One would initially classify Child Of Light as a JRPG, after watching gameplay footage and initial speculation, this was my assumption. Interestingly enough, the game is hybrid of a JRPG, a platformer and part visual poem, and after playing through the game it is easy to confirm that the game features all of these in great amounts. There is one question that persistently reverberated when playing Child Of Light, am I playing a classic JRPG? The answer is not that simple as by the end of it I had come to the conclusion that Child Of Light does something truly interesting, and it works.
From the outset, Child Of Light appears to be a game mimicking the elements of a JRPG, throwing in some decent platforming with great visuals powered by the UbiArt Framework engine. In the wrong hands all of these disparate elements wouldn’t work well together, but Child Of Light somehow pulls it off with ease. The game is an interesting mixture that amounts to more than the sum of its parts.
The story is as such Aurora, the heroine of the game, is a girl from Austria circa 1985, the daughter of a duchess and duke, who contracts a sickness. This sickness causes Aurora to fall into a deep slumber. Following this, Aurora finds herself in the mystical world of Lemuria. Lemuria has its sun, moon and stars stolen, meaning that the land is without light. The culprit is none other than the Queen of the Night. Aurora initially is on a mission to find a way back to her father, who himself has fallen ill. She is also joined by a friendly firefly named Igniculus, who came to be by Aurora’s entrance into the world of Lemuria. Igniculus is Aurora’s partner in the world of Lemuria, and has the ability to blind enemies, find items and aid Aurora on her journey. Igniculus is also a playable co-op character who a friend can play as via local play.
However, the quest to restore light to the land of Lemuria takes precedence as you meet a cast of characters ranging from two fighting jesters, a magically inclined dwarf, a financially sound mouse with plenty of arrows, a dark monster warrior and a lizard girl sorceress. Aurora, armed with a crown and a disproportionately large sword, decides to take up the quest to acquire the sun, moon and stars, and ultimately defeat the Dark Queen.
By extension, the story is all told as a playable poem which is carried through by all the characters speaking in verse. The narrator speaks in verse, Aurora speaks in verse and the whole cast as well. This helps promote the feeling that you are taking part in a poem and in a fairytale story, which in turn makes the narrative far more relatable. Things never get too complex with the rhyme scheme and if you’re playing the game with a younger sibling, or friend, the experience is always fun and fresh. It never felt forced and unnecessary, and cheesy for that matter. It fits the game well and helps to further the dream-like atmosphere Child Of Light is gunning for.
The game is titled Child Of Light and for good reason. Aurora has the power of light with the ability to shoot rays of light, slash enemies and lay waste to forces of darkness. JRPG elements in Child Of Light include mainly battles which take place in a turn-based system. Ubisoft Montreal deem this system an “Active Time Battle system”. The battle system is inspired by such games as Grandia II, Chrono Trigger and the Final Fantasy series. In addition, the game is also a side-scrolling platformer which is something Ubisoft excels at, as evidenced in the latest Rayman entries.
Battles begin by either surprise attacking an enemy by using Igniculus to stun an enemy and then initiating the attack swiftly, or enemies can ambush you. In battles, you have Igniculus and your choice of party members. Essentially there are two party members on the field, all of which can be swapped out depending on your tactical know-how and choice of strategy. So you are not only limited to always having to use Aurora as elemental affinities and exploiting enemy type weaknesses do come into play quite often. The battle system itself is dictated by turns as mentioned above, and so in Child Of Light there are bars not only for MP and HP, but a waiting bar of sorts is included too.
The turn bar shows the progress of enemies and party members before they hit a point when they can finally “Act” and initiate a spell or attack. Watching this bar becomes vital in tense battles. The game is not only about waiting for turns to finish, as enemies can interrupt your chance to attack when their turn to act coincides with your own party members’ turns. But this is where you choose how to attack, and what abilities and spells you use comes into play. Every ability and spell has a certain duration attached, before initiation. If an enemy is already nearing their time to act and you are near them on the timeline of the turn bar, you can then select an ability with a shorter time duration in order to interrupt their turn and push the enemy closer to the beginning of their turn. The tricky part is that enemies can do the very same things.
