Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Child of Light Review - Retro Radiance

Score: 8.5 / 10
Child of Light
Xbox One - PS4 - Wii-U
Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher - Ubisoft
Release Date -April 2014

  • One of the most captivating soundtracks for a game, start to finish
  • Visually stunning look compliments the storybook tale approach
  • Classic RPG combat tailored for new and veteran players altogether
  • Oculi system allows you to strengthen each character your preferred way
  • The rhyming scheme quickly goes from charming to annoying
  • Abrupt ending with little payoff
  • Characters added late to the roster get little use 
  • 2D segments lack the depth of the combat 

Charming. That is the first word that comes to mind with my experience in Child of Light. A storybook inspired tale told in rhyme, a varying cast of fantasy characters, and large scale creatures that stand in your way. Your journey with Aurora is a classic tale of a heroine that rises up to fight a great evil, trying to find her way home and restore order. This Wizard of Oz like tale has a few bumps along the way, but is so wonderfully crafted and light hearted you cannot help but be drawn in with wonder.

...still cannot find Mr. Tumnus

The most powerful aspect of Child of Light is not the gameplay, the visuals, or even the story. The part that sticks with you most is the soundtrack. Catchy, soft, and wonderfully crafted; it sets the tone for the entire game. The main theme's soft elegance is catchy and hooks you into the fantasy world, as a violin and piano carry forth an emotional tune that echos over the entirety of the campaign in varying intervals. At the same time, it is able to provide upbeat melodies for villages, and intense music for the decisive battles. It was so catchy and simple, that I often found myself humming the theme after playing.

Coupled with the soundtrack is a mythical world you slowly unravel. You take the role of Aurora, a princess who many think dead, but instead has become trapped in the world of Lemuria. This world, once ruled by a queen of light, is overtaken by a new evil queen and darkness has spread over the land. It is up to Aurora to gather the elements of light, and find a way home. The plot is nothing too deep, but works with the overall poetic tone of the game, appealing to the mother/daughter relationship that tugs at your heartstrings. The rhyming scheme is a simple touch, and although it gives the game more character, it often limits the dialogue to pure simplicity. The visual tones of light and dark intensify the setting as you dive into vast forests, bright villages, and brooding dungeons to uncover a way home.

Not an RPG without larger to scale spiders

Child of Light is primarily a turn-based RPG. A timeline bar is displayed on the bottom of the screen, and evolves the fight into a game of micromanagement. You can interrupt enemies by attacking them in a short window before they attack, and likewise, enemies can do the same to you. Constantly you are working to manage the enemies, defending big forthcoming attacks,and boosting your potential to attack first. You are limited to two party members at a time but the game does well in allowing you to swap party members on the fly, adapting to your enemies who may be weaker to more physical or magical damage. It is fast paced, challenging, and always keeps you on your toes to adapt. 

A classic leveling system is in place in addition to an Oculi system for equipment. Oculi gems have a specified color, which can be combined to create new colors or stronger gems. Three red gems can make a stronger red gem, or a red and blue gem can make a purple gym for new effects. These gems range from increased fire resistance to faster spell casting time. Each party member is proficient at some aspect be it Finn's proficiency in elemental magic or Robert's speedy physical attacks. You find yourself constantly switching characters to adapt to enemies' strengths. You acquire some members pretty late game, which gives little time to develop or work with these characters before the game's conclusion sneaks up on you.

 Matching shapes is what children excel at...

Though you are limited to a 2D side scroller, you still have a small amount of exploration you can do. Chests are scattered throughout the world, sometimes tucked away in corners of the map that you must truly explore to uncover. There are also a few puzzle segments, but these are limited in difficulty, often matching shapes or some similar task. This proves to be the most disappointing factor, as you are given the ability to fly right at the end of the first chapter, allowing you to avoid pretty much every enemy and taking away any real platforming element that could have been utilized to make traversal much more interesting. There are some sidequests to invest time into and fast travel to encourage revisiting older segments, but it can be easy to overlook.

The simplicity of Child of Light is both enticing and limiting. On the one hand, the simple turn based combat is easy to pick up and challenging enough to warrant thoughtful gameplay on the harder difficulty. On the other hand, the 2D side scrolling segments can be a lot less eventful and the simplicity of puzzles and lack of platforming have you breezing through the game. Despite the shortcomings, the game is still a wonderfully crafted title that will satisfy any classic RPG veteran.

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