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Found 6 results

  1. That time of year when many of the people who write about video games make their lists of the ten best games released over the past year has swung around once again. Along with that time of year, the bandwagon that I hop onto has arrived. 2014, a year awash in a sea of AAA titles full of explosions, robots, and sci-fi concepts. I should have loved it; a year that seemed to cater to things I typically love in video games. But I didn’t love it. Oh, I certainly liked the robots in Titanfall. I enjoyed Destiny’s gunplay. A Call of Duty with Kevin Spacey came out. Tens of millions of development and advertising dollars were thrown squarely at gamers like me. Despite all of that money and effort, the games that most appealed to me the most were generally the smaller indie titles and AAA the exception rather than the rule. Jack Gardner's Top Ten Games of 2014 10. Nidhogg Oh, Nidhogg. How can anyone find it in themselves to dislike a brutally competitive, 8-bit fencing game where players duel to the death for the honor of being horribly devoured by a flying dragon monster? It takes a bit of time to get accustomed to the learning curve and the controls, but overcoming that difficulty rewards players with a game that leaves you on the edge of your seat. Every bout is a tense exercise in reflexes and snap judgments. It makes for a rollercoaster of an experience that can be enjoyed alone, but is even better with friends. 9. The Banner Saga One of the first games I played this year, The Banner Saga managed to fix itself in my mind as one of my favorite experiences in 2014. Many people had mixed feelings about the gameplay’s pacing, but I’m a sucker for turn-based combat with a heavy narrative bent. The Banner Saga manages to deliver a deep combat system while weaving a tale of humans and hulking Varl working together to survive the impending apocalypse. Players lead groups of soldiers and refugees and are forced to make decisions that often have no clear right or wrong, but each choice might lead to either good fortune or disaster. The journey constantly feels balanced on the edge of a knife, where the consequences for slipping are often the death of family and friends. It works as a great introduction to the grim fantasy world Stoic wants to create and explore in future installments. 8. Legend of Grimrock 2 Imagine my surprise when the second Grimrock adventure left me floored. Sure, I enjoyed the original Legend of Grimrock, but I had gripes with its repetitive halls, monsters, and somewhat unintuitive combat. I just didn’t expect developer Almost Human to absolutely nail the sequel. Almost every problem that I had with the first game was fixed in the second. Exploring the diverse areas of Grimrock really feels like discovering a long lost civilization. Monsters rarely feel overly used and often present a fresh challenge. The combat remains a bit oblique, but the introduction makes for a smoother tutorial. Almost Human has really shown what life there can still be in the older styles of game design. 7. Dragon Age: Inquisition I closed out my review of Inquisition by saying, “Do yourself a favor and play Dragon Age: Inquisition. Any missteps it makes pale in comparison to the enjoyable experience it can offer.” I stand by that statement. It is an amazing adventure through a fantasy world struggling with global, societal, and personal problems. Every nook and cranny begs to be investigated and explored. A completionist could easily spend hundreds of hours in Inquisition before reaching the conclusion. Progressive and entertaining writing embody some of the finest I’ve come across in video games. Several of the characters will be remembered for their originality and for breaking new ground. It is huge, gorgeous, and you can practically feel Bioware’s creative freedom down to the game’s bones. 6. Child of Light One of the high points of 2014 was experiencing Child of Light. It was like hearing one of your favorite fairytales for the very first time. An air of ethereal reality permeates everything from the incredible soundtrack by Coeur de pirate right down to the lightness of environment traversal. The ensemble cast are simple characters, but I mean that in a complimentary way. They are simple in the same way the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion are simple characters in the Wizard of Oz. They might be simple, but they’ve still got personality and they’ll stick in your memory. The baddies are scary and bad and the characters are straightforward, which is exactly what all the design decisions call for in the narrative. All the different parts work together to create something bigger than what almost anyone expected from such a small game. 5. Sunset Overdrive It seems like it has been ages since I’ve seen a game that so fully embraces the concept of play. Everything about Sunset Overdrive is focused on being fun and playful. Moving around its open world feels like an awesome co-opting of Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 while the gunplay and the guns themselves were stolen from Ratchet and Clank and then pumped full of cocaine. Sunset Overdrive feels like a continuous explosion set to a punk rock soundtrack (how is that for a pull quote?). It’s breathtaking. The top notch humor had me laugh out loud more than a few times. The story and characters are barely more than functional, but the gameplay refuses to be anything other than a loud, obnoxious, and glorious ride into the sunset that leaves nothing but awesome moments and good vibes in its wake. 4. