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Child of Light has both looks and brains, but not much staying power

Monday, 28 April 2014 17:00 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Child of Light isn’t the wanky graphics showcase you may have been led to believe; it’s gorgeous, yes, but its heart is a thumping good RPG which left us wanting more.

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Child of Light: Ubisoft Montreal

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A side-scrolling RPG built on the UbiArt engine, developed by Ubisoft Montpellier for the Rayman series.

Developed by the core team behind Far Cry 3, including director Patrick Plourde and writer Jeffrey Yohalem.

Tells the story of Aurora, the daughter of a duke who falls asleep in 1895 Austria to awaken in a magical land. To return home, she must release the stars, moon and sun from the Queen of the Night’s hold.

A party RPG which allows two active characters in battle against up to four targets; party members can be switched out instantly and without restriction on their turn.

A second player can take control of Igniculus, Aurora’s firefly companion.

Available on PC, PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360 and Xbox One from April 29.

Over the last few years I’ve played several games developed as passion projects, with an emphasis on aesthetic and narrative, which have brought me to tears and made me want to write love letters to their developers – to track them down at conventions, wring their hands and gaze earnestly into their eyes while expounding on the impact they had on me.

Child of Light isn’t one of those games, but it’s pretty good anyway.

Prior to playing Child of Light I had certain expectations. I expected it to be beautiful, to have a charming set of characters, to have lovely music and to be a joy to play. All those expectations were met. Child of Light does have a really nice atmosphere. The 2D graphics are gorgeous, although the fact that Aurora and a few other characters are rendered in 3D is sometimes a little jarring. The fairytale world is much less generic than most games manage, and while the vast cast of characters doesn’t allow for much exploration of them as individuals, few of the party members are dull stereotypes (it’s great to see such a good gender balance, too; many of the most powerful warriors are female).

Floating about the environments is effortless and lovely and even the little firefly character, which is controllable via a second controller in the model of Puppeteer, isn’t too annoying most of the time (the exception being a few fiddly puzzles). There’s a pretty cool additional storyline worth checking out if you can find the (wonderfully brief; kudos Ubi, I think this is the first time I’ve ever actually read lore entires) collectibles. Aurora’s story is quite touching, if a little clichéd in parts, and the little animation when she gets knocked down in battle made me bite a chocolate bunny in half in pure delight.

That said, as much as I wanted to fall head over heels in love with this world, I didn’t. Maybe it’s that the story is too short (more on that later) to really develop a connection and investment in it. Maybe it’s the fact that everything is written in laboured rhymes. Maybe it was just that I never really felt a sense of exploration – which isn’t a 2D thing, by the way, as games like Metroid and Castlevania prove.

So this isn’t the teary, gushing recommendation I expected to write, but what I can’t say about the game world and aesthetics (which after all may suit you down to the ground), I can say about the battle system.

Child of Light uses a really interesting hybrid time mechanic where both the party’s and enemies’ time gauges are visible on screen. How rapidly these gauges fill depends on each character’s speed stat, but once you reach the final third you get to decide how to act, and the casting time of this action strongly affects how quickly you get to your turn.

List of features set to dramatic music.

Here’s the fun part: if a character or enemy is attacked during their casting stage, they’ll be bumped back along their time gauge. It’s sometimes in your interest to pass over a powerful ability, knowing that it will be interrupted before you can complete it, in order to let off a quick and dirty attack – bumping the enemy back, and giving another party member time to do something better.

It’s more complicated than this, with a defend ability and various status effects, and as you slowly add party members of varying abilities you end up with a myriad of tactical options. It starts off fairly straightforwardly, suddenly becomes a bit baffling, and then gestalt switches into something crystalline and beautiful. In glorious old school RPG fashion you explore each new environment, learning the abilities and weaknesses of common enemies, and putting together a solid tactic you then take to the next boss. Just when you think you’ve nailed it, a new kind of enemy, or a new party member, will set you on your ear.

It was quite reminiscent of Final Fantasy 6, actually. I absolutely love that kind of shizzle, and when a character left my party, ruining a cast-iron setup and leaving me without options I’d grown to rely on over the last hour, I first swore loudly and fluently and then was immediately absorbed in working out a new plan of attack. Deeply satisfying.

Here’s a great gameplay walkthrough which illustrates the battle system from just after 2:00 onwards.

Unfortunately, towards the end of the game I was less satisfied. New party members seemed to turn up so quickly I didn’t quite have time to find out what they were really good for, and despite my lack of grinding I found most of the fights pretty easy – I barely touched my stock of potions, and rarely had to bring in my healer. I only died once during my playthrough, as I recall, and that was when I’d walked past the first party member and tried to tackle the next section solo.

