Child of Light

I had such high hopes for this game — was really looking forward to it — and it was a disappointment in just about every way. Except the art, which was stunningly gorgeous. Everything else was a clusterfuck.

First of all, the writing is terrible, and I mean on a technical level, it’s almost unreadable. The dev made an attempt to write the entire thing in verse, except skipped over all the hard parts of writing in verse, such as meter, rhyme scheme, and making sense even though you’re paying attention to meter and rhyme. At one point it tries to rhyme “nearer” with “adhere, brr.”* It also seemed to be under the impression that “Aurora” and “Lemuria” rhymed. The game consistently, consistently seemed unable to determine what it meant to have two words rhyme. It was almost surreal, since this was presumably written by adults.

Lines would rhyme seemingly at random, whenever the writers felt they could. It would move from couplets to ABAB to ABCB and everything in between with little warning. 15-syllable lines would occur in the same stanza as 2-syllable. It was an absolute nightmare to read, and sometimes I genuinely couldn’t tell what was going on. To make matters worse, the game tries to have a character who speaks out of rhyme, but because there is no actual rhyme scheme, I didn’t even notice and it took me like an hour to figure out why other characters kept correcting her word usage. Meanwhile, the game simultaneously puts zero effort into making the lines work as verse while still having them make absolutely no sense as prose. Figuring out what the game was literally trying to say was like trying to see through mesh. You could make it out, but it was annoying and you want it to go away.

The nadir of the bad writing was probably when the protag attempted to call a baddie a “boor” but instead called him a “boar.” Granted, that was hilarious.

Worse still, the game was so busy twisting into knots just to get out the absolute most basic explanation of events that it had no energy left to expend for exposition. There was no worldbuilding. Who the fuck was Erin? What was the villain’s motivation? Why, when she’s defeated, does she say the sympathetic, “I only wanted a home,” just to have Aurora make fun of her for that like an asshole and then literally steal her home? Where is Lemuria? Is it supposed to be implied it’s Heaven, and that everyone is dead at the end? WTF happened to Aurura’s father? Is her mother actually still alive? Was she ever dead? Why did she leave Lemuria? Who the hell decided to name a character after the measles (Rubella)? How did Aurora get to Lemuria? Why did the entire country of Austria submerge, and what happened to the rest of the world? Why did Aurora randomly age ten years after getting the Moon, and why did no one react to it? These are basic, basic plot questions and they’re never answered, and that’s not even the least of the things that didn’t make sense.

As for the actual plot, did you guys know that women are evil deceivers who hate and turn on each other and lie to other women’s faces while thinking about how ugly and gross they are? I bet you didn’t know that women use their evil, evil sexiness to ruin good men! Women: the worst.

The gameplay was just as terrible. The game is ostensibly a platformer. However, about an hour in, it gives you limitless flight. Not having to use platforms is something that kind of defeats the purpose of a platformer. For the next 90% of the game, you literally just zoom over the landscapes and obstacles from one destination to the next. I cannot imagine was the dev was thinking with this. It was completely baffling.

Then there was the battle system, which is the absolute epitome of the design sin where you confuse rote difficultly with strategy. On hard mode, enemies just got obscene damage multipliers, and even on easy, the bosses regularly did half of my HP bar. You’d battle enemies doing 50 and 60 damage and then hit a boss where you were getting smacked by 150. Battles were just a matter of getting into a proper healing rhythm so that you could have characters alternate attacks and potions without dying. My absolute least favorite thing was that when a party member fainted, you weren’t prompted to switch them out — you had to wait until the surviving party member’s next turn and then use that turn to send in a sub. When bosses were getting two or three turns to your every one and two- or three-hit-KOing you, and your revive attempts could be cancelled by being attacked, this was absolutely infuriating. (It doesn’t even make sense! Why would your other teammates wait around to jump in and help instead of doing it immediately?!)

The turn system itself would have been fun in a better game. It was similar to FF’s casting system, except that everyone shared one turn bar they moved across at different rates.

In this game, though, I hated everything about it. I hated how much faster endgame baddies were than you, to the point that often I had to just sat there and watch my party get annihilated without ever getting a chance to participate in the battle. I hated that when you finally, finally got a turn, all too often it was Interrupted because almost all enemy charge times were faster than yours. I hated that only one party member had healing attacks, only one had elemental damage attacks, and you could only send out two of the six or seven PCs at once, making it impossible to get out of healing-each-turn rhythms when you got stuck. I hated that I couldn’t see the enemy’s HP bars, something that wouldn’t annoy me in a good game but in a game where I so desperately wanted every battle to just end was irritating.