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter One of the most satisfying things to me as a video game critic is when a developer clearly understands how to tell a story in an interactive medium. From the way they gently lead the player through a world both real and illusory, carefully hiding the confines of their game’s structure, to the final, revelatory gut punch it is clear to me that The Astronauts know their business. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter plays with how we perceive game worlds as both player and protagonist. Many might be quick to dismiss it as “just another walking simulator,” but that would be a mistake. I will say that it’s certainly a slow burn. However, those with patience, curiosity, and a spark of creativity will be able to see the value in Ethan Carter and understand why it placed so highly on my list. 3. Threes! Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that this game seems like a strange pick for the first of my top three games of 2014. For starters, it is a mobile game. There was a trend not too long ago where many gamers decided that mobile games were somehow “lesser” games because… phones? Or because they tended to be easier and presented a lower barrier to entry than, say, Gears of War or Super Mario Galaxy. The fact is that mobile games can be as deep and engaging as video games of the stationary variety. Threes proves that fact beyond any doubt. The concept is simple: Make the number three and then match similar numbers together on a sliding grid. What initially seems simple becomes more and more complicated as larger numbers are reached. I think the simplest way to convey the idea is to say that Threes is like someone mixed Tetris with a Sudoku puzzle. I’ve lost many hours to Threes and I’m likely to lose more. Its simplicity is ingenious. Threes is absolutely perfect for what it is and what it tries to do. 2. The Walking Dead: Season Two While I found the first season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead to be one heck of a narrative ride, I don’t think I really clicked with it until their second season. The second season focuses on a young girl struggling to grow up in a world overrun with zombies and collapsing social structures. Characters enter and exit the story, sometimes in a heart-achingly abrupt fashion. Almost everyone manage to make an impression, and by the time the final episode rolls around, both the young girl and the player have seen some really bad things go down. Then an awful, awful choice is presented to the player; a choice that pulls no punches. With only a handful of seconds in which we can make our choice, loyalties, affection, everything that has been built over the course of five or six hours is put to the test. It’s an agonizing moment, but the dramatic payoff of the time spent in this game world is an amazing achievement. Even remembering that choice makes me tense up all over. Regardless of what the player decides, each of the endings is an amazing conclusion for the storyline that began in Season One. Just writing about Telltale’s narrative prowess make me want to play The Walking Dead: Season Two again. 1. Transistor One of the finest soundtracks of the year created by Darren Korb. Incredibly beautiful art direction by Jen Zee. Fantastic design and writing by Greg Kasavin. Transistor has all of this and more. It is a true masterpiece of video game design and artistry. It takes a certain kind of boldness to release a game that is completely and unabashedly itself. Transistor doesn’t fear being misunderstood or that it might be found confusing. It jut is what it is and leaves players on their own to try and piece the story together. Experimenting with the ever growing number of abilities, playing the game, unlocks pieces of the narrative that inform character motivations and tell us about Cloudbank, the world in which they all live. It is a world that shares many similarities with our own world, a place where technology is beginning to infuse every aspect of daily life. Its silent protagonist exists not for convention’s sake, but to make a larger point when paired with the Transistor, a voice without a body. That speechlessness deepens the mystery. Why does she do what she does? I’m a big proponent of having a reason behind ever design decision in a game. There should be a reason characters act a certain way; there should be a reason that the aesthetic looks this way; there should be a reason that the narrative turn comes at the beginning rather than the end. Transistor has meaning. It has weight. It is an astoundingly beautiful accomplishment. What about you? What were your top games of 2014? Let us know in the comments!
