of the game however, I know this is asking for a lot. I understand the limitations. What we did get is still a blast and at it’s core still a good narrative and very playable.
I feel a lot of these issues in Child of Light could be remedied by additional downloadable narrative quests down the line. There is already a downloadable quest with a new party member available who I believe was meant to be there the entire time. If they keep adding additional content, I think it would help the game be even greater than it managed to be; which is still rather great.
I really do recommend this game; there is an official tumblr for it to learn more about it and how they made it. The staff were nothing but enthusiastic and so invested in the game; really check it out and support their hard work.
For the super affordable price at $15, I’d award Child of Light an 8/10.
In all, the game is magical, gorgeous and scary
get it, play it, and let me know with a shout
of what you thought, your feelings,
for Child of Light; do you laud or flout?!
See you real soon!
With PAX East just recently wrapping up, I figured I’d give my top 3 favorite games from this year’s show.
PAX East may be the second most famous PAX, but the star power shown off this year certainly doesn’t indicate it. Over the next few days, I’ll be posting my thoughts on some of my favorite games at PAX East this year.
Child of Light
I had almost entirely forgotten about this charming, storybook-esque game from Ubisoft until I saw it on the show floor. I took advantage of being one of the first in the door to snag a hotly contested seat at the demo kiosk and was pleasantly surprised by what I saw.
I was expecting the art direction of the game to appeal to me, but I didn’t expect how cohesive it would be. From the art style to the music, Child of Light brings the charming qualities of storybooks to video games. They even give characters their own textual inflections to give them more characterization, something I dig.
The exploration aspect of the game is effortless. Aurora, the main character, can fly through each of the areas with ease, eliminating frustrating platforming and keeping the focus on the RPG/puzzle solving elements of the game. As for combat, the system is a more interesting, engaging version of the time bar system we’ve seen in games like Penny Arcade’s Rain Slick series and Grandia. Actions and interrupts all work in the same way, but Igniculus, the blue star/flame companion to Aurora, can slow down enemies, heal the player characters, and collect more HP from in-stage flowers all on the fly while the battle continues. This mechanic adds a new level of depth to combat since you only have a certain amount of power and have to decide how to use it, by slowing down enemies to interrupt them, heal your wounded, or save it for when you’ll need.
All in all, Child of Light looks wonderful and I can’t wait to own it.
Developer/Publisher: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: April 30, 2014
Marc Ten Bosch has developing Miegakure for somewhere around 4 years now. PAX East is one of the view venues in which the public can experience the title first hand, and I jumped at the opportunity to do so.
The concepts behind Miegakure are sometimes difficult to fully grasp. Essentially, you have to solve puzzles in each stage by switching between in and out of the fourth dimension. Imagine four different landscapes. Pressing B will take slivers of those four different landscapes and line them up. When you stand on one of those slivers, that landscape will expand to its full size. Though it may sound straight-forward, it can be difficult to wrap your head around which landscape to push what block to in order to get on the correct side of some object in another landscape.
If you have any familiarity with anime, this game is like the Mushishi of video games or a cup of hot chocolate — best enjoyed slowly and quietly. The visuals are vibrant, yet simple, and are heavily influenced by Japan. I didn’t hear any music, but in my mind, the Minecraft soundtrack fits in pretty well. All in all, it seems like an interesting title.
Miegakure only really has two problems — its movement speed and its release. The main character moves very slowly, which may fall in line with the aesthetics, but I found it frustrating since I wasn’t in a calm mindset already. Maybe that could change if the mood was right, but it was still frustrating. And the release has never had a nailed down date. Though it’s been shown off a few times, there’s no solid word on its release and the creator has explicitly said that he doesn’t want to do an alpha/beta and the concrete release platforms are rather vague (the word “consoles” implies a lot). Once it’s actually released, I’m sure it’ll be a great experience, but for now, I’m worried we may never see it
Developer/Publisher: Marc Ten Bosch
Release date: TBD
Whooooa man was I amped for this game. I saw it on the show floor and heard it was like Skyrim, but for wizard fighting, and that painted a clear picture in my head of a badass mage fighting off hoards of zombies with cool spells all “PEW PEW PEW TAKE THAT FOUL BEAST, BZAM”
When I played the game, what I got was “Okay, get the enemies to chase you, hold down this button, and then press that one to do a spell. Okay they’re not dead yet? Keep running and doing that until they are. Oh you’re done? Walk forward 20 feet and do it again until the end of the level.” I couldn’t find an official video for Lichdom Battlemage, so look at this guy play it. He seems to enjoy it, but it presents multiple problems to me.
In short, it was boring. I really wanted to like it. It seemed like just the junk food fantasy I enjoy, but the gameplay mechanics are just horrendously boring. Left mouse button fires a spell. Hold right mouse button, then press left mouse button for an AOE attack. Use scroll wheel to select spells. That’s basically the whole game. And I wasn’t exaggerating when I said all you do is kill a group of skeletons, walk forward, and repeat. The level I played was a curvy line, littered with enemies every twenty feet or so, until the very end. Just when I thought “oh man, maybe we’ll get a cool boss fight.” Nope. Just more god damn skeletons. Four waves of god damned skeletons.
Come on guys, you did the hard part. You came up with a great name that conjures a cool image. Lichdom Battlemage says to me badass wizard who returns the dead back where they belong with awesome spells and swift kicks to the chest. What you delivered was a mix of the worst parts of Final Fantasy XIII and Skyrim.
The amount of positive reviews on its Steam Early Access page make me think it’s better than what I played, but if that’s true, why show off the worst part of the game at a giant expo? Nothing about this makes sense to me. I’ll give it another look when it’s closer to release, but at the moment, I’d much rather stick with Skyrim.
Developer: Xaviant Games
Release Date: Early access on Steam right now