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Child Of Light

childlight1

Formats:  xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, Wii U, PC (Reviewed)

Price: $19.99 (Consoles), $14.99 (PC)

Publisher: Ubisoft

Developer:  Ubisoft

While the increasing emphasis on storytelling in games is unquestionably a good thing, with standards in writing having risen to levels unimaginable in previous stages of the medium’s history, such progress always necessitates as many failed attempts as successes. Developers are, as a breed, only just learning the crucial principles of good storytelling, and occasionally you come across a project that proves how far they have yet to go.

Child Of Light is such a case.

Styled as a modern fairy tale, the game follows the adventures of Aurora, an Austrian princess who finds herself trapped in a magical world called Lemuria after falling into a coma. Teaming up with the firefly Igniculus, she sets out on a quest to retrieve Lemuria’s sun, moon and stars, which have been stolen by an evil queen, and in doing so find a way home to her father, who is dying of grief.

The hodgepodge of mythical elements that comprise Child Of Light’s story might feel more cohesive if it were not for the game’s rather ropey script, which presents everything in rhyme. While this sounds on paper like a good way of preserving a storybook-like feel, the unfortunate truth is that the writing is not strong enough to carry it, with an erratic sense of metre and poor choices of words to preserve said rhyming scheme costing the script in terms of clarity and convincingness. It only ever feels like someone attempting verse rather than succeeding in it, distracting enough to be even harder to follow. What’s more, grammatical and spelling errors occasionally crop up, which for a game styling itself after a literary form is an unforgivable oversight.

Also, for a game so clearly in love with its cast of characters, it far too often relies on cheap sentiment over meaningful character development to corral our empathy. Expect to see the ‘crying’ animation in cutscenes a hell of a lot, because everyone in this game seems to be miserable. If it’s not Aurora crying over her predicament, or Aurora’s father wasting away through grief, or Aurora crying about her father wasting away through grief, you can guarantee that her companions will regularly turn on the waterworks about their own personal problems which you invariably end up fixing. Combined with a soundtrack that, while beautifully written, has a certain predilection for dirge-ing cello, it creates an overall tone that’s more depressing than inspiring. Even its gorgeous graphical style generally favours the darker, more melancholy aspects of fairy tales rather than anything that inspires real awe or excitement.

Thankfully, as a game Child Of Light fares better, adopting a set of mechanics clearly inspired by Japanese RPGs such as the Final Fantasy series – particularly the combat, which plays out according to a timeline at the bottom of the screen that allows participants more opportunities to perform actions based on how quickly they can get from one side of the timeline to another. Taking damage sets them back on the timeline, as does various debuffs performed using spells or potions, and a lot of the strategy revolves around speeding your characters up while slowing down the enemy as much as possible.

This is where Igniculus is at his most useful. Controlled either by the second stick or by another player (A good option for parents wanting to play with their kids), he can either blind a specific enemy, slowing their progress on the timeline, or slowly heal one of your party. It’s a nice risk/reward mechanic, in the tougher fights requiring you switch Igniculus back and forth in response to how things are progressing. That said, the game rarely puts up much of a challenge on its default difficulty, so players wanting a bit more of a test may be advised to knock it up to Hard early on.

While combat is often avoidable, this is discouraged by the fact that it is the only way you can gain XP and level up – and level up, you will. A lot. Most fights end with you gaining a level, which sounds rewarding until you realize that each level-up rewards such a minor increase of your stats that you need several to notice any real difference. You also get one skill point per level (As do your companions), which means that after every fight you’re also going into the game’s ridiculously huge skill trees and selecting similarly meagre perks, which means that combat quickly becomes a repetitive necessity that only serves to drag out a game that already feels slow-paced for its 10-12 hour duration.  At the very least, along with the need to craft oculi (equippable crystals that grant various attack, defence and elemental bonuses) this all amounts to a lot of faffing about in menus that’ll probably put kids to sleep quicker than an actual fairy tale.

Overall, Child Of Light is a bit of a mess – an intermittently enjoyable and undeniably good-looking mess, but a mess all the same. While it’s conceptually strong, with a spirited and likeable main character, poor writing and unfocussed game mechanics result in a sense of wasted potential the game never quite manages to shake.

6/10

CAVAN GALLAGHER

 

 

 

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