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Monday, May 19, 2014

Review: Child of Light

Worst. Parents. Ever.
Ah, Ubisoft. I've come to respect you a bit. You delayed Watch_Dogs because you don't want it to be a piece of crap, you made a FPS for the Wii U that was pretty fun, and now I find out someone among you likes JRPGs and wanted to make a game with its style. That's cool!
But even when you do something neat, like Child of Light, you also disappoint me. Why? Well, I'll tell you why.

PROS:

-It's pretty.

-The music is atmospheric and moody.

-The battle system is actually pretty good.

CONS:

-RHYMING. God, it would be okay if the game had some sort of meter, but it's really not poetry. The only time the rhyming is charming is when the character who has trouble with rhyming DOESN'T RHYME.

-The level progression system is actually quite engaging, but there's no real substance to the game because level ups are so frequent and skills are unlocked to easily.

-Bosses are usually accompanied by minions, which are an annoyance and represent a lack of diversity in how the bosses themselves operate. They pale in comparison to your teammates.

THOUGHTS:

I remained skeptical about Child of Light upon first entering, but I found myself pleasantly surprised with the experience. The battle system is really quite fun, and managing when you interrupt and push enemies back is very enjoyable. The overworld even seemed interesting and engaging, with many areas that were just out of my reach.

And then they give you the ability to fly. And that's the game, folks!

Seriously, though. Child of Light is as gorgeous as any other UbiArt Engine title, with plenty of moody music to trickle through as you weave throughout extremely predictable traps and obtain everything with relative ease. But everything comes so easily to the player that its utterly disappointing eight hour playtime feels like you've done nothing to progress the plot, which is pretty weird and bizarre. For some reason, the real conflict of the game isn't that Aurora is found in a fairytale land, but that she needs the stars, the sun, and the moon to save the people of her kingdom (her real Kingdom) from a devastating flood. The plot is enforced through unbearably bad rhyming that follows no rhythm and has extremely simplistic vocabulary.

The combat is a highlight, but new partners are layered on so quickly that you end up having a ton of options but none that are exceptionally fantastic, unless you commit yourself to one path. However, if I wanted to make my healer an HP tank I had to invest in other skill trees to give her more HP, which seems counter-intuitive. Also, skills are spread far apart but small buffs can be given every time you get a skill point- but that just shows how the leveling system is really quite poor. Even if the game had been a bit more grind-centric and made these skill tree unlocks cost more to unlock, I would have felt like I had to invest more time and care into these characters. Instead, I lazily distributed in all directions, which gave me a ton of options that I needed for the large amount of unique enemies in the game.

None of the battles truly felt intense, though- if I lost, it was because I hadn't updated my Oculi (an equip system that's actually quite nice but too limited because heavy implementation would break the game), which I promptly switched and then steamrolled the opponent. Bosses too often are skirmishes with three enemies- a major foe and two minions- which makes the boss design feel lazy because they have to rely on buffing minions rather than anything substantial on their own. Trust me, there's a lot that COULD be done with these bosses, as evidenced by your partners, who have a number of moves that utilize the battle system in interesting ways- auto-timeline-knockback, aggro-drawing, status inflicts, and counterattack based skills- but the main problem with Child of Light is that it's characters too heavily support-based. You can buff allies and make them unstoppable, raise their speed, defense (only if they're guarding though), attack, and affect enemy positioning, but there's no reason to do so when knockback is so easy with an aggressive assault and interrupt-based-counterattacks aren't really heavy.

It's hard to recommend a game because of its battle mechanics alone, because while gameplay is crucial to a good game, it's only one pillar, and it can't support everything. It's only in-battle that Child of Light thrills. Its environments are pretty but still feel uninspired. There's a few sidequests, but they're extremely fetch-quest-like and offer little in terms of new content. This is one of those titles that I cannot recommend.

Final Verdict: If you think it's pretty enough, Child of Light will engage you with its visuals and a battle system founded on good ideas- but if you take a look past these elements, you'll find a title that lacks any substance.

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