  2. That time of year when many of the people who write about video games make their lists of the ten best games released over the past year has swung around once again. Along with that time of year, the bandwagon that I hop onto has arrived. 2014, a year awash in a sea of AAA titles full of explosions, robots, and sci-fi concepts. I should have loved it; a year that seemed to cater to things I typically love in video games. But I didn’t love it. Oh, I certainly liked the robots in Titanfall. I enjoyed Destiny’s gunplay. A Call of Duty with Kevin Spacey came out. Tens of millions of development and advertising dollars were thrown squarely at gamers like me. Despite all of that money and effort, the games that most appealed to me the most were generally the smaller indie titles and AAA the exception rather than the rule. Jack Gardner's Top Ten Games of 2014 10. Nidhogg Oh, Nidhogg. How can anyone find it in themselves to dislike a brutally competitive, 8-bit fencing game where players duel to the death for the honor of being horribly devoured by a flying dragon monster? It takes a bit of time to get accustomed to the learning curve and the controls, but overcoming that difficulty rewards players with a game that leaves you on the edge of your seat. Every bout is a tense exercise in reflexes and snap judgments. It makes for a rollercoaster of an experience that can be enjoyed alone, but is even better with friends. 9. The Banner Saga One of the first games I played this year, The Banner Saga managed to fix itself in my mind as one of my favorite experiences in 2014. Many people had mixed feelings about the gameplay’s pacing, but I’m a sucker for turn-based combat with a heavy narrative bent. The Banner Saga manages to deliver a deep combat system while weaving a tale of humans and hulking Varl working together to survive the impending apocalypse. Players lead groups of soldiers and refugees and are forced to make decisions that often have no clear right or wrong, but each choice might lead to either good fortune or disaster. The journey constantly feels balanced on the edge of a knife, where the consequences for slipping are often the death of family and friends. It works as a great introduction to the grim fantasy world Stoic wants to create and explore in future installments. 8. Legend of Grimrock 2 Imagine my surprise when the second Grimrock adventure left me floored. Sure, I enjoyed the original Legend of Grimrock, but I had gripes with its repetitive halls, monsters, and somewhat unintuitive combat. I just didn’t expect developer Almost Human to absolutely nail the sequel. Almost every problem that I had with the first game was fixed in the second. Exploring the diverse areas of Grimrock really feels like discovering a long lost civilization. Monsters rarely feel overly used and often present a fresh challenge. The combat remains a bit oblique, but the introduction makes for a smoother tutorial. Almost Human has really shown what life there can still be in the older styles of game design. 7. Dragon Age: Inquisition I closed out my review of Inquisition by saying, “Do yourself a favor and play Dragon Age: Inquisition. Any missteps it makes pale in comparison to the enjoyable experience it can offer.” I stand by that statement. It is an amazing adventure through a fantasy world struggling with global, societal, and personal problems. Every nook and cranny begs to be investigated and explored. A completionist could easily spend hundreds of hours in Inquisition before reaching the conclusion. Progressive and entertaining writing embody some of the finest I’ve come across in video games. Several of the characters will be remembered for their originality and for breaking new ground. It is huge, gorgeous, and you can practically feel Bioware’s creative freedom down to the game’s bones. 6. Child of Light One of the high points of 2014 was experiencing Child of Light. It was like hearing one of your favorite fairytales for the very first time. An air of ethereal reality permeates everything from the incredible soundtrack by Coeur de pirate right down to the lightness of environment traversal. The ensemble cast are simple characters, but I mean that in a complimentary way. They are simple in the same way the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion are simple characters in the Wizard of Oz. They might be simple, but they’ve still got personality and they’ll stick in your memory. The baddies are scary and bad and the characters are straightforward, which is exactly what all the design decisions call for in the narrative. All the different parts work together to create something bigger than what almost anyone expected from such a small game. 5. Sunset Overdrive It seems like it has been ages since I’ve seen a game that so fully embraces the concept of play. Everything about Sunset Overdrive is focused on being fun and playful. Moving around its open world feels like an awesome co-opting of Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 while the gunplay and the guns themselves were stolen from Ratchet and Clank and then pumped full of cocaine. Sunset Overdrive feels like a continuous explosion set to a punk rock soundtrack (how is that for a pull quote?). It’s breathtaking. The top notch humor had me laugh out loud more than a few times. The story and characters are barely more than functional, but the gameplay refuses to be anything other than a loud, obnoxious, and glorious ride into the sunset that leaves nothing but awesome moments and good vibes in its wake. 4. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter One of the most satisfying things to me as a video game critic is when a developer clearly understands how to tell a story in an interactive medium. From the way they gently lead the player through a world both real and illusory, carefully hiding the confines of their game’s structure, to the final, revelatory gut punch it is clear to me that The Astronauts know their business. