So on May 5th I was browsing my WordPress feed when I stumbled upon something familiar. It was review by Pixel Vallee on the game Child of Light. It was weird seeing the name again, having to ponder where I had heard it from for a while before realisation hit me a ton of bricks with a further ton of bricks hitting mere seconds after the first load made connection with my skull.
I had mentioned it myself in my Far Cry 3 review, giving it much praise in comparison for my rather lukewarm, at best, reception of the highly rated run around shooting everything in sight like crazy game.
Now, with my complete and utter ignorance of its release being corrected I swiftly bought it on Steam and have now finally completed it. Is it that long of a game? No. Twelve hours tops. Why has it taken me so long? One word: Exams. You probably know how I felt now at that time since I said that most painful of words.
Child of Light has pretty much sat in my Steam library sullen for being bought then, after a quick play, left until I had more time for a deeper play through. Well Child of Light, you need fear no more for the play through came and let me tell you… it had its ups and downs. OK, before we get into this let’s quickly got through the obligatory overview.
You play as the Aurora, a daughter of a Duke in Austria in 1895 (although then it would have been known as the Austro-Hungarian Empire), who falls to sleep due to some non-defined illness. Aurora then awake to the mythical land of Lemuria which has had the sun, moon and stars stolen by the Dark Queen Umbra.
Eager to return to her dying father, Aurora, along with a motley crew the many different peoples of Lemuria, travels across Lemuria to retrieve the sun, moon and stars. They must fight many and varied foes in order to restore Lemuria to its former glory while also readying themselves for the inevitable battle between darkness and light.
Now I know I wrote in utter awe of the game a year ago, but having played it there are a few things that make the game feel less whimsical and more repetitive and frustrating, first of which is the insistence on poetry.
Now I loved the poetry as I’m a person who still unashamedly likes to read poetry (and is reading some of Seamus Heaney’s collected poems at the time of writing). However I know that a lot of people find poetry to be an archaic form of writing which only serves as part of monotonous English lessons and, upon the end of school, is forgotten as quickly as Tamagotchi’s. So I can fully understand why the poetry may make people take an axe to their computers in complete annoyance.
Also the combat, while standard for an RPG, is a bit repetitive. The problem is that you can avoid battles if you want to, but you need to level up sufficiently in order to fight the bosses, which entails going around finding enemies so that you can level up. This, to put it bluntly, can be quite boring after a while.
There is also a problem with healing, but not in the way you are probably thinking. Alongside Aurora you also play as Igniculus, a firefly that helps Aurora by unlocking certain areas and also healing you in battle. While this is helpful in the long run, it does feel like there is no challenge with regular opponents as any damage you receive can easily be countermanded by Igniculus’ constant healing.
This also makes the wide array of healing potions redundant as they only really come into play when Igniculus’ healing ability is depleted and there is no way of replenishing it for a short period of time, which usually occurs in boss fights. Moreover, Igniculus’ healing light can also be used to slow enemies down if you hover over them, giving you more time to attack which, again, makes fights sometimes unnecessarily easy and more of a chore.
Furthermore, something which annoyed me with Far Cry 3 that remained in Child of Light is the upgrades tree. While upgrades are normal in games now, I do feel that Child of Light went a bit overboard with the amount of upgrades needed. Every time your character levels up, they get a skill point which can be spent on upgrades. However the upgrades only cost one, or much later on, two points so you feel like you are constantly upgrading your character.
Child of Light really could have benefitted in doling out upgrades every few levels with greater reward rather than giving them out in micro-packages every time you levelled up. By leaving upgrades to be given after a certain level, or even after certain boss fights, it would have mode them more meaningful, rather than something that appeared to have come up with the rations.
In addition, the game feels cut short. Without spoiling, the game goes from something that has the feel of a long coming-of-age tale to being swiftly dealt with in two boss battles that are almost one after the other. Rather than trying to let the game drift on in its more fairy-tale style in order to give some more profound lessons at a leisurely though more intense way near the end of the game Ubisoft seemed happy to cram the ending into half an hour of gameplay that leaves a sense of dull dissatisfaction.
Yet, despite these complaints, It may surprise you to learn that there are good, if not indeed, brilliant aspects about this game. Let’s get the obvious out of the way though: this game is gorgeously designed.
Upon turning the game on and landing in Lemuria, I just stared at the picturesque water-coloured game for about five minutes before engaging in any sort of gameplay. As a game I have never seen one so delightful to look at. For all the modern CGI effects in triple A games and the realism they try to confer, Child of Light with its simplistic, yet unique style, cannot help but to grab your attention fully.
Another brilliant aspect of the game is its side scrolling nature as, like Deadlight, it allows you to look at the brilliant artwork beyond your immediate surroundings. The fantastic artwork, as I have said before, is a wonder to behold but the side-scrolling mechanic harks back to the days of uncomplicated gameplay and yet unrestricted feel.
What also helps this is the exquisite soundtrack. the classical music, with the piano leading the melody onwards, gives the game the sense of otherworldly-ness which fits in beautifully. Rather than wax lyrical about how good the music is, I’ll just leave you with a sample and let you be the judge on how great the music is.
Furthermore the whole coming-of-age motif this game is centred around is handled with aplomb. The development of Aurora from scared and slightly bratty child to a caring and almost worldly protagonist is on which you feel more and more invested in as the game goes along.
While Aurora may have remained a gimmicky character whose development is next to none, Ubisoft have gone down a more satisfactory route by letting the character develop as the game progresses, making her grow up in consequence to the growing realism of the plight Lemuria, and her father, faces which makes the game all the more interesting.
What I also must give points on is the storyline itself as, while it is in essence a bit basic at best, it doesn’t try to over-complicate things by becoming all existential about itself. Child of Light takes the more basic, and more enjoyable route of Person A must defeat Person B with help from Peoples C through G. Sure it has a few side quests that you can do, which give your side characters time to be fleshed out, but they don’t obscure your main mission with it only being at the end that you notice that, if you missed them, it effects a scene ever so slightly.
Now we turn to the combat and, while Igniculus’ makes battles too easy at times, at its core it is quite fun to play, especially against bosses. The turn based combat, while not to everyone’s taste, does make sense in this RPG and since Child of Light throws a veritable plethora of enemies against you. Getting up to three enemies at a time which come in different shapes and sizes, as well as different strengths and weaknesses, Child of Light really gives you a different battle experience every time..
But that’s not only with enemies as the combination of characters you are given are magnificently varied to allow players to have a different style of play. With heavy hitting characters, magic characters, characters that hinder your opponents, characters that give you buffs and healing, there is such a wide variety of styles and tactics that you can employ that many people may have a different gaming experience because of it.
So Child of Light, while not everything I wanted it to be, is not a bad game by far, indeed it excels. The story is captivating, as well as the artwork, bringing you along a journey that is bittersweet yet leaves you with a feeling of sweet satisfaction, although there is that yearning for something more. But, in fairness, the fairy-tale aspect of the whole game will leave you with a sense of charm and delight that obscure the faults not in darkness, but with blinding light.
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