Chris’s Take – I Really Wanted to Like Child of Light, But…
When I first heard that the mind behind behind Farcry 3 was making an RPG, I wasn’t sure how to feel. But as more and more info about Child of Light was released, I began to get excited. The artstyle, storyline, and gameplay all looked right up my alley.
Sadly, after playing Child of Light for two weeks, I am sorely disappointed with it.
The first thing to rub me the wrong way with Child of Light was the writing. The game tries to add a bit of flair and style to the writing by adding a rhyming scheme to every line of dialogue. This could’ve worked very well if it had been done correctly. Instead it’s a groan inducing mess every time a character tries to speak. The biggest problem is that the rhyming ‘scheme’ follows no pattern, meter, or set of rules like a poem. So in one stanza you might have the first word of every other line rhyme, and then in the next scene the last word of every line rhymes. It was annoying and caused me to lose complete and total interest in the story. Had the rhyming flowed better, it would’ve added to the charm that Child of Light was going for.
In RPGs, the biggest pull for most (myself included) is the story; unfortunately, Child of Light’s story just didn’t pull me in the way most other RPGs have. Instead of being charmed by the strong female character and the cast of eccentric party members, I found myself indifferent and with no feeling one way or another for any part of the story. There was never any clear motivation for the characters, and I found the story very generic, though a more elaborate story most likely wouldn’t have helped anyway, seeing as I grew to hate most of the characters thanks to the writing. Aurora and crew could’ve been fighting the third reich, and I doubt it would’ve made a difference. I applaud the effort the team put into the story, and I understand that they were trying to do something different by having a young girl in a strong starring lead, it just didn’t connect with me. Instead I found it hard to grasp the actual drive behind the characters, especially the supporting ones, and asked myself why they even joined Aurora on her journey. Of course, while I didn’t enjoy the story, that doesn’t mean you won’t.
The other big pull is the unique gameplay Child of Light has to offer. Traversing the world Ubi has created reminded me of games like Super Metroid or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Learning how to use new powers to access new areas and solve puzzles was really enjoyable.
That all came to a crashing halt when it came time to battle enemies. Instead of random battles strewn throughout the world, all the enemies are seen on screen, and when you come into contact with these enemies, the RPG battle begins. Approaching an enemy from behind gives you an advantage, and with the help of Aurora’s firefly buddy, getting the jump on enemies is too easy. The actual battle system tries to change up the tried and true RPG formula by adding a progress bar at the bottom. On this bar you can see when you are getting ready to act, and when enemies are. When you reach the casting mark on the bar you get to choose which move the active character will take. These range from physical and magic attacks, to healing items and magic. All of these actions have a cast time, so after choosing your action you still have to wait for your progress to reach the end of the bar before the action is taken. If you are hit during this casting time, it will interrupt your casting and cause you to go further back on the progress bar. You can do the same to the enemy, but it always seems the enemy is faster than you, and if you get caught in the wrong timing loop, you will die before ever getting to take an action.
I found this system repetitive and unfun. There was only so many times that I could use the same strategies over and over again, until it became boring. In my time with the game I never encountered a single enemy (bosses included) that caused me to change up my tactics at all. With more variation in the enemy types or a more indepth battle system, I think that I would’ve found Child of Light’s combat more enjoyable. Instead I found it boring.
One of my last, biggest gripes with the game is the level up system. When I first came into the game, I didn’t know what my secondary characters would be, or how I would want to customize them. This caused me to make choices in the level up system that I regretted later in the game. I looked everywhere for a way to let me refund my points and redistribute them. There isn’t, at least not one that I found. It caused me to really dislike the way my characters were built, and left a huge hole and weakness in my party. I really wish that Child of Light had let me redistribute my points, instead the shackles put on me made the level up mechanic more of a chore than something I would’ve otherwise enjoyed.
The best part of Child of Light is the presentation. I don’t think I’ve played a game with such stunning visuals. It’s one of the biggest draws Child of Light has, and the main reason I continued to play, long after the story and the gameplay got stale. I couldn’t wait to see the next area the game had to offer, with each area drastically different from the last. Ranging from an overgrown forest, to a lonely small village, to a ruined chapel, each looks totally different from the next. The details in the characters and backgrounds are amazing, and look like the illustrated pages of a child’s book brought to life. In all honesty, I would watch an entire animated film if it looked like this.
I really wanted to like Child of Light, and I tried to fall in love with what the studio was trying to do. The more I tried to like Child of Light, the more I despised it. While others may find charm in the rhyming dialogue, I found it annoying and clumsy. Though the combat may be a breath of fresh air to some, I found it extremely repetitive. A story that others may find uplifting and new, I found to be bland and generic. The real only redeeming quality of Child of Light is its’ artstyle, and that can take it only so far.
