‘Child of Light’ is a thoughtful fantasy

Child of Light
“Child of Light”
Ubisoft Montreal
PS4, XBO, Wii U,
PS3, 360, PC

These days, role-playing games (or RPGs) come in many shapes and sizes. Western RPGs, like “Skyrim,” are often gritty and open affairs, while Eastern RPGs, like the “Final Fantasy” series, focus on angsty drama. It’s not often that the genre sees a title that can be dark, thoughtful and whimsical all at once. “Child of Light,” a new RPG from Ubisoft Montreal, aims to be all of this and more.

Players assume control of Aurora, a girl from 1895 Austria who contracts a harsh disease and seemingly dies. After this, she wakes up in the mythical fantasy world of Lemuria, where she is the only one who can restore the sun, moon and stars to their rightful places. Through this quest she must face her deepest fears and hopefully reunite with her father.

It’s clear that the developers took a lot of cues from “Pan’s Labyrinth,” and it shows both in the story and game design. The game was built using the UbiArt engine, which was used to power beautiful 2-D games like “Rayman Legends,” and it’s put to very good use. The world has an almost hand-drawn, storybook-esque look, which adds whimsy to the protagonists while giving the enemies and dungeons a gothic feel.

While it can be incredibly dark at times, “Child of Light” also carries some welcome levity. The dialogue is in constant rhyme, and while it sometimes feels forced, the writers also are able to show a lot of characterization and creativity through the dialogue’s structure.

Like the rest of the game, the combat borrows from a seemingly endless supply of source material, from the timing of the old SNES-era “Final Fantasy” games, to the overworlds of games like “Paper Mario” and even to the elemental rock-paper-scissors of the “Persona” series. While it borrows a lot from other games, it still feels like a unique and engaging system all its own.

Unfortunately, the title isn’t perfect. Both newcomers and veterans of the genre will find the game extremely easy, even at the harder difficulties. Adding to this is the game’s rather brief length, and while it’s about as long as most games nowadays, 10 hours still feels painfully short for an RPG.

So while “Child of Light” may not last long, the aesthetic style and the thoughtful story that make the game worth experiencing. While it is very easy and short, it still has an identity of its own even among its many influences. Players who love RPGs or dark fairy tales (or both) shouldn’t think twice about picking it up.