Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Child of Light: Review

Version Reviewed: 1.0.31711
What I like: Unique combat system, artistic style and music
Not So Much: Story starts off dull, rhyming feels painfully forced sometimes.
Other Stuff You May Like: Several characters to switch between in combat, light crafting
The Verdict: A beautiful looking and sounding game with a unique feeling that has some weaknesses. Not for everyone but I'm glad I stuck with it.
About my reviews

Official site: Child of Light

Disclaimer: No disclaimer. I bought my copy.


Child of Light is a difficult game to characterize. Starting off it seems like it could focus on being a platformer, but after extended play the platforming aspects of the game are fairly light and lack difficulty. The game has a significant amount of storytelling and beautiful music. There are RPG elements - attributes, combat skills, leveling up and some mild crafting by combining gems (Oculi in game terms). These combat skills are put to use in a very unique combat system. These elements combine into a game which is beautiful, unique, tactically challenging and touching - but also sometimes tedious with a narrative that feels forced. I almost quit halfway through, but am quite pleased I stuck with the game.

The game offers two difficulty levels Casual and Expert. I tend to like games that challenge me in some way, so I played through the entire game on Expert. Casual exists for those wanting to take in the story and artistic presentation without needing to worry about the difficulty. Since I only played on Expert I can't comment on the difficulty of Casual. 

The World of Lemuria

Your journey through Lemuria will take you across various beautiful landscapes, accompanied by atmospheric environmental sounds. The artistic appeal of Child of Light never disappoints. Some areas are somewhat linear, others a bit more open. Not all paths are easily noticed as you pass on your way. Attention to detail is rewarded with loot chests and power ups, so it's wise to keep your eyes open.

The start of an adventure in the forest.

Platforming is simple - move a crate to reach a higher ledge, time your moves to avoid thrusting spikes. At times you need to utilize Igniculus, a helpful elemental, to disable obstacles in your path. Even making a mistake during these sequences never really spells disaster since Igniculus can heal any damage taken. I never took enough damage that it lead to my death. It seems the platforming is there to provide some sense of danger without ever really making it so.

As you move through the world, Aurora (the little girl you control) or companions you meet along the way reveal comments inspired by their surroundings, parts of the main story, or tidbits about their own personal plights. At times these are welcome and well done - sometimes touching or otherwise contributing to the storytelling in a positive way. The dialog and story bits are always presented in rhyme. In many places this works well and gives the tale a storybook feel. Other times they feel forced, with awkward words which makes the narrative harder to follow - even disjointed.

Even though the backgrounds are essentially 2 dimensional, Aurora can take some paths that have some depth to them.

Have a Little Help from My Friends

As mentioned earlier, you'll meet some companions along the way - the first being a firefly (elemental) names Igniculus. Igniculus is different from the other companions you meet. Other companions only participate in combat or appear to tell parts of the tale. Igniculus remains on the main screen with you as you explore the world. He'll follow you around automatically, but at times you'll also take direct control of him to reach an area Aurora can't reach or to assist in some other way. I played with an XBox 360 controller, but mouse and keyboard controls also exist. The controller felt natural. The mouse and keyboard felt OK too in the small amount of time I spent using them.

Aurora, meet Igniculus.
Igniculus can glow, which has different effects depending on the situation. While exploring, he can heal Aurora or even blind enemies so combat can either be avoided or let Aurora and her friends start with the upper hand. Wishes found along the way recharge his ability quickly, or they can slowly recharge over time.

Lemuria is not a Safe Place for a Little Girl

There will be times when enemies will block your path. Using Igniculus to blind them will let you avoid the combat, which may be OK if playing on Casual. Skipping too many encounters would lead to trouble on Expert for sure because the experience points gained from combat allow Aurora and her companions to level up so they are prepared for more challenging enemies.

Get him when he's not looking!

Attacking enemies from behind gives Aurora an initial advantage in combat. It's also possible for enemies to gain the advantage, but in general if you're paying attention this probably won't happen a lot. 

It's Like Choreographing Dance, but More Deadly

Combat takes place on a tactical combat screen, pitting up to 2 of your group members against up to 3 enemies.