I’d like to replay the game on a harder difficulty, or perhaps by not recruiting some characters; it seemed like you could ignore their side quests if you wanted, or just never speak to some of them. As it was, at the end of the game I was using two or three characters almost exclusively, and felt that the late addition of a tank-like character unbalanced the game considerably.

Speaking of endgame: after you finish the main quest you can keep exploring the world. I couldn’t actually see the point of this, as I’d done all the side quests expect one (they all involved backtracking a few times and searching your memory for the locations of various NPCs with literally no other function; it wasn’t difficult to tick them all off, but a bit frustrating). I thought about playing a bit longer to max out my characters, or collect more elemental gems (there’s a neat little crafting system, and you can get ahead by using Uplay to share with your friends), but as I’d already dispatched the optional mini-bosses and couldn’t see any obvious new challenges, I switched off. I had plenty else to do.

FloodedLand_SunPalaceEntrance_Hall

If you’re the kind of gamer who expects to fork out $60 and receive a 40 hour epic with 200 hours of replayability, and apply this thinking to lower price points proportionately, you may find Child of Light too short. I put aside a full long weekend to play it but I was easily done by Saturday afternoon despite only really devoting a few hours each day.

Regarding replayability.

I don’t feel any particular need to play Child of Light again, but it is said to feature alternate endings. There was no indication of this in-game, but I imagine it depends on how many side quests you complete, with perhaps a reward for gathering all the collectibles.

If I was offered any choice scenarios beyond “help ally or not”, it went over my head. There are no dialogue choices.

It would be really easy to expand the game’s world through DLC, and I’d be both unsurprised and quite pleased if this occurred, because I’d love to take my party on to new challenges and explore the battle system further.

One final delighted lovelorn sigh over the gameplay systems: Child of Light is extremely controller friendly despite being so deep. You have so many options at your disposal that the menus might have been a nightmare, but a very simple series of rotating menus makes it super easy to get everything done. When it’s time to act you can take as long as you like to check out the available options, or to use your firefly to heal. It could have been called Child of Time; maybe it should have been, with Ubisoft’s marketing focusing on the wonderful tactical gameplay rather than the look and feel of the thing.

Ubisoft is to be applauded for its willingness to back something so refreshingly free of boring triple-A machismo and explosions, delivering a gorgeous and tightly designed little gem just a few flaws short of perfection. Cynically, I expect it’s ruthlessly trying to capitalise on the arty indie market; optimistically, I’m so pleased a mainstream publisher is taking notes and acting accordingly.

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3 Comments

  1. mistermogul

    “Child of Light isn’t the wanky graphics showcase you may have been led to believe”

    lol

    #1 11 months ago
  2. RPRezo

    Ugh. I can somewhat understand this when it comes from players that do not try to be professionals, but when reviewer finds a game too easy yet doesn’t even try to change the difficulty to suit his skills – that is fucked up.

    Child of Light is not easy of short. It is HARD. I wanted to personally strangle most of the bosses after fighting them for more than an hour. Sometimes to win I had to use all of my characters in one battle (and get most of them killed), mixing their abilities.

    And the only thing I had to do is pick “Hard” in the options menu.

    #2 11 months ago
  3. pokesly

    @RPRezo Even on New Game+ Hard mode, the game is not difficult. In my entire play through of NG Hard mode and NG+ Hard mode, 100%’ing everything, I had only 1 game over due to carelessness, This game was not meant to be challenging, they focused more on the art work and story line than the game play and difficulty. If you find this game hard then you are doing something wrong.

    #3 11 months ago

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    Sony has released a video for MLB 15 The Show which provides a look at graphical improvements made to the game. Along with the visual upgrade over MLB 14 The Show, the game contains new minor league stadiums, dynamic sun generated in real-time, and upgraded grass patterns which reflect each stadium’s unique look. MLB 15 […]

  • Valve to offer HTC Vive Developer Edition free to qualified developers

    Valve has said it will offer the HTC Vive Developer Edition for free to qualified developers in an effort to buoy projects before the tech launches commercially. Surgeon Simulator developer Bossa Studios and The Room studio Fireproof Games are just some of the developers which already have a free Vive in-hand. According to Valve’s Doug […]

  • DriveClub gameplay video features MotorStorm’s off-road buggies

    Some gameplay footage of MotorStorm’s off-road buggies in DriveClub has surfaced. Pictures of the buggies were shown on the Japanese PlayStation Blog earlier this month, which considering the game was developed by Evolution Studios – which developed MotorStorm – this isn’t too much of a surprise. The buggies were first spotted by Videogamer, which pulled […]

  • Mortal Kombat X live-action TV spot features the track Chop Suey

    The TV sport for Mortal Kombat X has been released, and not only does it contain a “spontaneous fight circle” taking over an entire city, but it features the System of a Down track Chop Suey. Mortal Kombat X will be released on PC, PlayStation 3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One April 14. The […]

