Epic story. Epic characters. Epic gameplay. Epic boss battles. Epic music. These are the five ingredients of most successful games, especially among RPGs. As a side note, it’s arguable that almost all video games are RPGs to some extent, but I digress on a topic for another editorial.
One of our Top 3 Games that released last month in April is Child of Light, a fairy tale based RPG where you play as Aurora. The child of the Duke and Duchess of Austria in 1849, Aurora, is transported to the world of Lemuria. She is regarded there as the Child of Light and is endowed with the power of flight to aid her on her quest to vanquish the Queen of the Night and to retrieve the moon, the sun and the stars.
Undoubtedly heavy burdens rest on the shoulders of one lost and confused girl, but such a heavy mantle of responsibility tends to be worn well by those who do not desire it. The mantle of responsibility is just as, if not more, heavy for — but also worn more eagerly by — the protagonist of The Legend of Dragoon (TLD), Dart Feld.
So, you might be asking yourself, why compare Child of Light to TLD and not one of the iterations in the long-running Final Fantasy series? Well, mostly because I prefer, and am, more familiar with the former than the latter…or maybe I’m just a sap for fanciful fictional heroes where the story has a happy ending. A secondary reason is TLD’s general success in combining the five ingredients I mentioned earlier — although I do not mean to imply that the Final Fantasy series lacks any of the five ingredients, as that is up to interpretation. And so begins a journey into a battle of two RPGs….
Not being able to play it myself, I will not evaluate Child of Light directly. Instead, I will evaluate what I hope it has and what we know it has through analyzing one of the five ingredients in particular that I believe carries the most weight in a video game. The story.
A solid, deep and engaging story is an integral part of an excellent game. In the case of TLD, if there’s one thing it does have, it’s a deep and well told story. Among all games, any discussion of story is fundamentally tied to the characters that give it meaning and heft. Like the layers of an onion, each characters’ history, secrets, skills, and individual personality are “peeled back” and revealed throughout the course of the game. Without spoiling too much, a perfect example would be the gradual revealing of who Rose — arguably the most complex character in the game — is and how she ultimately comes to take responsibility for, and accept, her past action — both benevolent and malevolent but well-meant. In this way, the in-game real-time actions of each character reflects the combined effects of all of the layers I mentioned.
This dichotomy of good and evil, where both sides are technically “right” in their own right, is one of the elements that struck me to the core during my first playthrough of TLD. Philosophy loves this kind of analysis where the line between good and evil can become blurred, leading to acts of seeming evil that were meant to serve the common good. Does the end truly justify the means? Those who have played and completed TLD know and understand how this seeming tangent on philosophy is related to the motives behind the actions of Lloyd, the main antagonist throughout the majority of the game. While we must ultimately choose to act based on what we believe in in real life, it nevertheless helps to look at situations, problems and conflicts from another perspective than our own.
Secondary to, and last to consider in terms of what makes an excellent story, character complexity in TLD are the game’s themes. No game is “good” without a solid story that employs gripping and engaging themes. I’ve already touched on the blurred lines separating good and evil in the game, but vengeance, forgiveness, redemption, justice and regret, among many others, also all play a role in the development of the story and the characters in it. However, because of its comic fairy tale based nature, Child of Light seems unlikely to go far beyond the “defeat the evil witch and save the world” archetype.
Based on what you know about it and from the official website, what do you think about Child of Light?