With a small build, dainty crown, and a sword too big too wield, Aurora is an unlikely heroine for an adventure. And yet how perfect a character, and champion, for Ubisoft’s upcoming JRPG tribute, Child of Light. This dazzling array of fantasy aims to open the gates to the world of JRPGs for all gamers, welcoming both long-time enthusiasts and complete newcomers. It’s disarmingly beautiful, lacquered in charm, complexly elegant, and even a little haunting. It’s scheduled for launch sometime in 2014, on PS3 and PS4.
Aurora, our star of the show, is a petite fairy of a girl, and daughter to a duke from Austria. She finds herself in a mysterious land called Lemuria, enjoying the company of an agile little flame named Igniculus. Her adventures to defeat the Black Queen will take her through a host of mystic environs in search of answers and, more importantly, home.
Child of Light is built with the same engine that powers Ubisoft’s recent Rayman games: the dazzling UbiArt Framework. This means Child of light is built with layer upon layer of breathtaking, HD artwork. The characters and scenery move and leap like a painting made real. The designers looked to many things for inspiration for this visual spectacle, including the elaborate lighting and set pieces of classical opera.
As Aurora navigates the world with Igniculus alongside her, she’ll face a variety of puzzles and meet a whole cast of interesting characters. In true JRPG fashion, the story plays out with dialogue between our little hero and her companions. In Child of Light’s case, however, all the dialogue is written in rhyme, leading to some genuinely adorable exchanges.
When Aurora enters battle, we’re treated to an exhilarating fly through of the arena before the camera settles on our hero and her adversaries. Battles operate in a turn-based system, with a cast meter dicting the turn order of each character on screen. The meter is divided into two sections: a longer, blue “wait” section, then a short, red “cast” section at the end. Each character is represented by a small icon that slides along the meter as they ready themselves.
The key to battling in Child of Light is to time your attacks properly. Attacking an enemy that’s in the red cast section will interrupt its attack, sending it all the way back to the beginning of the meter. When Aurora and her friends have their turn, time stands still, and an elegant menu opens with a host of different options, like attacking, casting spells, using items, and other familiar JRPG goodies.
Complementing this turn system is a relationship of elements that encourage players to select the right elemental spells for the right enemies, scrambling ever towards that extra damage bonus earned when you cast one elemental spell against a foul creature aligned with the opposite element.
Aurora needn’t face the dangers of combat alone, however. Igniculus can offer assistance in the form of slowing enemies down as they charge up on attack, adding a touch of strategy to the timing game.
Igniculus, in fact, can serve as the vessel for a second player, providing both battle and explorative support during Aurora’s adventure. This cooperative mode works incredibly well in its early stages, even with the second player taking a passive role. This will enable significant others, siblings, or just a casual observer, to enjoy the fun without the need for him or her to have extensive knowledge of the action. Though knowledge always helps! A well-played Igniculus can often make the difference between victory and defeat.
There’s much more of Child of Light still waiting in secret. But what Ubisoft chose to reveal has showcased Child of Light’s remarkable personality and tremendous potential. Aurora and Igniculus make a lovely pair, and Aurora herself seems more than capable of winning our admiration with her few-sizes-too-big sword and courageous spirit.