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter plays with how we perceive game worlds as both player and protagonist. Many might be quick to dismiss it as “just another walking simulator,” but that would be a mistake. I will say that it’s certainly a slow burn. However, those with patience, curiosity, and a spark of creativity will be able to see the value in Ethan Carter and understand why it placed so highly on my list. 3. Threes! Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that this game seems like a strange pick for the first of my top three games of 2014. For starters, it is a mobile game. There was a trend not too long ago where many gamers decided that mobile games were somehow “lesser” games because… phones? Or because they tended to be easier and presented a lower barrier to entry than, say, Gears of War or Super Mario Galaxy. The fact is that mobile games can be as deep and engaging as video games of the stationary variety. Threes proves that fact beyond any doubt. The concept is simple: Make the number three and then match similar numbers together on a sliding grid. What initially seems simple becomes more and more complicated as larger numbers are reached. I think the simplest way to convey the idea is to say that Threes is like someone mixed Tetris with a Sudoku puzzle. I’ve lost many hours to Threes and I’m likely to lose more. Its simplicity is ingenious. Threes is absolutely perfect for what it is and what it tries to do. 2. The Walking Dead: Season Two While I found the first season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead to be one heck of a narrative ride, I don’t think I really clicked with it until their second season. The second season focuses on a young girl struggling to grow up in a world overrun with zombies and collapsing social structures. Characters enter and exit the story, sometimes in a heart-achingly abrupt fashion. Almost everyone manage to make an impression, and by the time the final episode rolls around, both the young girl and the player have seen some really bad things go down. Then an awful, awful choice is presented to the player; a choice that pulls no punches. With only a handful of seconds in which we can make our choice, loyalties, affection, everything that has been built over the course of five or six hours is put to the test. It’s an agonizing moment, but the dramatic payoff of the time spent in this game world is an amazing achievement. Even remembering that choice makes me tense up all over. Regardless of what the player decides, each of the endings is an amazing conclusion for the storyline that began in Season One. Just writing about Telltale’s narrative prowess make me want to play The Walking Dead: Season Two again. 1. Transistor One of the finest soundtracks of the year created by Darren Korb. Incredibly beautiful art direction by Jen Zee. Fantastic design and writing by Greg Kasavin. Transistor has all of this and more. It is a true masterpiece of video game design and artistry. It takes a certain kind of boldness to release a game that is completely and unabashedly itself. Transistor doesn’t fear being misunderstood or that it might be found confusing. It jut is what it is and leaves players on their own to try and piece the story together. Experimenting with the ever growing number of abilities, playing the game, unlocks pieces of the narrative that inform character motivations and tell us about Cloudbank, the world in which they all live. It is a world that shares many similarities with our own world, a place where technology is beginning to infuse every aspect of daily life. Its silent protagonist exists not for convention’s sake, but to make a larger point when paired with the Transistor, a voice without a body. That speechlessness deepens the mystery. Why does she do what she does? I’m a big proponent of having a reason behind ever design decision in a game. There should be a reason characters act a certain way; there should be a reason that the aesthetic looks this way; there should be a reason that the narrative turn comes at the beginning rather than the end. Transistor has meaning. It has weight. It is an astoundingly beautiful accomplishment. What about you? What were your top games of 2014? Let us know in the comments! View full article
  3. Picture yourself at ten years old. Imagine snuggling into bed at night and asking your parents to tell you that one story. They’d ask you which story you meant and you’d say as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, “You know, the one with the clowns, the talking mountain, and the dragons. The one with Aurora!” Your parents would laugh and begin, “Once upon a time…” Through some feat of technical and artistic wizardry, Ubisoft Montreal has managed to breathe the imagination of a young child hearing their favorite fairytale bedtime story into every aspect of Child of Light. Child of Light tells the story of Aurora, a young princess who is whisked away into the magical land of Lemuria. She struggles to find a way to return home to her ailing father and free the various creatures and people of Lemuria from the oppression of the evil Queen of the Night. It isn’t a tale that’s pushing many boundaries or a story many will be unfamiliar with, but that’s part of the brilliance of Child of Light. It takes a familiar premise and executes it so well that it doesn’t matter that we’ve heard similar stories before. Part of what makes the entire package of Child of Light work so well are the characters. While on her journey, Aurora befriends a number of interesting companions like Finn, the fainthearted magician; Robert, the swashbuckling mouse; and Rubella, a talented vocalist/clown skilled in the ways of combat. The cast is diverse and Child of Light uses that diversity to its advantage, giving each character a memorable personality and at least one opportunity to prove their worth. For the most part, the story is constructed very well, but the moments leading up to the climactic ending feel a bit rushed and left me scratching my head regarding a few questions that were