Child Of Light

EDGE - - GAMES - Pub­lisher Ubisoft De­vel­oper In-house (Mon­treal) For­mat 360, PC, PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox One Out now

360, PC, PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox One

Child Of Light may have been pitched as an in­die ex­per­i­ment – a project made with an al­most re­bel­lious small-team at­ti­tude within the walls of a big pub­lisher – but this is a Ubisoft game through and through. And we don’t just mean the oblig­a­tory main menu nag to log into Uplay, Ubisoft’s so­cial-net­workcum-game-store, which the pub­lisher’s per­sis­tence in push­ing is now al­most per­versely en­dear­ing. There’s a craft­ing sys­tem, with col­lectible gems com­bined to make more pow­er­ful ones to slot into weapons for lit­tle stat or el­e­men­tal buffs. There’s a lev­el­ling curve that doles out skill points to be spent in a colos­sal tech tree. And there are Con­fes­sions – scraps of paper that flut­ter on the breeze and, when col­lected, fill out the story.

Thank­fully, Child Of Light has plenty to dis­tin­guish it from its sta­ble­mates, much of which comes from cre­ative di­rec­tor Patrick Plourde’s de­sire to make a game par­ents and chil­dren can play to­gether. The set­ting is not a hos­tile trop­i­cal par­adise, but the fairy­tale land of Le­muria, a world where an evil witch has trans­formed a town of dwarves into crows, and where mice in pe­riod at­tire live on the back of a gi­ant and fret about the state of the lo­cal econ­omy. It’s a hand-painted, and of­ten beau­ti­ful, 2D world into which pro­tag­o­nist Aurora awakes af­ter seem­ingly drop­ping dead in her na­tive Aus­tria. And so she sets out to find a way back to the real world – her progress sped up by the power of flight, granted by a mag­i­cal crown passed down by her fa­ther – help­ing out the stricken Le­muri­ans as she goes.

Child Of Light has been me­chan­i­cally tai­lored to fam­ily play. Bat­tles are turn-based and largely stress­free. They’re ba­sic, too: while your party will be six strong by the end of the game, only two mem­bers of it can par­tic­i­pate at once. Whether you’re flit­ting around Le­murian skies or locked in com­bat, how­ever, ei­ther the main player (with the right stick) or an ac­com­plice (on an­other con­troller) can also take con­trol of Ig­nicu­lus, a talk­ing fire­fly. Out in the world, he can ac­cess trea­sures and activate switches Aurora can’t reach, and he takes a role in sim­ple en­vi­ron­men­tal puz­zling whose so­lu­tions in­vari­ably in­volve cast­ing the right shadow on the right ob­ject. In com­bat, how­ever, he’s even more im­por­tant.

At the bot­tom of the screen sits a time­line along which scrolls an icon for each friendly and en­emy com­bat­ant. The fi­nal por­tion of the bar is coloured red. When an icon reaches the start of this fi­nal sec­tion, you make your move, but it doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily play out in­stantly. If you’re hit be­fore­hand, you’re dumped back along the line, forced to skip your turn. By po­si­tion­ing Ig­nicu­lus over an en­emy and squeez­ing L2, how­ever, you can slow them down; hover him over an ally, mean­while, and he’ll re­gen­er­ate their health a lit­tle. All of this is gov­erned by an en­ergy bar re­filled by ab­sorb­ing lit­tle orbs, called Whis­pers, from glow­ing plants found out in the world and on the bat­tle­field.

It adds a dy­namic re­al­time el­e­ment to click-and­wait turn-based com­bat, but it does make for an even smoother ride in a game that is far from a chal­lenge. Com­bat is al­most im­pos­si­ble to fail. By the time the game gets hard enough for one of your num­ber to fall in bat­tle, you’ll have a healthy stock of po­tions to re­vive them with, and you can in­stantly swap out a strug­gling party mem­ber for one with full health. En­e­mies get stronger, of course, but so do you – for the first half of the game, you’ll see the level-up screen af­ter just about ev­ery fight, and your party ac­crues XP ir­re­spec­tive of whether or not they set foot on the bat­tle­field. There’s a pe­riod around two-thirds of the way through the game where you briefly feel threat­ened; your party’s dif­fer­ing skillsets sud­denly ap­pear use­ful, per­haps even vi­tal. Then your ranks are swollen by a war­rior with a taunt to draw en­emy at­ten­tion, high health to en­sure he’s rarely in dan­ger, and bet­ter dam­age out­put than any­one else in your party. There’s no rea­son not to use him, no in­cen­tive or need to mix up your ap­proach, and the rest of the game is a walkover as what should be a tac­ti­cal and dy­namic com­bat sys­tem in­stead be­comes one-note. The story, mean­while, is a pro­ces­sion of fairy­tale clichés with a twee, forcibly rhyming script. Its low point is a twist that will strug­gle to catch even younger fam­ily mem­bers off guard, and which any­one who played Far Cry 3, a game with which Child Of Light shares both a cre­ative di­rec­tor and a writer, will have seen com­ing a mile off. Thank­fully, Aurora is a de­light, a strong-willed, kind-hearted soul who not only saves the day in Le­muria and Aus­tria, but just about res­cues Child Of Light as a whole. She’s de­light­fully an­i­mated, her long red hair swish­ing as she turns, her wings flut­ter­ing del­i­cately as she zips up the side of a moun­tain. While she, like ev­ery­one else, is un­voiced through­out, she gives the game its great­est sound ef­fect: the soft clap of the soles of her feet when she lands on a stone floor. Had the same at­ten­tion to de­tail been lav­ished on Child Of Light’s pac­ing and struc­ture, Ubisoft Mon­treal might have had a hit on its hands.

In­stead, Child Of Light is an al­ready slow game that’s need­lessly bogged down by those sig­na­ture Ubisoft sys­tems. The lev­el­ling is the worst cul­prit: by the time the cred­its have rolled, there will be over 70 skill icons on six sep­a­rate trees, and most of­fer up the same mi­nor bonuses you get au­to­mat­i­cally when you level up. It may be de­signed for fam­i­lies, but Child Of Light is too clut­tered and too slow to hold the at­ten­tion of lone play­ers, let alone mul­ti­ple gen­er­a­tions shar­ing a sofa. Bick­er­ing over whether to spend a skill point on a cou­ple more magic points or a mi­nor dam­age buff isn’t much of a fam­ily pur­suit, af­ter all. It’s a game that, for all the in­tri­cacy of its sys­tems and the charm of its painterly world, feels oddly empty.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.