Game Review: Child of Light
A few years ago I took a trip to a friends house and he seemed really excited to tell me about this new game he had bought. I remember him saying “I just got this new game that I think you would really like because you’re into Final Fantasy.” – That was the understatement of the year. I sat down and I was instantly captivated by the art style of the game and familiar looking turn-based battle system, but more on that later. I bought the game soon after but it wasn’t until four or five years later that I would play it.
That game was, of course, Child of Light.
The game opens up with the narrator telling a story about a Duke in Austria, raising his daughter, Aurora, alone. After becoming lonely, he re-marries and Aurora falls ill and dies. However, Aurora wakes up in the land of Lemuria and this is where the player’s journey begins.
Child of Light’s narrative and character interactions is all told through rhyming couplets, making the entire game a long, interactive poem. My initial reaction to this made me a little worried that it would become annoying and make the game less enjoyable, but I could not have been more wrong. The rhyming adds a unique twist to the narrative of the game and character speech is spaced apart enough that it doesn’t become tired.
Many different characters join you on your journey and it’s fun to explore their side stories. While most of the character’s story arcs are started and finished close to the time of meeting, I felt that Rubella’s story went a long time with no progression to then have her brother, Tristis, given to us near the end without ample time to explore his character properly. The rest of the character’s side quests were very enjoyable and my personal favourite was for Óengus and the Kategida clan.
Pacing is something that could have been improved upon. For the vast majority of the game, the main goal is to “get to the highest of high”. Two thirds of the game takes you through at a nice leisurely pace until you reach that goal and then really ups the ante. The last third is mostly the main story and all comes at you at once, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it would have been nice to have some major story beats spread out between the side character stories. Despite my issues with the pacing, I thought the story itself was enjoyable and did a very good job of making you feel for Aurora whilst allowing you to understand the villain’s motivations.
The gameplay in Child of Light is simple and that is in no way a complaint. The game uses a turn-based battle system that is familiar to old school RPG and traditional JRPG fans, but adds it’s own flare. Everyone on the battlefield shares the same time bar to wait for their turn which allows you to plan your attacks depending on the situation. Allowing the player to interrupt the enemy or be interrupted before carrying out the chosen action opens up many different strategies.
After the first boss, you are met with a mysterious character and they grant you the ability to fly. Flying in Child of Light is so fluid and reactive to control and I think this is largely due to the fact you are only moving in 2D space. Flying is a lot faster then running and was the main method of movement I used throughout the game and it just felt really good! Like most things, it’s not perfect. Whilst flying, you are able to quickly dash ahead and many times I tried to dash upwards to avoid spikes but ended up dashing sideways into said spikes, harming Aurora each time.
Igniculus is a firefly who joins your adventure at the beginning of the game and has his uses. Both in and out of battle, he can heal you by burning brighter, but this does not last forever. Using this ability burns through a “wish meter” and you must collect wishes to refill the meter. Wishes that you collect also point in the direction you must head to progress. Igniculus is also used for puzzles which require him to burn brighter, casting an object’s shadow to match a shape in the background. These puzzles do not show up often and I found that disappointing because I think it added some more depth to the gameplay and I personally find those types of puzzles enjoyable.
Art Style and Animation
As I said in the introduction, the first thing that captivated my about Child of Light is the beautiful art style. The game looks like you are moving within a gorgeous painting and can see all of the brush strokes. This also gives the game a somewhat handmade feel, which I found to be more personal. On top of this, there are some enemies that look like a piece of concept art, as opposed to a finished piece and I think that added to the charm. The best example I can think of to show this is an enemy I described many times in my Let’s Play as looking like a knock-off Geodude.
I believe the type of animation used for this game is Skeletal or Bone-Based animation. This type of animation fit the art style perfectly and added to the handmade feel I mentioned previously. One specific animation I enjoyed was when Aurora is attacked in battle. If an attack lands on her, she is knocked back and her crown falls from her head, which she then has to pick up. I love this animation, however, after a point in the game, Aurora goes through a change and this animation stops, but the sound of the crown falling is still played. Aside from that, the animation in Child of Light filled the world of Lemuria with life.
Music and Sound
I was extremely impressed with the art style and there is a soundtrack that is just as beautiful. I’m not an expert on music by any stretch of the imagination, but I felt every piece of this soundtrack fit the moments in game so well. I feel like Béatrice Martin composed the music from her heart and that really shines through. The final song, which plays during the credits, rounds off the entire journey and I couldn’t help but sit through the credits and stare and listen. Much like some of my favourite Final Fantasy soundtracks, this is great to listen to while working because it helps you to relax and still be focused. I have been listening the whole time I have been writing this.
I mentioned above the animation of Aurora’s crown falling from her head and there is a sound to go with it. This did not need to be there, but it added so much. Higher level spells sound explosive which really makes you feel like your characters have been getting stronger and that makes it so satisfying when you defeat a tougher enemy or a boss. There are many sounds littered throughout the game which make this world feel alive and if I had to pick one word to describe the sounds in this game, it would be: Mystifying.
Child of Light is a fantastic game that does not overstay it’s welcome with a story that contains enough to leave you fulfilled, despite it’s pacing issues. A somewhat traditional turn based battle system that will remain exciting throughout the eleven hour journey. I highly recommend this game to any fan of turn based RPGs or traditional JRPGs that has a spare weekend. A beautiful game and soundtrack that will be sure not to disappoint, with a release for the Nintendo Switch in 2019 and talks of a sequel to continue the magic.
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