See that bar along the bottom? You'll want to pay attention to that. Each participant moves along that bar based on their speed. When they reach the red area, it's time to select their action. This can be a physical attack or a spell of some sort. These actions are unlocked as they level up. While there aren't a huge number of different skills, they are varied - single and group attacks, healing, paralyzation, speeding up, slowing down and more. These actions also take up a different amount of time and here is where the dance begins.

When someone is attacked while they are in the red portion, their action is interrupted and they are moved towards the left on the bar. Interrupting actions is a great way to gain an advantage in combat. Since Igniculus can slow down an enemy's advancement, deciding when to use this power is an important tactical choice It isn't always advantageous to slow an enemy down because then they may not be in the red area when the attack is executed. Juggling Igniculus between enemies, planning which attack to use, deciding what ally to swap into battle are all part of this intricate dance. You do get a chance to stop and think since time pauses when it's one of your characters turn to attack. This combat system felt different from any other game I have played.

While I could generally stick with the 2 characters I liked the most in combat, they all had their uses. This could be due to their different skill set, or due to the fact that injured allies could be replaced during combat. One more step in this intricate dance.

Add the use of potions to buff, debuff and heal and combat provides many options. Enemies were varied enough to require new tactics, but there were times when there were more encounters with the same type of enemy than I wished to fight. Since I needed the experience points, I felt obliged not to bypass the combat. Luckily I never needed to grind and fight the same enemies repeatedly. I obtained enough XP by winning each encounter once. Even on Expert difficulty most of the combat wasn't that hard, but there were difficult encounters that tested my mettle.

Well, it is Tagged on Steam as an RPG...

Leveling comes pretty frequently, coming with attribute increases and a skill choice. Character advancement wasn't one of the more interesting parts of the game. Attributes level automatically. The skill tree is essentially just a progression down 1 of 3 paths, either unlocking a new skill or improving an attribute. I generally just picked 1 branch and stuck with it, but there were times I went partway down another branch to unlock a skill I wanted. Each character has their own unique skill tree, but there is some overlap with the skills.

Another RPG element is some basic crafting and equipping of Oculi (gems). Most of the gems provide some type of elemental damage or protection, but there are some more varied effects. Since some enemies are more susceptible to certain types of damage it pays to try and get beneficial match ups.

Visuals and Music

Child of Light excels in both areas. Each environment has touches of detail that bring them alive and are a joy to travel through. The music is one of the few soundtracks I'd listen to outside of a game. Check it out here and you can buy it here.

An ominous looking area.

Happy after looting a chest.

Much easier to get around when you can fly.

Stopping to have a chat with a friend.

On unsuspecting enemy keeps guard on the left.

Technical Performance

No crashes or any other hiccups experienced - even with frequent alt tabbing!

My specs: Windows 7 64-bit. Intel Core i& 860 @ 2.80 GHz. 8 Gig RAM. ATI Radeon HD 7870.


For me, the strengths of Child of Light were the unique combat system, visuals and music. I almost quit playing after tiring of forced rhymes, and a story I wasn't that invested in. Around the middle of the game, I started enjoying the story a bit more. There were times when the story touched an emotional chord. 

Combat could become a little repetitive, but a new challenge usually wasn't too far around the corner so I persevered during those times. The music in the final battle was like a reward for my persistence. Controlling the flow of combat with Igniculus was rewarding in its own right, just as much as selecting the right characters for a particular encounter and making smart skill choices.

A new game+ mode exists for those looking for more, but I think it is a 1 playthrough type of game. A playthrough which I enjoyed more than I first thought I would.


  1. The combat system from Child of Light was inspired by the Grandia RPG series from Game Arts. Child of Light's combat system is a pale shadow of Grandia's, so if you liked it I'd really suggest checking out the originals. Ideally the first or second one, though you may need to dig up an original playstation or a dreamcast to do so.

    1. Interesting, I never heard of them. It looks like Granadia II came out the the PC. I don't think I'd like the setting, but I'd be interested in seeing the combat. Thanks!