I also hated that the terrible verse writing made it impossible to figure out what quests wanted from you or discern what you were supposed to do after the original acquisition. There were also no local maps, which made finding NPCs a massive chore. Also, wtf were the “Confessions”? What was I even reading with those and why? Was there any point to collecting them?

And why was there a huge section of the world map you never visited?

The watercolor art was so beautifully detailed that I actually genuinely wonder if resources got siphoned away from other, game-ier aspects of the game in order to finish it. But while I love pretty things more than probably anyone else on this blog, this wasn’t something to hang on a wall in a museum. It was supposed to be an interactive story. And it failed on both the “interactive” and “story” grounds. Everything but the visuals just screams “half-assed.” If you want to paint a picture, paint a picture. Hell, write a kids’ book. With the other facets of development removed, maybe they’d even have had time to take a crash course in poetry 101. I’m sure all the other kindergartners learning about which words rhyme would be a great test audience.

*Or something similar. What I really remember is the /ir/-brr thing, and the absurdity of adding a random “Brr” from another character in order to finish out the line. There were so many lines like this and the Aurora/Lemuria thing. I wish I’d written them down or something, because I’m not going back in now.

20 Comments

  1. Roarke says:
    Wow. I read through this entire review, only to realize at the end that I still understand nothing about this game. And it’s still a good review. Damn.

    As for the actual plot, did you guys know that women are evil deceivers who hate and turn on each other and lie to other women’s faces while thinking about how ugly and gross they are?

    Is this like in Bravely Default or whatever that game was, where the witches are evil because sexy women are evil?

    Act says stuff about awful rhyme

    Rhyming verse in general is something I can barely stand even when it’s well done and accompanied by good music. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the English language in particular, since I often enjoy it in Spanish and Italian.

    1. actonthat says:
      If I were cleverer, that would have been metacommentary.

      It’s a jRPG/platformer hybrid about a young princess who wakes up one day in another world and has to save it to get home, which is basically the plot of Wizard of Oz now that I type it out that way. It fails both as a jRPG and a platformer, as well as something written in English.

      Is this like in Bravely Default or whatever that game was, where the witches are evil because sexy women are evil?

      Nah, this is a more general “women always have evil ulterior motives” coupled with “women always betray other women.” It’s never gets as specific as Evil Is Sexy. Evil is definitely ugly, though! All good people are beautiful, and if you’re not it’s a moral failing.

      Rhyming verse in general is something I can barely stand even when it’s well done and accompanied by good music.

      I actually think I would enjoy a game in verse if it was done well. But poetry is so, so hard to write. So hard. And it basically comes in “amazing” and “failtastic clusterfuck.” There’s not much middle ground — either you’ve written a masterpiece or a disaster.

      I spent this game massively frustrated that I had to trudge through so much bad verse for so, so little actual information. It never said in one stanza what it could say in ten. It was so annoying. By the end I was internally screaming, “JUST SAY IT MY GOD.”

      1. Roarke says:
        But poetry is so, so hard to write. So hard. And it basically comes in “amazing” and “failtastic clusterfuck.” There’s not much middle ground — either you’ve written a masterpiece or a disaster.

        Yeah. Poetry is very high up there on the list of Shit I Cannot Do.

  2. SpoonyViking says:
    Wait, this is a platformer (ostensibly, at least) with a turn-based RPG battle system? How does that work?
    1. Falconix says:
      Touching enemies throws you into the battle screen.
      1. SpoonyViking says:
        Eh… I think it’s like trying to match two very different flavours – I don’t know, something like a spicy mango sauce -, only a very few people will enjoy it.
    2. actonthat says:
      Poorly!

      All battles but the boss battles are optional — you have a power that “stuns” enemies and makes it so you can walk through them without triggering battles. The battle system itself was ambitious but broken because of a lack of nuance in difficulty.

      Despite skipping almost all endgame battles, though, I don’t think I was underlevelled — when I got the last party member, she was only about 3 levels above my highest, and once I had a lucky run at the boss and was able to get into a proper heal/attack rhythm, it was easy.

      It was a real “jack of all trades, master of none” thing.

  3. PostguestivePostistPhase says:
    “poetry”
    It’s poetic enough if the last words of two lines are rhyming afaic, but this sounds like it failed even at that.
    I also never liked poetry, seems like a lot of unnecessary effort. We’ve invented writing a while ago, we don’t need things be memorizable now. I guess it’s OK when you’re Tolkien and dedicated your whole life to making your stuff sound pretty, otherwise just use all that energy to write more things.

