The digital channels on modern consoles are evolving in several ways. Not only are they becoming more aggressive in the opportunities for a wider range of software but also they are maturing in the kind of content that they deliver. Titles such as Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons and State of Decay have proven that compact experiences built specifically for digital distribution can break away from expectations of the channels, and Ubisoft’s forthcoming Child of Light looks set to blur the lines even further.
At its most basic level Child of Light is a 2D side-scrolling role-playing game (RPG) not too dissimilar from the Paper Mario series. The player takes on the role of Aurora and travel with sidekick Igniculus (controlled either via a character switch or by a second player) through a fantastic world of watercolour fairytales. The ultimate goal of Child of Light was not revealed to Electronic Theatre prior to experiencing the preview build first-hand, but the fact that the videogame still managed to command the player’s attention throughout an early section without any such information proves that the gameplay can speak for itself.
While Aurora is the main character, Igniculus is not without use. He can collect items and interact with objects out of reach, and also aid in battle. Combat takes place as a cut away; enemies can be seen on-screen, but engaging with them will enter into a turn-based sequence. The player selects their moves from rotating menus as soon as their character enters the action segment of the time bar. Both Aurora and a second party member, Finn, were available in this early segment of the videogame with a class structure already evident. Finn is a white mage through-and-through, while Aurora can be tailored to be good at combat or black magic, or even comfortable with both.
The level system works exactly as would be expected: any characters left standing at the end of a battle will gain XP. When the amount of XP earned passes a threshold the character will level-up and gain a skill point to spend on a traditionally structured tree, unlocking stronger versions of existing abilities or even brand new ones. Throughout all of this Igniculus remains a constant, able to slowly heal wounded characters or blond enemies making them more likely to be stunned by your attack (potentially forfeiting their chance to counter). Of course, Igniculus’ light can be used to blind enemies outside of combat also, allowing you to slip past unnoticed if you so wish.
Child of Light features dozens of other recognised conventions – interactive environments, staged expansion of the map, collecting and assigning stat boost items to weapons and armour etc. – but throughout it all it maintains the feeling of being unique and genuinely exciting. The unique aesthetic and penchant for rhyming dialogue set it aside, and the commitment to player experience of elaborate set-piece is evidence of a maturing design. Child of Light is set to launch on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC in 2014, and Electronic Theatre is confident that it will deliver an experience that helps further propel digital distribution into the forefront of videogame innovation.