Let me tell you about Child of Light, a land called Lemuria and its terrible plight. An evil Queen has stolen the sun, moon and stars, bringing evil before unseen while turning the world from a place of beauty to one of scars. The fate of this place rests with Aurora, and those that support her. The game itself is a platforming RPG with a story told in rhyme, but does this latest Ubisoft title bring glee and is it worth your time?
Child of Light is brought to life by the UbiArt Framework engine, the same one encountered in Rayman Legends and Origins. This approach compliments Child of Light’s fairytale nature, as it adds to the charm of this adventure. There are a whole host of locations to explore, each with their own monsters and quests waiting in store. From the Cliffs of Erin to the Plains of Rambert you’ll easily be able to tell these places apart. Each environment have their own art styles from the vivid blues of the seas, to the muted tones of the plains that appear to spread for miles.
The character designs are unique from Aurora’s flowing dress and red hair, to the blue firefly Igniculus who completes this core pair. Surrounding them is a cast of characters each with their own stories, which have had an influence on their own inventories. Each with their own special abilities, you’ll have to use them wisely to survive the game’s various hostilities. These are faced through the active time battle system, decended from classic RPGs you may have already had experience with them.
Child of Light allows for two party members to stay on screen and fight, against foes that number in twos or threes. While this formula remains the same, not changing your battle tactics will lead to the end of the game. You’ll need to learn your enemy’s weaknesses and strengths, because their attacks do not follow a set sequence.
The turn order is represented by the Timeline, a long bar, along which travels each character’s avatar. The quicker they move in this race, the quicker they’ll be able to carry out their actions and attack the foes that they face. It’s quite a simple system to use, and one that makes it easier to decide which tactic to choose. Sometimes it’s best to have a healer keeping your mage alive, or maybe slow down your opponent so you can increase your attacking drive.
There are different types of enemies present, including dark, fire, water and earth, each of which can easily torment. Various party members have access to these too, but with dark being replaced by light, so that as almost all the combat situations are different, working out the best tactic is a delight.
However on some rare occasions certain bosses can be hard to triumph against, and in these situations you’ll lose again and again with your time as the expense. You can retreat from these encounters and find smaller ones to get experience, and also learn new skills for future reference. There was a point in the game where I got stuck in such a pickle, but after doing the tiniest bit of grinding that particular boss fight proved not to be quite so fickle.
Though you can only have two characters on screen at a time, you can switch them, even if they’ve collapsed from sustaining too much damage, this mechanic is a gem. Also the two character thing isn’t quite true, because Igniculus also helps in all the battles, bar a few. You can move Igniculus around the screen with the right analog stick, and when you press R2 this firefly will light up blinding and slowing enemies, which is a very useful trick. However, it must be conserved in battle as it isn’t limitless, and if you expend it too soon, you’ll find yourself in a potential mess.
Outside of battle controlling Igniculus is done through exactly the same means, helping to light up pathways and activate magical machines. There are also puzzles to complete to gain access to different places and prizes, and from flicking a switch to opening gates that make Aurora look titch, these come in all sorts of sizes.
Exploring Lemuria is key to victory, as you’ll find treasures hidden in chests located in shadows, caves, and even a small city. These treasures can be potions to heal yourself with or to gain a new skill, but some of these treasures will be gems for crafting Oculi, to improve your character’s stats and will.
The crafting system is easy to work out, just select two or three gems, press craft and you can quickly give your characters more clout. Not all gems mix together though, but you can try different combos as your collection of them will steadily grow. Each character can equip up to three Oculi, affecting resistance against elements, infusing weapons with powers, and making it harder for them to die. It’s a good idea to keep switching the Oculi as you progress, because otherwise battles will be harder and more likely to end in your deaths.
As your characters accumulate victories, they are awarded skill points which can be used to uncover the skill chart’s mysteries. Unlock more health as points are spent on individual character charts, or better defence and new moves which all come together like perfect puzzle parts. What I didn’t do but what you could is plot which course you’ll take, and which powers you want access to. It didn’t affect me negatively during my playthrough, but whether you follow my advice is up to you.
All throughout the game is a musical score that really compliments the settings as you explore. From the unintrusive yet gentle pieces that play while you walk or fly about to find your way, to the pieces that add to the proceedings with their loud expressions and that can take centre stage and add to particularly tough sessions. It’s some of the best game music I’ve heard in a while, and some of it even made me smile. For reference I’ve had the menu music playing on repeat for an hour while writing this, and I’d say that it is simply bliss. Also if you don’t want to play alone, another player can control Igniculus to open the doors and light up the ways into the unknown.
Child of Light is a joy to behold, with the tale of Aurora and Lemuria very well told. The way the whole experience has been crafted is nothing sort of fantastic, and this could turn out to be a classic. The story, the characters, the battle system, the art, and the music all shine. This is a game that wears its heart on its sleeve while bringing something fresh to the landscape; it’s quite divine.
I suppose the time has come to score Child of Light then, and I give this game nothing less than a…
Version tested: PS4