Ubisoft continues to make a major push into the current generation with it’s first big indie release Child of Light – an RPG that combines the simplicity and charm of a child’s storybook with the elements of a puzzle platformer to create a beautiful stylized world. While Child of Light simplifies many elements of the genre and finishes just as fast as its starts, the interactive battle system and incredible artwork will keep you engaged from beginning to end.
The story in Child of Light is a simple one of a girl who is poisoned by an evil stepmother to awake in a fantasy world upon her passing. Accompanied by her spiritual guide Firefly, she meets a cast of colorful and diverse party members who help her in determining the faith of two worlds. It’s stays tightly inside the traditional RPG story telling box, but the fairy tale elements of the narrative border on the annoying. When narrated it is akin to the sweet sound of a mother reading her child a story. Sadly the dialogue reads like a middle school teacher told her students to write a fantasy story, and made it mandatory that every other word rhymed. The story is forgettable, but whatever it lacks in creativity is made up for immensely in the artwork.
The Ubiart Framework engine delivers again as the two dimensional sprites convey an array of motions both inside and out of battle. All the animations from dodging, damage, and dying are beautifully fluid. Enemies traverse across the screen either stationary or on the hunt, thus eliminating all random encounters. The game strikes a balance of giving you just enough enemies to battle along to main path making it possible to compete the game without ever having to grind for EXP or complete dozens of side quests to progress your party just to stand a fighting chance. Making the game manageable for even the most inexperience gamer. Shorty after the beginning of the game and first boss you are giving the power of flight making the puzzles and platforming more of a delight. You will push, pull, fly, and illuminate your way through obstacles making for great contrast to the games unique and fun battle system.
The most important element of any RPG is it’s battle system. No matter how well written the story or engaging the world and its inhabitants are the bulk of your time will be spent in the battle screen. Child of Light utilizes a time based action bar that determines when you can start attacking and how long it will to take you to cast your spell or attack before are sent back to the standby phase, ranging from instant to long. Each action you do can be interrupted if an enemy attacks you in time cast phase and vice versa. It is extremely simple to execute, but as with any good mechanic its depth becomes more apparent has you delve deeper into the world of Lemuria.
There are numerous spells, items and attacks that can speed or slow you down on both sides of the battlefield. Having one party member focusing on controlling the speed of battle can lead to utter salvation or annihilation. Your Firefly guardian also plays a vital role in battle as he can fly around freely and heal the player or stall the enemy by emitting a magical light while hovering over the player, making sure that in one way or another you are constantly thinking in battle one way or another, and not just watching turn base attacks unfold.
As robust as the battle system is the game is still relatively easy. The ability the swap party members during you cast phase and have your replacement still attack keeps the fear of seeing the game over screen low as I only saw it once during my entire play through. RPG veterans will have to dial the difficult up to hard if you want a decent challenge all the way though.
The skill tree and forging system also keeps things simple with urgency to try to figure out any advance planning or stagey. You can focus on making out a branch that you like and fill it up rather quickly and start on the next or go for balance and upgrade them evenly. Both will yield the same result giving you a sigh of relief, but at the same time leaving you wishing it was a little more to it all.
When the last chapter is finished and the book is closed Child of Light leaves you feeling like there should have been more to do, but still content with the adventure. Everything it does, it does well with the artwork being the main attraction. The game ends just has it finally starts to get into its form and the lack of difficult keep it from being the gem it could truly be. If you search out every nook and carney you can squeeze out a 10-hour experience, but if you don’t take the time to stop and enjoy the view the journey will be over before you realize it.