    “The game is ostensibly a platformer. However, about an hour in, it gives you limitless flight.”
    SMB has had warps since ever and it’s the fundamental base upon which platformer genre is built. There’s always people who play games they don’t really wanna play, and providing shortcuts to ending for those people is cruicial to a game’s success if SMB is any measure.

    “Then there was the battle system”
    However I don’t know why there’s a thing like that in a platformer. “RPG elements” has become a cancer: why the hell does Batman need to level up? And usual platformer mechanics of jumping and shooting combine into only a quadzillion ways of making boss fights, so of course they to put in rpg battles instead.

    Also, this post needed some of them pretty pictures as it seems like that’s the only good thing to come out of the game. I asked google instead and it showed a few. It showed many fanart and even a cosplayer too. Apparently even this thing has some big fans.

    1. SpoonyViking says:
      But the warps in “Mario” games don’t obviate the need for platforming, they just allow people of all skill levels to see (and maybe beat) the entire game.
    2. actonthat says:
      It’s poetic enough if the last words of two lines are rhyming afaic, but this sounds like it failed even at that.

      It really did, it was kind of amazing. I honestly would have forgiven more technical things like syllable count and iamb if it could have committed to a basic rhyme scheme and actually, ya know, rhymed words.

      SMB warps

      But you still need to actually platform! Even if you warp to the eighth world, you have to do *something*. And it was avoidable, allowing people who wanted to play to actually play.

      And usual platformer mechanics of jumping and shooting combine into only a quadzillion ways of making boss fights

      This would have been such a better decision. The encounters didn’t even matter; you could skip all but boss battles, and I did in the endgame, and was obviously still high enough level to win.

      Did you find the AMA with the writer where he compares himself to Samuel Coleridge and talks about how clever it was to name the evil woman Umbra? It was made of cringe.

      1. PostguestivePostistPhase says:
        “allowing people who wanted to play to actually play.”
        Presumably, players who wanted could not fly over enemies in this game too. Bad fighting that players don’t want to enter is a far deadlier sin than a skip option (which they also indulged in).
        1. actonthat says:
          Unfortunately, once you get the flying power the platforming elements kind of… fade away. Landscapes are no longer puzzles, stuff is hidden at the far extremes of the screen only accessible via long flight, and because it doesn’t make sense to walk there’s very few enemies. It’s weird.
          1. PostguestivePostistPhase says:
            Wut? Even lolwut? That’s dumb. This game is dumb. These people are dumb.
  4. illhousen says:
    That sounds like an unbroken chain of bad decisions.
    1. actonthat says:
      It really seems like someone had an idea for a storybook and then somehow convinced themselves making it into a game was hip! and modern! and didn’t take that much work because it’s just a game, right?

      I think this probably happens a lot, where people Want to Make Games, and don’t consider whether the idea they have is best suited to a different medium.

      1. illhousen says:
        Hm, was it the first game of the studio? That would explain at least some failings.
        1. actonthat says:
          Google says… this was Ubisoft Montreal, somehow. Looks like the head writer worked on the not-sucky AC games. Perhaps it was a case of someone used to being part of a larger system trying to break away and not really knowing how?
          1. illhousen says:
            That’s certainly plausible. It’s easy to imagine how someone who worked as a part of a team before mistook shooting down horrible ideas for stiffening creativity and underestimated the difficulty of creating a playable game because it wasn’t their department.
  5. melindustri says:
    “As for the actual plot, did you guys know that women are evil deceivers
    who hate and turn on each other and lie to other women’s faces while
    thinking about how ugly and gross they are? I bet you didn’t know that
    women use their evil, evil sexiness to ruin good men! Women: the worst.”

    That’s really disappointing, especially since I saw this game touted as progressive. Mind going into the details? I’m not really all that worried about spoilers.

    1. actonthat says:
      I’d heard the same thing, which made it feel like an extra slap in the face.

      One half of it is the old evil-stepmother thing, where the Good Guy Dad is taken in by the evil feminine wiles and sexiness of a woman, because That’s What Women Do. The other half is the really gross way in which the sisters of the protagonist betray her for no reason (it’s never even elaborated on whether or not they’re stepsisters, but I didn’t get the sense they were…?) and then spend the rest of the game drilling in how they were liars who were secretly thinking the whole time how stupid and gross and ugly the protag was. Because Women Will Always Betray Women, even your sisters, who are petty and jealous because Girl Are Always Competitors.

      It wasn’t even an interesting sexism, just super rote by-the-books stuff.

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