Child of Light
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Platform(s): Wii U, 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4 PC
Face down the forces of Darkness as Aurora, a lost girl fighting through the magical world of Lemuria to rejoin her father, the Duke. This is “Child of Light” the whimsically refreshing new role-playing game from Ubisoft Montreal. Boasting Ubisoft’s new UbiArt engine, Child of Light delivers a lushly animated artistic world straight out of a fairy-tale.
Child of Light’s gameplay is in the style of an old-school JRPG, a mix between basic puzzle-platforming and turn-based battles. Both of these key elements of play work wonders with the art and environment, with the platforming promoting exploration of dreamy Lemuria, and the turn-based combat offering players plenty of opportunities to appreciate the design of characters, enemies, and levels.
One of the more interesting and unique features of Child of Light is the use of Igniculus, a small firefly-like creature who serves as your constant companion. Igniculus assists Aurora both in platforming (activating switches, blinding enemies to avoid battles, opening chests) and combat (healing allies, slowing down enemies). Though it is perfectly possible to control both Aurora and Igniculus at the same time in one-player mode, there remains the option to have a second player control Igniculus, which relieves some of the first player’s responsibility and allows for a more relaxed experience.
Combat and characters’ abilities rely on an extremely streamlined mix of skill trees, consumable items, and tailoring tactics to suit particular enemies; some are weak to one damage type, or may be resistant to others. During combat, all parties and their progress towards their next action are represented by icons on a single timer; while waiting for the next action, Igniculus can fly about to help or hinder as needed, so there’s always something to do between turns besides just gawking at the art.
That being said, one could easily be forgiven for simply staring every now and then (though combat probably isn’t the best time to suffer from art-induced paralysis). From the very first moments of the game, I was struck with a sense of wonder by the beautiful art of Child of Light. Using deep, vibrant colors laid on highly detailed and wonderfully designed environments and characters, Child of Light delivers an experience halfway between Chrono Trigger and Limbo, with a persistent dream-like quality, from which you won’t want to wake. The soundtrack is suitably fantastical, relying mostly on simple chamber-music arrangements, with song styles ranging from high-energy battle themes to more relaxed folksy tunes to explore to. Where the music really shines are in those areas dripping with drama, particular narrative moments where the music is downright haunting, or intense boss-battles featuring full orchestra and choir. In such moments, it’s easy to get swept up in the moment and really feel for Aurora and her roving band of adventurers.
Though the narrative of the game is a timeless classic of a child seeking to reunite with her parent, it is delivered in a fresh and striking package that dispels any notions of “cliche”. Story is delivered through speech bubbles and conversation panels, and occasional narrated animated sequences. One of the more interesting writing choices that really lends character to Child of Light is that all dialogue is written in rhymed verse. Even characters conversing with one another effortlessly engage in rhymed repartee, to the point that when one character struggles with improvising rhymed conversation, others express confusion.
Unfortunately, I found myself expressing confusion at every other character’s strict adherence to the rhyming style. As a poet myself, I was initially ecstatic to see the prevalence of poetic dialogue in this game. However, I also know how difficult it can be at the best of times to write an engaging, clear, concise bit of verse, and unfortunately, Child of Light too often falls flat. The choice to have all characters speak in rhyme reinforces the fairy-tale style, but robs the characters of most of their voice and individuality. What’s more, the writing is well done, but sadly, not well enough that it isn’t distracting, and fails to avoid seeming like a gimmick soon enough. Some dialogue is shoehorned in to force a rhyme, some rhymes are slanted, meter is too varied, and the whole idea, while incredibly bold, is simply too bloated to work well here.
Ubisoft Montreal, the Canadian subsidiary of French parent developer Ubisoft, is one of the largest developers in the industry today, and they boast an arsenal of widely-recognized franchises. Child of Light comes hot on the heels of the latest game of perhaps Ubisoft Montreal’s hottest series, Assassin’s Creed. Assassin’s Creed, like many of Ubisoft’s titles, has been delivered in a dozen different games, and is a steady source of revenue for the developer. With that said, it is extremely pleasantly surprising to see Ubisoft Montreal taking the risk of developing a brand new game without the foundation of a franchise to support it.
Child of Light is a novel approach that isn’t really reflected in any of Ubisoft Montreal’s pre-existing library, which have recently focused largely on 3D stealth and action-adventure games (Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, Prince of Persia, Splinter Cell). However, Child of Light does fit snugly with the style of Ubisoft Montpellier, whose focus has been 2D puzzle platformers like Rayman. Rayman Origins was in fact the first title to use the UbiArt engine, an innovative framework whose merit has been beautifully proven in its latest iteration. Hopefully, with the success of Child of Light and other new upcoming IP’s (Watch Dogs, Valiant Hearts: The Great War), Ubisoft will see that there is still plenty of room in the market for AAA innovation.
Child of Light is rated E for Everyone, and can honestly appeal to a very wide audience, child and adult alike. It combines stunning environments, an enchanting soundtrack, an engaging story, and clever gameplay, in a simple and easy to digest package. Aside from some issues with the difficulty in writing rhymed dialogue for every character, every aspect of the game is of superior quality. For these reasons, I would highly recommend playing it to anyone looking for a fun, wondrous RPG; I’m giving Child of Light a 4 out of 5.
I look forward to playing more of Child of Light, and seeing more like it in the future, but for now, that’s all I have to say on it! If you’ve got any questions or comments, please leave them in the comments section below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Be sure to like, share, subscribe, and tell everybody who’s anybody, and check back soon for more of the same!