PAX East 2014: Entering the world of Child of Light

t’s strange that in that the last two decades where technology has considerably increased a number of new, more advanced avenues that can provision incredible feats of art design and animation, that we haven’t seen a Final Fantasy game actually rendered in the style of Yoshitaka Amano’s art beyond mere promotion.

It wasn’t until arriving at the Ubisoft booth at PAX East that I was relieved about such a thing too, it may have prevented such inspiration for one of the most beautiful games I’ve witnessed in some time; Ubisoft Montreal’s Child of Light. The eye candy is definitely a sight to behold, but behind all of that visual sweetness, is an RPG filled out from top to bottom with ingenuity and charisma that’ll be sure to incite a new trend for western RPGs to follow.

Set within the surreal backdrop of the enchanted world of Lemuria, one little girl named Aurora embarks on a journey to recover the sun, moon, and stars from the Dark Queen who stole them; Child of Light is artistically modeled in aesthetic and screenplay to every Japanese sensibility in pay homage to. The Miyazaki like narrative works to fuel the whimsy to direct Aurora around every inch of terrain as you fly around endlessly and freely move about the limits of the screen—just exploring the stages was a sheer delight.

Though the levels are purely two-dimensional planes, each section is a segment of a larger web map where travel cannot only be done from the left or right, but also by exiting/entering through doors in the background or foreground of areas. The mechanic does wonders to compliment the liberating guile of Aurora’s flight in a structured environment that can still highlight all of the gorgeous details in the graphics that make up Lemuria, while still emanating a sense of mysticism around the subtle depth of its world.

Child of Light is only part side-scroller though, the real meat, the succulent, moist Sir Loin of it, is when the game shifts into being a turn-based RPG affair of illusorily complex proportions. Utilizing a number of mechanics that range from Grandia to Pokémon, Aurora and the party you can recruit will challenge mobs through battle that’s dictated through an active-time system regulated by order of priority to any of the given action initiated by the participants of the scuffle.

The factors that compose the rules over priority and who it favors more all range from the number of the speed skill to the respective individual and the casting time associated with the specific action they’re trying to accomplish. The timeline is split into two parts, first being the green area that sends along the party members preparing their move, and the smaller red area in where the casting can reach completion to launch the move. The beauty of the system lies within the layers of strategy to account for when making your next move—gaming the right combination of the right moves from the right members will allow you to target enemies in the red zone of the timeline, and interrupt their move from ever happening in order to create distance of exchanging attacks between defending.

The Pokémon equation is attributed to the importance of elements to every enemy you face, and contrastive diagram of element’s relationship with one another in terms of strength and weakness. While different spells will be linked to a specific element, equipment for weapons and armor will also have a specific elemental affinity that affects the power or vulnerability of whatever class of element your foe happens to be during battle. Considering that these were only a few of the details first shown with Child of Light’s combat, the intricacies of these tactics are organic in both orchestration, and pace that gives the gameplay the same vibrant sense of life inherent within the jaw-dropping presentation that illustrates it.

Child of Light will have a cross-generation release on April 29th; aside from it being a yet another candidate for debate on the controversial argument of the distinction of video games being perceived as art, the tightly constructed hybrid of mechanics and design behind all the visual flair I was able to play was truly years ahead of its time.

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