Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Child of Light

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Aurora, who lived with her father, the Duke. One day, she slipped into a sleep like death, and awoke in another world.

Child of Light is a side-scrolling platform RPG with a fairytale inspiration and a unique watercolour art style. Set in the kingdom of Lemuria (and a little bit in 19th century Austria) it tells the story of Aurora, the titular Child of Light, whose apparent death translates her from her father's dukedom to Lemuria, where she is tasked with seeking out the Sun, Moon and Stars and restoring light to the kingdom, breaking the rule of Umbra, the Queen of the Night. To aid her, she is accompanied by Igniculus, an elemental spirit that can light darkened areas and dazzle enemies both in and out of battle.

The Map of Lemuria
In the course of her quest, Aurora travels across Lemuria, encountering the various tribes that live there - the balloon-dwelling Aerostati, the gnome-like Capili, the Bolmus Populi travelling tradesmice, the mighty Kategida and the shore-dwelling Piscean fish-folk - and recruiting allies from their number to aid her. She is armed with a sword far too big for her to lift and a toy crown which carries a powerful spell of protection. Throughout her journey she refuses the title Princess (whenever anyone calls her that she insists that she is just Aurora and proves it by taking off the crown to reveal the word 'FAUX' inside the band) and treats those she meets with respect. She even extends the same courtesy to her enemies, seeking an alternative to battle with each of the three main bosses. It's this courtesy and humility that really makes her stand out as a character.

The game is split between exploration and combat. Encountering an enemy transports you to the battle arena where up to two of your characters take on up to three enemies in turn-based combat featuring a wide range of physical attack actions and magical spells, which need to be properly matched against different foes. Light beats dark, the elements of water, lightning, earth and fire each have their weakness, and some are more susceptible than others to a basic clobbering. As characters level up their skills can be improved (pro-tip, specialise, I made a rod for my own back by generalising, which will surprise exactly no-one who knows me) and their equipment can be enhanced with Oculi, magical gems which can be combined to increase their quality or transform their type, and add special defences, attacks or increase character stats.

Through the course of the quest, Aurora literally grows up.
Aurora's story has been described by writer Jeffrey Yolahem as 'the tip of the iceberg' in the greater story of Lemuria. The game hints at the history of the 'explorers', Cynbel the Wise and Erin the Conqueror, who came to Lemuria and became its rulers, as well as having empty corners on the map. In addition, the collectable 'confessions' include a number of letters written by a more modern day student named Sophie Ashton Ellis to her teacher, Mr Elme about 'Balthazar's Book' and her own discovery of Lemuria through its contents.

I for one would be excited to see more games in this series, because it's a fun, compelling RPG with just the right levels of story, combat and exploration, and a gorgeous look. It also has an excellent score from Canadian composer Coeur de pirate. The rhyming speech has been divisive, but I quite like it; my only problem is that I'm not familiar enough with the ballad form to parse it smoothly in my head. It's a shame that there's no voice acting, but on the other hand it's better to do things by text than to have the wrong voice actors, and some computer game voice acting is truly dire. The other main complaint - for the PC at least - is the requirement that the game be launched through the cumbersome, occasionally downright ornery UPlay DRM, but it's not a deal-breaker and only on first launch caused me to rage quit before the game even began as I struggled to persuade it to a) send me a new password since I hadn't used UPlay since the crushing disappointment of AC3 and b) accept that new password and let me play the goddamned game.