So you have to play against enemy weaknesses and take note of elemental affinities creatures may have. Some enemy creatures and bosses may purely be dark, so using light magic attacks freely available to Aurora may be your best bet. But you can use gems found in the game called “Oculi” which can be placed in party members’ equipment sockets. Depending on where you place a certain elemental gem in a shield, weapon or accessory slot there will be various different effects on a character. In one slot a fire Oculi could increase health, and in another such as a weapon slot it could increase fire damage when attacking. This all depends on where you place the Oculi. Investing in crafting Oculi by combing smaller gems is one of the best ways to make progression in Child Of Light. There are of course different elemental gems, such as fire, water, light and dark to name a few. The more Oculi you combine the more variants you will discover.
You can of course use instant abilities like “Defend” to protect yourself when an enemy attacks and you don’t have any proper options to select. Yet Child Of Light’s battles come alive when you are consistently being tactical about your choices. You have the abilities and powers of your party members at your disposal and as you complete many of the sidequests you will inadvertently gain new companions with different powers and abilities. Some party members can cause enemy paralysis, use various elemental powers, heal party members and dish out great physical damage when needed. You of course gain experience points and can level up your characters where applicable.
Party members that aren’t in battles will also gain some experience points, something quite prevalent in many JRPGs. Prioritizing your party and strategy when coming up against an enemy is all part of Child Of Light’s battle system. Utlimately the game is more about methodical slow-paced gameplay which enhances the dream-like feel of the Child Of Light. If battles are proving too tough you can flee or if you want you can swap out party members if need be. There are many possibilities for you to choose from. Of course, Igniculus is there to help you out if you are in a tight spot, he can heal party members by collecting wishes, glowing orbs which appear in plants all around the battlefield. Igniculus can stun enemies for a period of time slowing down the time it takes for them to pull off an attack. Igniculus can stun enemies and heal you outside of battle, by collecting wishes from plants scattered all across the areas you explore. In singleplayer, controlling both Aurora and Igniculus separately, with different analogue stick,s can be daunting and awkward at times, as you try to take safe passage through challenges and obstacles without taking too much damage. It is a bit irritating at times, but nonetheless is not game breaking at all.
The game itself doesn’t feature item shops, black smiths and other such RPG staples. Rather Child Of Light encourages exploration which is where the platforming comes into the equation, as you are faced with obstacles and challenges such as spikes, wind tunnels, spurting lava and host of other nasty surprises. Most of these can be overcome with the help of Igniculus who can power up certain junctures in an obstacle to stop spikes from falling down on you. As Aurora, you can pull levers to make progression through a challenging section of a map, which makes your life much easier.
The more you explore in Child Of Light the greater the rewards will be. If you are following through with a sidequest from an NPC, you can get stat bonuses and items like potions, elixirs and status enhancements for battles. These items can be gathered alternatively by exploring areas to their fullest extent. Aurora and Igniculus have very different skill-sets which the game will constantly challenge, and this is where the game allows another local player to help the player who is Aurora to make their way through a difficult challenge or obstacle. The idea behind the co-op is very well expressed by the video above. That said, the platforming in Child Of Light isn’t particularly difficult and it is quite easy to see that there is quite a strong focus on the RPG elements of the game.
Visually the game is beautiful, powered by the UbiArt Framework engine used in Rayman Legends and Rayman Origins, the game has great visual fidelity and share a similar quality of polish with the Rayman series. Child Of Light’s visual beauty can be seen from the way in which Aurora’s hair is whisked away in the wind, to drastic changes in the landscape over the course game, to even the little details in the water effects. Child Of Light is indeed a visual delight. The world of Lemuria is a water-coloured landscape appearing as if hand drawn in your very own personalised fairy tale and Child Of Light had me sold in the first few minutes of gameplay. Whilst the game may have some of the gameplay elements of a JRPG, it is still part sidescrolling platformer and a playable poem.
Moreover, Child Of Light is always in this constant visual flux between the art styles of Hayao Miyazaki, of Studio Ghibli fame, the works of famous Final Fantasy artist Yoshitaka Amano and most prominently the visual theatrics of Eastern European fairy tales which take centre stage. Complimenting Child Of Light’s strong visual style is Cœur de Pirate’s (AKA Béatrice Martin) beautiful musical compositions that bring this fairy tale to life and leaves your ears spellbound as the story progresses. It helps to accentuate the dream-world atmosphere of Lumeria. The game does so much right and little wrong, and you are left with a brilliant fairy tale experience.