Also On: PS4, PC, Wii U
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Child of Light is an absolutely gorgeous game with light platforming elements mixed with RPG battle and leveling mechanics. It’s a very unique experience overall, and one that’s worth seeking out on whatever platform you have available. This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which saw little to no technical issues or hiccups. I imagine the same can be said for the PS4 and PC versions as well.
Ubisoft’s newest title puts you in the role of Aurora, a young Austrian girl from the late 19th century that has recently passed away, and awoken in a strange new world. Armed with a sword found in the early minutes of her adventure, Aurora embarks on a journey across this mysterious land, with the end goal of returning to her former existence and grieving father.
The first thing about Child of Light that will stand out is how fantastic the visuals are. I’m sure you’ve seen screens and video by now, but it really looks great in motion. The animation work given to Aurora really breathes life into her character. The various sections of the world you can explore are fantasy driven and oftentimes breathtaking. The musical score accompanying this adventure lends an ethereal quality to Aurora’s surrounding, which seems very appropriate considering how Aurora came to exist within this world.
Along the way, Aurora will encounter and be accompanied by other travelers. You’ll essentially build a party, which can assist you in combat with unique abilities and powers. The RPG mechanics extend into both combat and character building. You’ll level up with experience earned from fights, and then gain skill points that can be devoted to a large number of unlockable skill slots. You’ll expand basic stats, like defense, strength, and magic, and also gain new powers or better versions of existing ones. Each character has three skill trees to explore, with focuses on healing, melee combat, magic and defense.
Combat is certainly the most unique element of Child of Light. It adopts a modified version of the popular Final Fantasy Active Time Battle mechanic. Both player controlled characters and enemies are shown on a small meter at the bottom of the screen. As seconds tick by, each combatant will take turns issuing out attacks. Timing is everything, and you’ll often keep an eye on this meter to determine when you should defend or attack. Different abilities take a certain amount of time to perform, causing your character icon to move faster or slower depending on the action taken.
One key tactic used comes from interrupting the attacks of your opponents. Once an enemy has reached a point on the displayed meter that allows them to select an attack, you’ll have an opportunity to prevent it. This is done by selecting an attack that casts faster than the one a foe has chosen. It can be difficult at times to tell whether you’ll outrace an enemy in regards to skill casting, but the advantage certainly outweighs the risk in tougher fights and boss encounters. One aid you’ll receive comes from Aurora’s firefly companion, used in combat to slow down enemies by hovering over them and holding down a trigger button. The firefly has a limited energy meter, but it can essentially adjust the casting and attack timing to your favor when used properly. The firefly can also heal party members over time using a similar function when hovered over teammates, and can even gather up HP and MP orbs from nearby plants.
I also really enjoyed Child of Light’s story, and thought the cast of characters used here were all really excellent. I wasn’t sure how well the constant rhyming in the dialogue would work, but it was surprisingly well done and thoughtful. There’s the right mix of humor and drama here that really sells Aurora’s plight to the player, which in turn makes for some emotional moments throughout the 10+ hour tale.
My only real complaints stem from the exploration elements, which provide rewards for going off the beaten path, but the methods for doing so are often underwhelming. There’s no real challenge to the platforming aspects, and a flight ability gained early on means that you’ll almost never spend time with your feet on the ground. There are some small puzzle-solving moments mixed in, but nothing that will see you consulting an FAQ. Instead, it feels like you’re just moving from one battle to the next, as opposed to actually enjoying the moments in between. Thankfully the combat is really great, and you’ll be frequently engaged in it, I just wish that I enjoyed exploring this stunning world more than I did.
Still, I certainly think Child of Light is well worth a look. It’s a very unique attempt to blend genres in way that doesn’t entirely work, but deserves some recognition for the effort. It’s also a great use of the engine used in the recent Rayman revival, and shows that Ubisoft has a team of developers and artists on hand that can do a lot more than just pump out yearly Assassins Creed entries. Child of Light doesn’t always fire on all cylinders, but it will do enough to hold your attention from beginning to end.