I don’t consider myself a hardcore JRPG player or even a player of the more modern WJRPG. However, with a WJRPG such as Child of Light, I was very excited to give it a shot. Normally I am put off by the length of these genres, often over 100 hours long; However, Child of Light advertises no more than 15 hours of gameplay. For the price of $15, that’s a good amount of gameplay, and a great value. Does a genre with traditionally more length work in such a short playtime though?
The story in Child of Light is more of a fairy tale. The main character, Aurora, falls asleep after suffering from an illness to find nothing is the same. She finds herself in the world of Lemuria, which is in trouble since the sun, moon, and stars were stolen by the Black Queen. While this is the premise of the story, the heart of the story is Aurora trying to make it back to her father and the characters she meets during her journey to him. The story reminds me at times of Journey, where things are more understood than explained. This is a good thing, as they let you feel the moment more instead of taking the time away from the game to explain it.
Each character that joins your party has their own story. While these stories are all loosely tied together (and not overall important to the main story), they provide some depth to these characters and give you a reason to care about them. There is even a subtle sense of humor throughout the game, often taking place during character interactions. The only issue I have with the story is the ending. I can’t go into detail without spoilers, but it ends rather abruptly. It’s like there is more story to tell, but no more gameplay. I can’t help but wonder if that is being left for a sequel.
What Ubisoft Montreal did with the graphic and art design is nothing short of amazing. This is not a photorealistic game, but instead a gorgeous piece of art. This enhances the fairy tale experience, along with a terrific score and great sound effects. I found myself humming the music to myself, even while I wasn’t playing.
The entire game is spoken in rhyme. The narrative rhyme works great when used. As soon as the game starts, you feel like you are being told a fairy tale. However, the narrative is only reserved for a few select moments. All the character conversations take place in text with rhyme. This is where the rhyme scheme begins to struggle. I find that I spend more time trying to figure out what they are saying, which removes me from the experience. It reminds me of reading Shakespeare in high school. When I hear it, it sounds great; when I read it, I find it more of a nuisance.
The gameplay is similar to many WJRPG and JRPG’s consisting of enemy encounters. However, they are not as random as other games in the same genre. You can see the enemies and avoid them most of the time, but the combat itself is a typical turn-based combat. The difference between Child of Light and other games in the genre is the use of your sidekick, Igniculus. Igniculus has the ability to heal your party and slow down your enemies, which is controlled by the right stick on your controller and is fairly easy to use.
The combat is enjoyable, but too easy on the normal difficulty setting. After about 9 hours in the game, I changed the difficulty to hard and finally felt challenged. If you are an experienced gamer, in particular with this type of combat, I recommend playing on hard difficulty. I also find that the players level up too often. By the end, it comes as a shock at the end of a battle when no one in your party levels up. The down side to this is that it takes you out of the experience and you spend too much time in the menu. I did try letting the skill points build up and upgrading in bulk, but on the harder difficulty you will be at a disadvantage if you find yourself in an unexpected boss fight with too many unused skill points.
Although the game is relatively short, it leaves some room for exploring and side quests. The side quests give the player a reason to backtrack and explore previously played areas. There are also chests with items scattered throughout the game, giving you reason to explore every area before you move on. The items can be useful on hard difficulty, but I didn’t use them until the end on normal difficulty. The only reason I used them then was because I had so many saved up.
The most useful items found are Oculi, which are elemental effects you can use to modify your weapons, armor, and trinkets. There is a neat crafting system for Oculi that encourages experimentation. The menu gives you a small hint guide to get you started, but after that you have to combine them yourself to find out what they make. I do wish the system had some form of a memory, so once I crafted an item I could see what was combined to make them. After a while it becomes a challenge to keep it all together unless you have a guide or make one yourself.
The Verdict: 9 out of 10
Child of Light is exactly what I have been looking for out of the genre. I no longer have the time in my life for the grind these games typically present. Child of Light gets straight to the point and is simple, while providing a terrific experience through art design and score. Ubisoft Montreal has outdone themselves with this one and has shown great diversity in their abilities. At $15, it presents a great value and is a must buy if you like WJRPG’s or JRPG’s. If you are on the fence, I recommend you buy it.