It's been hard to escape hearing about Ubisoft's new IP, Child of Light, in the months leading up to its release. It's rare to hear so much about a download-only, colorful RPG in a market seemingly dominated by shooters and gritty, realistic games.
Yet, Child of Light stands out because of its unique take on both art direction and the RPG genre as a whole. The end result is a truly captivating game that I want to go back to.
Any conversation had about Child of Light will end up touching upon just how gorgeous this game is. The environments feel like something of a modern take on illustrations from Aesop's Fables or Grimm's Fairy Tales. Child of Light's art direction, from the world to character and enemy designs, is nothing short of breathtaking. Lemuria is full of nooks and crannies waiting to be explored, which are hinted at subtly as you travel. Before you know it you'll be sending Aurora further down the rabbit hole in search of Lemuria's secrets.
No Voice Acting
Modern games are often frowned upon for not having voice acting, however when playing through Child of Light, it just feels right to read the text on page. After all, characters in storybooks don't read their lines aloud. The fact that all dialogue is in rhyme further drills this point home. Hearing the lines read in my inner-monologue reminds me of reading books as a child in all the right ways; it just wouldn't feel right if the lines were spoken.
Equipment, Crafting and Skills
Ubisoft Montreal took an interesting direction with skills, crafting and especially equipment, opting for a more simplistic approach. Instead of managing swords, shields and armor by character and class, Child of Light substitutes these items for oculi; stones of various types based on real-world gems. Think Final Fantasy VII's materia, only replacing equipment as opposed to slotting into it and you're on the right track. Any character can equip a single oculus in an offensive, defensive or accessory slot. Of course, each type of oculus offers its own benefit based on which slot it's equipped in and the effects are the same across characters.
Speaking of oculi, you'll find them frequently, which is great considering they can be crafted and combined to become more powerful. For instance, as you can see above, combining a ruby, emerald and sapphire will result in a diamond. Additionally, you can combine three of the same type and size (there are a total of four sizes of each oculus, rough, tumbled, faceted and brilliant) to form a larger oculus. There's no one oculus that is clearly better, meaning it's smart to keep a good variety in your inventory.
There isn't really much to say here. I just love New Game+. I loved it when Chrono Trigger introduced it on the SNES, and it's a feature I've wanted on just about every game I've beaten since then. I'll be playing through Child of Light again due in no small part to the fact that this feature is in there.
The Combat System
Child of Light employs a timeline-based battle system, which is fun, but can be a bit of a mixed bag. During battle icons for each character on the field move through the segments of the timeline. A character getting hit during while in the cast portion of the timeline will set them back significantly. To give you an edge you can use Ingiculus, Aurora's firefly companion, to blind enemies, thus slowing their progress; this works well with a friend controlling Inigculus on a separate controller, but not so much when doing so on your own and trying to keep track of other actions on the timeline.
Once you get the hang of it though, you should be able to fend off enemies' attacks for the entirety of a battle (outside of boss fights) with some ease. Later on in the game, enemies will have counters for being interrupted, which adds a nice strategic element to the fighting.
Deciding where to place this was tough for me, as I'm typically hard to please when it comes to game soundtracks. Child of Light's music fits the game's setting very well, but won't have you humming it when you're not playing. Nothing that sticks with me like some other RPGs (see Phantasy Star, Final Fantasy). The music on offer here, while not insanely memorable, is more than competent and a great compliment to the feel of the game overall.
A Short Story
Aurora's trip through Lemuria may be an RPG, but if you're expecting a 20+ hour adventure, you're in the wrong place. My first time through Child of Light, in which I admittedly skipped a few sidequests and left some areas unexplored, clocked in at just over 11 hours. If the Final Fantasies and Bravely Defaults of the world are novels, Child of Light is exactly what it tries to emulate—a storybook.
No Manual Saving
I'm a bit or an obsessive when it comes to saving, especially in RPGs. I typically keep 3-4 save files per run, just in case I miss something important and need to go back. Unfortunately, Child of Light affords me no such luxury. There's just one slot, and no manual saving, you'll save after every fight. It goes against everything I hold dear, but to Ubisoft Montreal's credit, I didn't find anything I couldn't go back and explore at any point throughout the story, so it's not a deal-breaker.
Child of Light is a storybook in every way, it delivers a fraction of the length (at a fraction of the cost) of larger RPGs, while delivering an experience just as engrossing as its peers. Whether you're a fan of RPGs, someone who loves good art direction or the type that just likes to play good games of any type, Child of Light is for you.
Note: The pre-release copy provided for review by Ubisoft didn't have online features, such as oculus gifting enabled. There were some minor bugs, none which affected the game in a material way, which Ubisoft said would be fixed in a day one patch. This review will be updated with information on the online features once the patch hits.