It can be rare that a video game elicits awe or even emotion. So many are throwaway affairs – momentary distractions that, while fun, mostly exist just to distance you from more important daily activities.
Those daily activities occupy us, even define us, and all that adulting can make it difficult for adults my age to put aside the maturity they’ve developed in the years since childhood, and enjoy a game that models itself after popup storybooks my parents might have read to me as a child.
Child of Light is one of the rare examples of video games at their finest. It’s simply a game that, long after the credits have rolled, you’ll ever-so-often think back to and wonder “why aren’t the games I have now as good as that one.” Child of Light is on my personal list of games that make you wonder just that. And most of the games on that list were released far before this one: The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Final Fantasy VII, Horizon: Zero Dawn (a more recent release), and so few more.
It’s a heartwarming story, incredibly-realized storybook world, and throwback RPG elements seamlessly come together to offer an experience you’ll want to take a couple of days of PTO to enjoy with limited interruption.
Between exploration and action, Child of Light presents its cutscenes (those moments that really push the main narrative forward) just like those popup storybooks you might remember. I have to believe my pure and unsolicited awe matches my enthusiasm as a youth, as on-screen stages collapse and change as much as a Broadway play as in a picture book. The rest of the world, you’ll see as you explore, is just as vibrant.
Child of Light Story
The story of Child of Light begins on a somber note, as you watch the character you’ll soon take charge of, Aurora dies of an unknown cause. Aurora is a royal princess in the fairytale kingdom of five hills, and upon her ‘death,’ is transported to and awakens in the land of Lemuria. It’s here where Aurora watches from afar as her father suffers and takes to his bed over the agony of losing his little girl. She has to get back to him. And that’s where your story beings.
The thematics and tone of the game don’t really pick up much from here, outside of the energetic action sequences, which are time- and turn-based. There’s a bit of strategy to each battle, and you’ll be joined by interchangeable companions while duking it out with the mean creatures of Lemuria that you encounter on your quest to recover the ability to return home from the evil Umbra. The overall battle system is extremely reminiscent of games like Final Fantasy VII and other old-school RPGs: you wait your turn and strategically prioritize actions while simultaneously attempting to slow down enemy attacks by striking them at just the right moments. There are sword slashes, magical powers, items to be used, and a hefty progression system that you can use to upgrade yourself and your companions in-between battles.
But the real meat of the game rests in the exploration of this beautiful, stylized world. The lovely soundtrack puts you in a tranquil state as you fly about (yes, Aurora can fly – it’s a dreamland, after all) looking for secrets and your way onto the next area.
Child of Light Sequel?
To this day, the only negative quality I can find from Child of Light is the lack of a sequel. In 2018, there were teases, and even a shot of a script titled ‘Child of Light II,’ released to the world. Alas, no sequel has arrived, and the prospects look more dire as each new year passes. We may never see more of Aurora’s story, but the original is good enough for me.
Child of Light is now available in a ‘Definitive Edition’ that adds a couple of new character designs for Aurora, a side quest that leads to an additional companion, and some other goodies. There’s also a harder mode (and yes, it seems to be pretty hard, though I’ve yet to play too far into it) that becomes available once you complete the game through the first time.
Released way back in 2014, Child of Light can be had for as much as $20 or as little as $0 (really, it’s being offered free to PC players right now). This game can be enjoyed on most any system across the previous and current generation of consoles as well. If you have any interest, whatsoever, in fantastic stories and turn-based RPGs, pick up Child of Light today.