The concept of Child of Light conjures up a glorious mental image, that of Ubisoft developers tearing themselves away from placing convenient cover for buffed up heros to duck behind to spend their time building something a bit more expressive and soulful.
The team behind Child of Light previously worked on Far Cry 3 yet their new game is miles away. Using the UbiArt Framework engine Child of Light has the feel of an indie platformer the likes of Limbo enriched by painterly watercolour anime style, a poetic narrative and a airy swelling soundtrack.
Child of Light is a lighthearted take on JRPGs it brings in Final Fantasy style turn based battles and JRPG levelling but does a good job of delivering this without the high-drama and convoluted thread-losing plotlines of the genre. The game story flows in Iambic pentameter giving a jaunty fairy tale feel to a plot which touches on some dark introspective themes.
Scrolling in 2D you take control of Aurora who waking up in the strange gloomy world of Lemuria is tasked with retriving the sun, moon and stars form the mysterious Black Queen. Aiding Aurora along the way come Igniculus the firefly (also a separate playable character in 2 player co-op) and a number of other nuanced and refreshingly nongeneric allies.
The fairy tale illustrater Arthur Rackham is cited as an influence on Child of Light
The battle mechanics move quickly and can make for some tense fights. Driving combat is an action bar system similar to Grandia II where timing moves becomes crucial, more powerful moves take longer to cast and hits from your opponents knock back your action bar delaying your turn.
The experience you gain from battles isn’t too slow to come so you can level up and build you skill trees without having to resort to grinding. The upgrading system has some depth to explore, you collect Oculi that can be placed in different item slots to give you buffs. Your party members also have lengthy skill trees that Ubisoft are saying will take more than one playthrough to complete.
Aurora also eventually gains the ability to fly in the game freeing up the levels and there are occasional puzzles to solve. These elements all add up to make Child of Light a hybrid of game styles which with the audio/visual work gel together to form a unique whole that holds its own well.
In the dark corners of Lemuria
Speaking to destructoid Child of Light writer Jeffrey Yohalem said of the game, "This is something that I really want to make, it speaks to me as an artist." It's encouraging to see Ubisoftt giving its talent the licence to explore their own creative urges and there’s a definite sense a lot of loving work has been put into this game as a result.
Child of Light’s similarity to an indie title could cause some to argue that a big studio is trying to muscle in on the scene but the nod to classic games is clear to see with Child of Light, this is a creative celebration not a cynical copy. When so much rides on the success of a game for a big studio it’s good to see Ubisoft offer up something different and take a bit of a risk.
Child of LIght is out on April 30th on PC, PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360 and Xbox One. Below is a trailer giving you an idea of things. What are your thoughts about Child of Light? Are you going to be rushing to play this or do you think the world has enough eccentric little games?