Child of Light is a beautiful culmination of eloquent storytelling, magnificent scenery, and a gorgeous soundtrack. Released in April of 2014, Ubisoft’s fairytale-like RPG video game utilizes charming character design, enjoyable exploration, puzzle solving, and a crafty combat system to sidestep the trope-laden landscape of contemporary role-playing games. Please be warned, the following content may contain spoilers.
I first encountered this game a year after its release, and was instantly endeared to it. The Definitive Edition for Xbox One X and Playstation 4 Pro was recently released, and the beatufiul, remastered version inspired me to play it again and write this review. Aurora is characterized by a strong moral compass and a desire to return to her father and her kingdom from this dream-like realm of Lemuria—but as the story progresses, her strengthening bonds with her companions anchor her to Lemuria and the player discovers Aurora’s purpose as she does. From the moment I began Child of Light and saw the scenery in motion, heard the spectacular soundtrack begin to play and noted the unparalleled attention to detail—from the subtle shifts in Aurora’s blood-red hair to the soft sounds of her fluttering wings—I knew it would be a special story.
The plot unfolds in rhyming iambic pentameter—an endearing nod to Shakespeare that strengthens the game’s magically surreal aesthetics—and follows the narrative of a young girl named Aurora. The consistency of this rhyming, rhythmic dialogue between Aurora and her companions is one of my favorite aspects of the game; one of the characters struggles with this demanding pattern of speech, and the others help her by providing words and phrases that fit the rhyme. When young Aurora awakens in the land of Lemuria, she is scared and confused, but must navigate the strange world to save her father from the Queen of Night and restore peace to her people before darkness consumes all. Trapped in this other world, she is tasked with finding the portal between worlds: a mirror in the Temple of the Moon. With the aid of Igniculus, an elemental wisp sent by the Lady of the Forest as a source of guidance for the young princess, she obtains a sword, a pair of wings, and her courage. Though she encounters dark foes and great evils such as her sister Cordelia, goblins, and giant spiders, she finds solace in her companions and in her duty to her kingdom. This game is still incredibly relevant because Aurora’s transformation from a frightened child to the hero of her own story frames a tale that defies accepted conventions of powerful men and sexualized women in a masterful and elegant manner.
Although there are countless praises to be sung about this beautiful game, the gradual, coming-of-age development of Aurora’s character and the rising conflict between Aurora and the Queen of Night were what compelled me to continue playing. The plot is incredibly satisfying—it is weaved flawlessly with mystery and the unknown—and I found myself wanting more after every epic battle, after every heart-shattering cutscene, and after every incredible shift in the movement of the game. I found it to be a literary inspiration in many ways; despite the steady strain the player feels from the pending and inevitable final boss fight with Umbra, the Queen of Night, there is also an irresistible urge to explore the impeccably structured overworld and embark on a grand adventure of your own. It is unlike anything I have ever had the pleasure of playing before, and is a quintessential example of a well-rounded and extraordinary RPG experience.
There is a lovely grace period at the beginning of the game that perfectly weighs the typical, tedious style of video game tutorials against actual gameplay. While the commands are relatively straightforward and uncomplicated, this simplicity lends itself to a dense, rich exploratory availability. In every region of Lemuria—Mahthilidis Forest, the Plains of Rambert, the Cliffs of Erin, and Cynbel Sea—there are coffers (or chests), stardust, and confessions to find that are important to either the plot of the game or the stats of Aurora and her various partners. These partners, who are encountered in every newly revealed location, each have unique abilities and attacks when it comes to combat. Because the fight sequences are turn-based, some of Aurora’s companions are able to slow down enemies or boost Aurora’s speed, or interrupt an enemy’s attack to render it useless; the enemies themselves have special attacks and status-changing magics that can be used against Aurora and her troupe, too. But the artfully designed characters and subcharacters, whether good or evil, keep the battles from feeling repetitive or bothersome as some role-playing games can often become.
With its water-color backdrop, nostalgic ambiance, and hand-crafted nature, Child of Light is a stunning video game of the highest quality. The vivid and evocative atmosphere lends itself to a thrilling narrative and skillfully constructed plot. It strikes a perfect balance between the warmth and brilliance of the story and the critical, tactical mechanics of gameplay; the departure from bloated RPG formatting allows the creators of Child of Light to completely reinvent the genre and gaming expectations as a whole.