Child Of Light ‘Ultimate Edition’ – The Switch Island Review
In a year where (n)indies have been stacking up our gaming calendars and giving us anxiety-inducing backlogs, it takes a second-look to realise this isn’t one. It sure looks and feels like one, so let’s call it an indie-like. Instead it’s from the development powerhouse Ubisoft, bless them, who we can all agree are doing rather well with their Switch offerings (agreement is mandatory). But what of their indie-like Child Of Light? Does it hold up four years later? Or if you’ve played it, is it worth giving it the ol’Switch double-dip?
The game is a platforming RPG featuring the story of a girl named Aurora (child of light, remember), who is tasked with reconnecting two worlds. The stars, moon and sun have been stolen by the Queen of Night, Umbra, from the The Queen of Light, who has mysteriously vanished. Early on, a firefly gives you a sword, and then a forest spirit gives you the ability to fly. There’s helpful folk in Lumeria. It’s fantastical stuff, and purposefully has the whimsical feel of a childhood story. More than that, the whole game is like an epic narrative poem, as all the dialogue is in rhyme. I was quite taken aback by that, but it works really well, making the dialogue much more entertaining than I would’ve expected.
Aurora’s flying ability is granted early on, but the game starts with her walking around, and despite feeling initially like an action platformer it doesn’t take long to morph into an RPG. It has turn-based battles, potion-laden inventories, skill-trees, and the regular inclusion of new party members. For a bit of an RPG noob it’s all very accessible, without the daunting (to me) lore and (to me) complicated systems found in games like Xenoblade Chronicles. This is like a game that could be called My First RPG, in the way that Pokemon Let’s Go has been characterised. I’ve already called Child Of Light an indie-like but am going to double-down on hyphenation: this is an RPG-lite.
And it’s gorgeous. You fly around and battle in a soft watercolour world. There’s the sense everything is taken from the pages of some old luxurious children’s book. But, enough gabble; take a look at the pictures.
Pokemon made some changes recently, foregoing random encounters. Yep, just like in this year’s Pokemon Let’s Go games, in Child Of Light you choose who you fight. The enemies will lunge at you, but you can avoid them most of the time. Once you enter a battle, in classic JRPG style, you’re whisked into a turn-based combat scenario. Its battle system is fun and (for me) different. Each character and enemy has an avatar on a timer bar at the base of the screen. When your avatar reaches a point about 70% the way along the bar you can then decide what action they will take. Once you’ve chosen, the action is only performed once the slider gets to 100%. Different characters take different amounts of time to reach 70% and more important still, different moves take different amounts of time to cross the last 30%. If an enemy’s avatar beats yours to the 100% point – going from 70% to 100% before you – and your character is hit, then your character’s assigned move is nullified and the avatar is pushed back to, say, 30% on the bar. You can strategise nicely with this, using super-fast moves to race from 70% to 100% and nullify an enemy attack or apply a shield. It works very well; you feel like you’re racing the enemies. There’s lots more to the combat than this, with buffs and counters etc, and I found it all very well put together. One aspect that is strange however is that even though you accumulate a merry band of fighters you can only ever deploy two at a time. I sort of understand the thinking here: you don’t want an over-powered troupe versus one or two enemies, but I wasn’t ever completely comfortable with it because you feel like characters are being under-utilised.
I played in hard mode, one of two difficulty settings, because I’d read beforehand that the game was a bit easy if played on normal. Personally I found hard mode just right. There was a good amount of challenge with some of the battles and I certainly had my mettle tested. A couple of the boss encounters were particularly demanding and I had to venture off for a bit of a grind, but it was nothing too arduous. I would say that if you’ve played any sort of RPG before then choosing hard mode makes sense. Something to think about adding, eh Gamefreak?!
It plays very nicely on Switch too. I played through entirely in handheld mode and found it to be a good fit during my 20hours with it. I didn’t encounter any bugs or any slowdown. And like every Switch game should try to have, it has a co-op mode for playing with a buddy. All in all, a professional port that seems perfect for handheld play. If you’re itching to return to Lumeria, having played it before on a more boring console, I can recommend this version.
I hope this game sells well on Switch because it would be nice to see the sequel teased by the developers see the light of day (no pun intended). I would love to see it at 2019’s E3.
So, Child Of Light, the indie-like RPG-lite with artsy leanings, gets my full endorsement. If you like RPGs but don’t have the time or energy to sink 50-100hrs into one, you could do a lot worse.