Child of Light may be the game for some of you out there but for me, it was a dud. That’s why I give Child of Light a grade of a C.
Kaleb’s Take – Child of Light is Magical, Albeit Flawed
Like most people, I was shocked when I saw that Ubisoft was producing both an artsy JRPG (the recently released Child of Light) and an emotional point-and-click adventure (the soon-to-be-released Valiant Hearts). It gave me lot of encouragement to see such a large company let some of their best people try their hand at indie-style development, not to mention the fact that both titles seemed enticing regardless of where they came from. So obviously I took the chance to pre-order Child of Light the first chance I got, pouncing on it as soon as it hit the PSN store two weeks back.
After finishing the game for myself, I have to admit that whether you like it or not depends on what you expect. It won’t please die-hard JRPG fans looking for a new fix, and it tries some new things that are hit-and-miss, but the result itself is altogether very sound. So while not for everyone, the game is nonetheless great in its’ own ways, as long as you’re in the right mood and mindset for it.
The first thing you’ll notice about Child of Light is how beautiful the game is. All the characters are rendered in beautiful cel-shading, and the environments are literally the most detailed paintings I’ve ever seen. That’s right… DRAWINGS. They’re SO complex, it’s hard to tell whether or not they’re watercolor or pencil art, but the overall effect is the same – you’ve definitely never seen anything quite like what this team has drawn up. The detailed locations you visit are characters all their own, each actual character has a charm that is conveyed in both their in-game sprites and dialogue close-ups, and everything visual about the game has a very real fantasy steeping that few other games come close to. Other than having only a few songs that loop constantly throughout the game, the presentation is top-notch.
When characters actually start talking is when you may start to lose interest. All dialogue is written in 2-4 line stanzas that rhyme, but with no real set meter or pattern to it, and characters are differentiated solely by text coloring. So while it may have otherwise helped the fairy-tale setting, the poetry mostly just tends to get awkward, annoying, or even frustrating. The English major in me was so confounded I actually stopped paying attention to any rhyming ⅓ of the way through the game, and just read it like normal text. The only time I actually acknowledged it was when a line was particularly well-written, of which there are at least a good number in the game (especially from the villains). Some people may be able to ignore it and at least appreciate the attempt like I did, but not all will be so lucky.
The story itself can be a mixed bag too, although I myself was a fan of it for a few reasons. The tale of a young princess who dies in our world only to find herself now in the fantasy land of Lemuria, it’s definitely an homage to old fairy tales and JRPGs. She sets out to find a way back home before, of course, one thing leads to another, and she ends up having to save the sun, moon, and stars, all stolen away by the dark queen ruling the land, and thus free it from evil’s grasp. It plays things pretty by-the-numbers, while still managing to mix things up enough in the details to seem fresh. The characters are a major point in these, each somehow subtly familiar to veterans while still finding ways to be unique and each carrying their own strong (if a bit undeveloped) personalities. Lastly, the ending is a bit rushed and practically comes out of nowhere, which was certainly off-putting. Yet the allure of having a very young but very strong and capable female lead character, without any love interest or sexualization (like a Zelda game where the princess herself wields the Master Sword and travels Hyrule) is something rarely seen and sorely needed within the industry. It was surely alluring enough for me to look past the few story flaws I found.
Finally, we have the gameplay, which itself is likely the most divisive factor. Mixing old and new RPG mechanics, the game is turn-based, but with all combatants sharing a huge ATB meter that can be manipulated to the detriment or advantage of either party. Combatants attack when touched on the main map, which you traverse similar to a Metroidvania game, the downside being that it becomes far too easy to get the drop on all standard enemies with the help of your firefly friend.Thus like much of the game, it remains familiar while still managing to seem slightly fresh, but the gameplay could have merited the most from striving to be more different, and most will be indifferent to it. As for difficulty, on normal it manages to not be too difficult as long as you think carefully about what you’re doing, whereas on Hard it becomes a tactical challenge that may push even the most hardcore to their limits.
Child of Light is by no means a perfect game. It tries some new and interesting things, but there are assuredly some drawbacks to that, and as I said earlier, it certainly isn’t for anybody. Either way, I found the game to have some surprising strengths, and was definitely along for the ride through most of the story. It bears all the marks of people who are skilled at game development trying their hand on a very different design style than they are used to, for better or for worse, but it is well worth the price of admission. If this truly is a herald of things to come from Ubisoft, such as more diversity from their departments or maybe even this becoming a new franchise with full-price games that will build on the strengths of this shorter 10-15 hour offering (short for a JRPG, anyway), the future looks promising indeed.
For these reasons, I give Child of Light a B+.