  • Bloodborne Forbidden Woods progression bug caused by multiplayer summon

    A progression bug in Bloodborne is in the works, according to Sony and From Software. The issue occurs when players activate a multiplayer session in the Forbidden Woods using the Sinister Resonant Bell or Small Resonant Bell. It also appears the Lunarium Key won’t appear because of the multiplayer bug, and without the key you […]

  • Yo-Kai Watch game franchise has sold over 7 million copies

    The Yo-Kai Watch IP has sold over 7 million copies, according to developer Level-5. The figure included both physical and digital download sales. Yo-Kai Watch 3 will be unveiled during Level-5 Vision 2015 next month. The first title is in the works for the west but is still without a release window. Thanks, Gematsu.

  • Bloodborne trademark returned to Sony after accidentally losing it

    In case you were worried or anything, Sony has once again obtained the Bloodborne trademark. Earlier this week it was revealed that Sony mistakenly abandoned the Bloodborne trademark along with four others registered with US Patent and Trademark Office: Guns Up!, Kill Strain; How Games Were Made to Sound, and No Heroes Allows: No Puzzles […]

  • GTA 5 PC official trailer coming next week, 15 new screenshots released

    New PC screenshots of GTA 5 have been released along with word of a new trailer coming on Monday. The screens below are from the PC version and you can view them in 4K glory over on Rockstar Newswire. The PC version of GTA 5 releases on April 14.

  • PSN real-time server status page launching in Europe soon

    PlayStation users in Europe will soon have its own a PSN Service Status Indicator. It was released earlier this month in North America. The indicator makes it easier to check whether PlayStation services are down or running as planned. This includes account management, PlayStation Now, the store, social services, etc. Sony told Eurogamer the service […]

  • Exclusivity contract prevents Bioware from revealing Dragon Age: Inquisition DLC release on PS4

    Bioware is unable to discuss when the Jaws of Hakkon DLC for Dragon Age: Inquisition will arrive on platforms other than PC and Xbox One. According to various tweets from executive producer Mark Darrah, due to the exclusivity contract between EA and Microsoft, the studio is unable to announce a release date for PlayStation 3 […]

  • LEGO Batman 3 demo, Namco Museum, more added to North American eShop

    Nintendo has updated the North American end of the eShop with a demo for LEGO Batman 3, Namco Museum on Wii U Virtual Console, and various sales. Below is the full update. Nintendo eShop Dot Arcade – Wii U LEGO Ninjago – 3Ds LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham Demo – Wii U Harvest Moon: The […]

  • Square Enix’s Easter Surprise bundle contains five mystery PC games

    Square Enix offering another mystery bundle to customers in the UK, which comes with five mystery PC games for £3.99. As before, customers will be unaware of the games they are purchasing in the mystery bundle, but the bundle contains triple-A titles worth £40 combined. One of Square’s previous mystery bundles contained Tomb Raider, Just […]

  • From Software’s PSone game Shadow Tower coming to PSN

    Shadow Tower, the first-person action-RPG developed for the original PlayStation by From Software, will be released on PlayStation Network. In the 1998 title, players took on the role of a mercenary who has returned home to the Holy Land of Zeptar to find the place has been sucked into the Underworld. He must use the […]

  • PlayStation TV gets price cut in the UK, now £44.99

    PlayStation TV has received a price cut in the UK. After several retailers started offering the console for less than the RRP of £84.99, users on DealSpwn began to wonder whether this is an official price cut, and not just regular deals or stock clearance. Sony later confirmed the new price of £44.99. “Starting from […]

  • Fast & Furious expansion for Forza Horizon 2 is now available, for free

    You can download Forza Horizon 2 expansion Fast & Furious starting right now. Forza Horizon 2 Presents Fast & Furious is available to download now through Xbox Live for Xbox One and Xbox 360. The expansion is standalone, so you don’t need to own Forza Horizon 2 to play it. It’s also free from now […]

  • Fire-based weapons come to PayDay 2 with the Butcher’s BBQ Pack

    The 20th DLC for PayDay 2, the Butcher’s BBQ Pack, is now available on Steam. The DLC will run you $4.99/€4.99 and features: Piglet Grenade Launcher, 12G Steakout Shotgun and Mk1 Flamethrower Molotov cocktails and incendiary ammo Four new masks, patterns, materials and achievements The Butcher’s BBQ Pack is another co-development between Overkill and Croatian […]

  • Lords of the Fallen developer offers Hideo Kojima a job

    Amid the current turmoil between Hideo Kojima and publisher Konami, one studio has offered the legendary designer a position. Lords of the Fallen developer Deck 13 took to Twitter to extend a job offer to Hideo Kojima. Dear Mr. @HIDEO_KOJIMA_EN In case you are currently searching, we have an open position as Head of Game […]

  • Destiny Xur update: should you buy MIDA Multi Tool?

