Hello everyone, and welcome to Late to the Party, a series in which I discuss video games that I’ve finally gotten around to playing. Today I’m going to tell you about Child of Light, a 2D fantasy RPG that I played on my PS4 Pro. There will be no spoilers in today’s post and all images shown are from the early hours of the game.
It’s been quite some time since I was last able to write another entry for Late to the Party. I’ve had a lot of things taking up my leisure hours over the preceding weeks, particularly the writing of the travelogue posts from my 2017 trip to Asia, but from late June to early July I was able to squeeze in time for a new game and I played through Child of Light. Like Valiant Hearts and Rayman Legends, Child of Light is a product of the UbiArt Framework, a game engine that allows smaller development teams to build artful games more quickly and on a smaller budget. I think I first saw Child of Light when it was revealed in 2014 and while it caught my attention I don’t think it firmly secured a spot on my gaming to-do list until it was released and I read some reviews. A good, fantasy RPG that doesn’t take 100 hours to beat? Sign me up.
Child of Light is the story of Aurora, a young ruby-haired girl who is the daughter of an Austrian duke. One day Aurora falls into a deep sleep and awakens in Lemuria, a strange world full of fantastical creatures. As Aurora soon learns, Lemuria has been subjugated by Umbra, the evil Queen of the Night. All Aurora wants is to go back to her home and her father, but she agrees to help the denizens of Lemuria and sets off on a journey to recover the light that Umbra has stolen. Though surprisingly melancholy at times, there’s an undeniable charm to this fairy tale and the game puts its own little spin on storytelling by making all dialogue and narration rhyme. On occasion the rhymes employed in the game are a bit awkward but it’s still a novel storytelling mechanic. The supporting characters that join Aurora’s entourage also add quite a bit to the experience with their own backstories and the personal journeys that they undergo while in Aurora’s service. My one notable gripe with Child of Light’s story is that no one other than the narrator is voiced, but it’s not a significant problem and because of the way dialogue plays out in the game I can see why the developers went this route. It also can sometimes be kinda fun to come up with your own voices in your head for the characters.
What will probably draw more people than the story of Child of Light, however, is its visual style. Child of Light looks like the artwork out of a children’s fantasy book and employs a rich watercolor palate that brings the world of Lemuria to life. Beautiful foreground and background art with impressive levels of depth are found everywhere Aurora wanders, evoking a sense of awe and encouraging you to use Aurora’s newly acquired flight ability to explore every last inch of Lemuria. Child of Light is a gorgeous game, and possibly the first to recapture the feel I got from playing the excellent 2008 entry in the Prince of Persia series.
Now, if Child of Light only had a good story and a brilliant art style working in its favor it would minimally be a decent game, but Child of Light completes the package with simple but engaging gameplay that compliments the aforementioned strengths of the game. To free the land of Umbra’s control, Aurora frequently engages in battle with the dark creatures infesting Lemuria. The battle system in Child of Light is a hybrid of turn-based and real-time battle systems, with a timeline at the bottom of the screen that shows when combatants can take an action. Striking an enemy in the critical part of the timeline right before they are about to act can interrupt them and send them back on the timeline, but enemies can also do the same to Aurora and her friends, meaning you always need to think at least a step or two ahead, particularly in the longer battles. You’ll also want to make heavy use of Igniculus, a firefly that befriends Aurora near the start of the game and can blind opponents in battle, thus slowing them down on the timeline.
Enemies are plentiful throughout Lemuria and you’ll be going into battle regularly as you play the game, but it’s also not hard to avoid fights if you’d rather focus more on exploring the world and advancing the story. When you do engage in battle you’ll earn experience points for Aurora and her friends, and Child of Light has a very welcome feature in that all of your characters gain experience from battles, regardless of whether they participated in them or not, meaning you won’t have to spend time grinding experience points to keep all the members of your party close to the same level. Because you level up quickly in Child of Light, particularly in the first few hours, you’ll be opening up the game menu often to strengthen your party, which some players may find annoying. The menu is also where you’ll use the game’s crafting system to grant buffs to individual characters.
Reaching the end of Child of Light will likely take most players somewhere in the range of 12-15 hours to finish, depending on how much of the side material you complete. Child of Light has only a few puzzles, none of which are particularly hard, and if you’re playing the game on the default difficulty you probably won’t have too much trouble in battle either. I personally never got a Game Over screen and never even had to revive any of my characters in battle, but I also never avoided any fights except when I was backtracking to find the game’s collectibles, so I had a fairly strong party. Child of Light is definitely a somewhat casual experience, and if you’re looking for more of a challenge you’ll want to opt for the higher difficulty setting before starting a new game.
Child of Light is a great fantasy RPG that’s simple enough for anyone to get into but with enough depth to keep it engaging. Personally, I’m scoring Child of Light at 9.0 out of 10, and I might even be talked into giving it a 9.5 out 10. There are some minor issues with the storytelling and some players might find the frequently combat and leveling up off putting, but it’s still a fantastic experience overall. This game is magic. I’d particularly recommend it to people who are looking to play a fantasy RPG but don’t want something as long or complex as games like The Witcher, Skyrim, or Final Fantasy. Alternatively, if you’ve never played a fantasy RPG at all then Child of Light could be a good way to try out the genre and see if its something you want to diver deeper into.