Child of Light from Ubisoft Montreal is an artistic masterpiece. The download-only RPG is filled with lush, hand-drawn art using the French publisher’s proprietary UbiArt Framework engine, providing us with beautiful watercolor art to this 2D side-scroller. The game is, as mentioned, a side-scrolling exploration and turn-based combat game provides a distinct retro flavor. However, the combat system and exploration in the game have some new concepts that can be difficult to get the hang of.
As you explore the beautiful world of Lemuria for the first (or fifth) time, we’re here to help guide you through the peculiar pacing and surprising technical combat mechanics. Read on for some tips that should ease the learning process so you can get the most out of your characters from moment one.
Fly free and explore
Within the first half-hour of starting Child of Light, Aurora, the story’s protagonist, receives a pair of fairy wings and a helper companion, a magical firefly named Igniculus. The latter fills a number of useful roles, both in and out of combat, but these two tools together equip you with everything you’ll need to explore Lemuria and unlock its secrets.
Aurora’s wings grant her the ability to fly, which you should do whenever you venture into a new environment. Child of Light‘s world doesn’t level up alongside you, so it’s best to explore every inch of each location you visit when you first arrive. Sure, you can always return later and have an easier time taking down enemies, but it’s much more efficient to clear out everything you can — enemies and treasures alike — before moving on. Keep an eye out for doors in remote locations, as these typically lead to brief, puzzle-focused treasure dungeons.
Igniculus, controlled either with the right analog stick or by a second controller-wielding player, should not be ignored either. The little firefly has complete freedom of movement on the screen, unhindered by doors or walls. He’s also able to light up, which is especially useful when you send Aurora into dark spaces. It’s very easy to miss chests in the semi-frequent lightless caves you encounter, so keep Igniculus close.
In general, use the firefly to scan your surroundings; sometimes you’ll discover hidden chambers tucked inside of seemingly impregnable walls and other goodies. Igniculus can’t open normal chests, but he can crack open the small, crystal-like floating chests that you encounter. He can also grab Stardust — which are single-use permanent stat boosts — so keep an eye for these round pickups, which appear in a variety of colors.
Aurora’s firefly pal isn’t just handy for grabbing some treasures and lighting the way; Igniculus has a range of useful abilities. Keep an eye out for round, light-filled buttons, roughly the same size as Igniculus. Only the firefly can interact with these, and they usually connect to some kind of puzzle. There’s no harm in experimenting, so be sure to activate every button you find.
Igniculus can also heal Aurora, with the healing rate increasing as your party levels up. To heal, simply hover over her and hold down LT (using an Xbox controller). If you hover over an enemy and hold down LT, you’ll temporarily blind it, allowing Aurora to pass by it without triggering a fight. Use this to get a leg up in combat by having Igniculus blind an enemy so you can position Aurora behind it. Once the enemy recovers, walk into its back to kick off a battle and you’ll start with “Surprise Strike” first attacks.
Take note of the small, blue meter in the top left corner of the screen, just below Aurora’s character portrait. This is Igniculus’ wish bar, which governs how frequently he can use his powers. It drains slowly whenever you use his healing or light abilities, and then refills automatically at a similarly slow rate. That’s not the only way to refill your wishes, however.
Scattered throughout Lemuria are flowers that emit a blue glow and spit out a string of orbs whenever Aurora or Igniculus come into contact with them. The first orb in a chain is always orange and the ones after it are always blue. Grab these orbs in any order and they’ll quickly refill your wish bar. You can also get some bonus health and magic points for Aurora and her party if you approach the orbs in a particular way.
Grab the orange orb first, and the next one in the chain will change from blue to orange. Grab all of the orbs in sequence and a cluster of health and magic pickups will drop. The orbs always change color in a straight line, so you can typically just zip across them once you know where the starting point is. Note that both Aurora and Igniculus can collect wish orbs and health/magic pickups.
Better all the time
In proper RPG fashion, Aurora and her fellow party members earn experience and level up as you proceed through the game. Each new level awards the character with a skill point to spend in a branching tree. All characters have three linear paths of progression they can follow. While you’ll break into multiple paths later on in the game, it’s best to pick one path and stick with it.
Before you spend your skill point, browse through each full line of progression and decide how you’d like to develop. Each path develops different skills, and each skill evolves into a better version of itself as you proceed further down a path. So while it’s possible to spread your points out across all the trees, it’s much more efficient to build up a small handful and bring that much more power into every battle.
Cut the line
Combat in Child of Light is governed by an Active Time Battle system that should be familiar to fans of the Final Fantasy series. The simple explanation is that not all combat turns are created equally. Different types of attacks and other combat options, such as using potions, take varying amounts of time based on their strength. A powerful spell that attacks all enemies is going to take considerably longer to cast than guzzling down a healing potion would.