    The question on every Destiny player’s lips today. And the answer, supplied by resident Destiny expert Paul Davies, is… Yes! We asked Paul whether or not he thought Xur’s Exotic weapon this week was worth the 23 Strange Coins. Here’s what he said: “It was already a great gun to own for PVP owing to […]

  • Final Fantasy 15 has an all-male cast to make it “more approachable”

    According to Final Fantasy 15 director Hajime Tabata, the main cast of the game is all-male because it makes the game “more approachable.” Final Fantasy 15 director Hajime Tabata spoke to Gamespot about the reason for his choice of making the core cast an all-male affair. “Speaking honestly, an all-male party feels almost more approachable […]

  • Hearthstone Blackrock Mountain is coming April 2

    Blizzard has given Hearthstone expansion Blackrock Mountain a solid release date. Hearthstone’s Blackrock Mountain adventure pack will be released April 2 in the Americas region, and April 3 in Europe, Korea, Taiwan, and China. Blackrock Depths is the first wing to be released, others will follow one week apart. Other than the 31 new cards, […]

  • Bloodborne: if you can’t load your save after installing firmware 2.50, this will help

    If you’re having issues loading your Bloodborne save after applying firmware update 2.50 to your PS4, this should help you out. Reddit user KBALLZZ encountered an issue after installing update 2.50 on his PlayStation 4. Bloodborne started reinstalling the day one patch again and when it was done he couldn’t continue his game or load […]

  • Use this code to get 10% off on PSN purchases

    Sony is offering a 10% discount coupon to anyone looking to buy games on PlayStation Store this weekend. Sony’s latest discount coupon code is here. You’ll receive 10% off your cart total when buying from the PSN Store. The offer is not valid on purchases made on PS Vita, PlayStation TV, PSP, or in-game stores. […]

  • Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin upgrade path announced, system specs revealed

    Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin will offer returning customers a chance to upgrade at a discounted price. Those who already own Dark Souls 2 on Steam and are interested in picking up the Scholar of the First Sin edition will be happy to know that publisher Bandai Namco is offering them an […]

  • Bloodborne: this is what happens when you have 40 Insight

    Insight is one of the currencies in Bloodborne, but it’s also a mechanic that affects the gameplay. There are MASSIVE SPOILERS below, so turn back now or one of Bloodborne’s gameplay mechanics will be SPOILED for you. Just like Blood Echoes in Bloodborne, Insight is used to purchase certain items from vendors in the game. […]

  • Phase two of Xbox One April update brings voice messages, dedicated servers for party chat, more

    The second phase of the April update for Xbox One is now open to members of the Preview programme and and it looks like there are even more features in store. Phase one of Xbox One’s April firmware update started a few days ago with improvements to party chat and achievements notifications. Today, phase two […]

  • GTA 5′s graphical “downgrade” is a bug, will be fixed in upcoming patch

    As of patch 1.8 for GTA 5 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, a few graphical issues have cropped up leading some to believe there has been a stealth downgrade to the game’s overall graphics. Over the past couple of days, Reddit went nuts over a video showing what appears to be a downgrade to […]

  • Destiny: Xur location and inventory for March 27, 28 – MIDA Multi-Tool edition

    Xur: Agent of the Nine has arrived at The Tower in Destiny to rid you of your Strange Coins. Xur: Agent of the Nine has once again made it to Destiny’s Tower to sell you Exotic weapons and gear in exchange for Strange Coins and Motes of Light. For this weekend, Xur can be found […]

  • Destiny vault space upgrade will have enough room for every Exotic

    Destiny is finally getting the vault space upgrade players have been begging for almost since launch week. Destiny players can currently use vault space to store 20 pieces of amour, 20 weapons and 20 general item stacks. In the latest Bungle Weekly Update, the developer revealed that as of patch 1.1.2, due before House of […]

  • Half-Life 2: Update mod applies some sparkle to the original title

    Half-Life 2: Update will be available tomorrow, and thanks to the modding community, those who own the vanilla version of the game can apply a visual update to the 2004 title. The comparison video shows you the differences between the original version, and the version with Half-Life 2: Update applied. Here’s what the mod includes: […]

  • Neverwinter MMO can now be pre-downloaded on Xbox One

    You can now pre-download the free-to-play Neverwinter MMO on Xbox One. The game launches on March 31, but you will still need an Xbox Live Gold account to play it. Based on the Dungeons & Dragons franchise, the game can be downloaded from the Xbox Store.