It’s been a while since I’ve played a turn-based RPG that I’ve actually liked, or even wanted to play. Ni No Kuni for the Playstation 3 re-piqued my interest in the genre again by basically giving me everything I wanted from Pokemon, but there was still something missing. I just wanted a really solid turn based RPG back.
Enter Ubisoft’s Child of Light, a side-scrolling, turn-based RPG that follows the story of Aurora, a child trapped in a far away land of Lemuria that wants to get home. At first glance it’s easy to dismiss Child of Light as a child’s game because of watercolor look or dialogue that’s only written in rhyme. But once you crack the surface you see that this game is one of the most solid games out on the market to date.
Child of Light starts out like many a fairy tale, the heroine, Aurora, wakes up in a faraway land after an ailment in her normal world puts her to sleep. She believes it must be a dream. She is soon met by a glowing orb, who becomes her sidekick named Igniculus, (whom she calls “Firefly”) that is on a mission to bring her to an entrapped Queen of the Night who was locked away when she took away the Sun, Moon and the stars. On her mighty quest she’ll make new allies of the ones she's helping along the way. Whether it’s reuniting a sister and brother circus act, or bringing normality back to a whole town stricken with the most insane bird flu I’ve ever scene, Aurora is not only flying around the world to bring the light back...she’s helping all the citizens of Lemuria.
Moving across Lemuria and fighting is where this game really shines. Child of Light is completely side-scrolling, but instead of just running and jumping from platform to platform, Aurora, with the press of a button, can take off to the skies and fly. The game is powered by the UbiArt engine which really shines here. As Aurora flies, her hair moves in the wind beautifully. Red watercolor pours from her locks like the paint is still bleeding onto the page.
As you move, the skies of Lemuria looking whimsical as can be, Igniculus will follow quickly behind you, sometimes I just fly around randomly being completely enchanted by the art style. You can decide to move it forward by using the right stick or to give up control to a second player whose only job is to control the blue orb, which unlocks treasures, blinds enemies and collects orbs for you. You can engage enemies as you wish. If you don’t want to fight them, just hold down the trigger to make Igniculus shine bright enough to blind them and fly on by. If you chose to fight them and blind them long enough to attack from behind, you’ll get a surprise attack bonus. Of course, if you’re not quick enough, there’s a good chance they’ll get the surprise attack on you first which leads to them having a speed bonus in the actual battle portion.
When you get thrown into an actual battle you’ll notice that it looks very familiar. From picking a character, deciding whether you want defend or attack with magic or brute force, using an item from your inventory or swapping out a party member. Where the combat shines is its "wait and cast" bar that stays at the bottom of the screen, informing you of who is about to attack next. On this bar you’ll see the icon of your 2 party members and any enemies. Some enemies and friends move faster than others letting them accelerate down the "wait" portion of the bar faster. When a character completes the wait portion of the action bar you’ll arrive at “cast” which is where you decide how you’ll take down your foes. The speed at which you move through the cast portion of the bar all depends on the cast time of an attack, the most powerful attacks will take a longer amount of time than most. If you choose to attack, but you're attacked before you can get your move off, you will be interrupted and have to start the process over. If you don’t want your time progressing through the bar reset, you must defend which is an instant cast, saving you from going through the whole bar again.
During these battles your buddy, Igniculus, will be at your command. You can have it hover over a party member to restore health and magic points, or better yet, have it hover over an enemy and slow down its speed so it takes longer to cast an attack. Once you learn how to properly feather Igniculus’ ability you can keep an enemy from attacking by allowing it to reach the cast portion of the bar but slowing it down enough that you’re able to interrupt it by attacking first. I really enjoyed the way Ubisoft fleshed out the fight system. It takes a formula I’ve known for years and adds a new variable that gives a whole new dynamic to the fights.
As with any other JRPG, once you destroy your enemy, you and your party will be awarded with experience points. Don’t let the child’s storybook look fool you. Child of Light has an expansive map to unlock for your characters, spanning magical and physical attacks, raising your speed, health, magic and so on. It’s all listed in a maze-like pattern where you can choose one of the three places to level up on the map. If you want to amplify your party's strengths even more, you’ll use crystals known as "oculi" that you’ll assign to different slots on the character. Amplification of strengths range from making an attack have elemental damage to speeding up the characters cast time so it can attack even quicker. The oculi can be crafted into other oculi that are either a different kind of crystal, or an improved version of the same crystal. Think gem alchemy.
Overall, Child of Light is a beautiful piece of art backed by a wonderful story and a solid combat mechanic. The only thing that would make this game better is a fully fleshed out mobile version, even though I feel putting this on my tablet would take my productivity levels down to zero. With a well put-together game that’s about 10 hours long, Child of Light is the perfect grab this summer for only $15. I couldn’t recommend this game enough to anyone who loves a great RPG. Even if you’re on the fence, this game will win you over.