In Child of Light, the move order is dictated by the time bar at the bottom of the screen. Each participant in the battle, friend and foe alike, is represented by a portrait icon of that character connected to the bar. These portraits move from left to right across the bar as their turn to move gets closer. The speed and starting position on the bar varies for each character and enemy based on their stats.
You’ll notice when you look at the time bar that the last small chunk of it on the right-hand side is colored red and labeled “Cast.” If the larger, blue section of the bar — labeled “Wait” — is a party member or enemy’s wait between turns, the Cast section is the time they spend preparing to strike.
You choose a battle action for your characters once their portrait reaches the line separating the Wait and Cast sections of the time bar. The time it takes for the portrait to travel from there to the end of the bar is then dictated by whichever action you’ve chosen. You can always get a sense of how long a particular action is going to take when you select it from the action menu; each one is labeled either Instant, Short, Medium, Long, or Very Long.
There’s a hitch though: if an ally or enemy is struck by an attack while they’re inside the red Cast section of the time bar, their chosen action is “interrupted” and their portrait is set back into the Wait section of the bar. So, if it’s your turn to select Aurora’s next action and an enemy is just about to reach the end of a Cast, it’s probably a good idea to not attack — since there’s a good chance you’ll be interrupted — and choose the Defend action instead, which is Instant and cuts down on damage. This works both ways. If you’ve been focusing all of your attacks on one enemy, but it’s clear that a second enemy is going to be caught mid-Cast when you complete your own attack, it may be best to target that enemy and go for the interruption.
Igniculus can be helpful here. Much like the firefly’s ability to blind enemies outside of combat, you can also spend wishes to blind enemies in combat. Doing so slows down their progress on the time bar, which in turn gives you more time to act. Take note, however, that many enemies — particularly bosses — have nasty counterattacks that they dish out when an attack is interrupted. Some trial-and-error may be required here, but as a general rule, it’s often best to avoid interrupting a boss’s attacks.
Igniculus is handy to have in combat, and not just because of his aforementioned ability to influence the time bar. Just like when you’re exploring, the little firefly is able to heal allies. Simply hover over the injured party member and hold down LT. This consumes wishes just like slowing down enemies does, but there are ways to restore wishes during combat.
Time is always a factor when in combat, but sometimes it’s sensible to just let the battle continue to unfold while the wish meter refills on its own. However, you’ll always see two blue-glowing flowers (three during boss fights), identical to those that spit out the blue/orange orbs when you’re exploring. If Igniculus touches one of these during combat, a cluster of wish, health, and magic pickups is released. The flowers recharge over time — which is handy during longer boss fights — but they only drop health and magic the first time you use them; after that, it’s just wishes.
If you’re going to use one of these flowers, be sure to spend your entire wish bar before you do. You’ll get enough from one flower to completely refill the bar, so it’s a good idea to spend any extra wishes on healing injured allies. It’s best to wait on doing this until it’s a character’s turn to act since all of the action — including the time bar — pauses while you make your selection. Just do any healing and wish bar refilling before you select an action.
Igniculus isn’t Aurora’s only companion. Over the course of Child of Light‘s story, you’re joined by an assortment of party members. In combat, these allies can be swapped in and out at no “cost” to your time bar. If it’s someone’s turn to act, simply select the “Party” option from the menu and choose the character you want to call to action. There’s no limit on how many times you can switch, and you’re not even required to keep Aurora in the fight at all times, though you can only have two active characters at a time.
There aren’t any shops in Child of Light nor is there an economy of any kind, so you’ve got to depend on chests and drops from downed enemies to fill out your inventory with healing and support items. You don’t want to be too precious with your limited resources, but be smart. If you’re almost done with a battle or you’ve got a full wish bar, don’t bother with the health potion. You’ll need these support items later in the game for some of the tougher bosses, so use them sparingly until there’s a dire need.
The pause menu’s Inventory screen also fills the role of a quest journal. Child of Light isn’t exactly brimming over with side quests but there’s more than a handful to be found as you encounter various friendly NPCs over the course of Aurora’s journey. In typical RPG fashion, quest-givers always have an exclamation point over their heads. Talk to them to find out what they need help with.
Any ongoing and completed tasks you’ve collected are “stored” in your inventory. Simply scroll down to the bottom of the list to see a bunch of items that look like pieces of paper. Each of these represents a quest. The ones with a green check mark are completed and the ones with a yellow exclamation point remain open.
Separate from the Inventory screen is your collection of Oculi. These crystals can be slotted into one of three slots, applying bonus effects to weapons, armor, and general character attributes. Child of Light offers a simple crafting interface that allows you to combine three of the same sized and colored Oculi into a slightly better one. To see what effect a crystal has in a particular slot, select one of the three slots and highlight each crystal for a text description. You can slot/unslot Oculi whenever you like with no penalty, so there’s no reason to not to equip them when you find new ones.