never addressed. Some people might also be put off by the fact that all the dialogue in the game is conveyed in verse rather than straight prose. Personally, I really enjoyed it, especially the jokes that make use of the format. At the very least it is trying something new and different. Of course, Child of Light entirely hinges upon its protagonist, Aurora. Beginning the game as a 10-year-old girl, Aurora’s character arc throughout her journey tackles issues like growing up, love, grief, and what it means to be brave. From the opening minutes, I was struck by how refreshing it was to see that the adventure throughout the mysterious Lemuria was undertaken by a courageous, kind, and intelligent female protagonist. Maybe that says something about the video game industry at large needing more awesome heroines or perhaps that is just where I am at in my personal life or possibly both. Regardless about what that says, I couldn’t help but think that when my niece is old enough to play video games we’ll be able to sit down together and play Child of Light. When we do, she’ll be able to point to Aurora as a role model both in video games and in larger world; and that’s something that is really important to me. I also think it is equally important that our young men have awesome female protagonists in their games. I had two of my nephews over for an evening recently and I showed them the classic Miyazaki film Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Their response when Nausicaä was revealed as a princess? “She’s supposed to be a boy.” That’s not their fault, but so many of the stories both in our games and other media have implanted this idea that women aren’t capable of the same heroism as men and that’s malarkey. We need more games like Child of Light so that the messages we are sending to our children aren’t so slanted and exclusive. Incidentally, I sat those kids (3 and 5 years old, respectively) down and had a chat with them on that topic, hopefully that straightened things out. The previous paragraph may have given the impression that Child of Light is for children, which would be misleading because it’s really a game for all ages. There is a very wide spectrum of behaviors and strategies that will serve to progress through the world of Lemuria. Players can opt to simply go from point A to point B if they wish, but Child of Light rewards almost all deviations from the path for those willing to explore. Rewards come in the form of chests that contain HP, MP, and Revive potions, stat upgrades, or oculi, which can be used to augment a character’s attacks, defenses, or to have some other effect in combat. While I never ran out of any single item in my playthrough, there aren’t any ways to obtain more potions or revives other than by finding them in the environment. This could potentially be a problem for players less experienced in RPGs, but it isn’t a likely scenario considering how many of each item I had in my inventory by the end. Speaking of the combat, it is an amazingly fun system from which I hope Final Fantasy takes notes. All combatants are placed on an action bar and progress toward the end at different rates according to their speed stat. After passing into the “casting” portion of the action bar, any attack that hits either the player’s characters or the enemies will cancel their attack and knock them back along the action bar. You can use this to a tactical advantage to get enemies trapped in loops unable to make a move. Each new character recruited to Aurora’s side introduces new potential strategies on how to deal with the assorted baddies that plague Lemuria. However, don’t let the apparent depth of Child of Light’s combat dissuade you. While thinking tactically feels rewarding and certainly make progress easier, even brute force, unthinking attack commands will get you through most fights. In my time with Child of Light, I only saw the Game Over screen once and that was because I ran into spiked walls a few too many times while exploring. Overall, I think Child of Light would be an excellent game to introduce someone to RPGs or video games in general. Child of Light is a largely single-player experience, but it can be played co-op to a certain extent. The first character Aurora meets in Lemuria is a firefly named Igniculus. Igniculus can be controlled via a separate controller to pick up collectibles, open doors and chests, heal characters in battle, and slow an enemy’s progress on the action bar. Granted, whoever is controlling Igniculus is getting the short end of the stick, but it is still a way to experience Child of Light with someone else who might not otherwise be able to play. Visually, this game is so charming it hurts. Everything has a dreamy, watercolor painting look to it from the characters to the environments. It lends a beautiful ethereal quality to the entire production that makes Lemuria feel both foreign and familiar at the same time. I cannot stress this enough: Child of Light is a pleasure to look at. Half of the time I wanted to see what was next in the story and the other half of the time I wanted to see what new creatures and environments were around the next plot point. One tiny nitpick I have about the visual design is that the character model of Aurora is rendered in 3D rather than 2D like all the other assets. This is an intentional design decision, but for what purpose I’m not entirely sure. It could be to make it clear that Aurora is from a different world than that of the Lemurians, but I wish they had gone a different route because the 3D model sometimes stands out in a less than pleasing manner. <a data-cke-saved-href="http://musique.coeurdepirate.com/album/child-of-light" href="http://musique.coeurdepirate.com/album/child-of-light">Child of Light by Cœur de pirate</a> The soundtrack was put together by Quebec singer-songwriter Cœur de pirate and it perfectly complements the visuals and story. This is the kind of soundtrack that is absolutely essential for an RPG. Songs that players have to listen to repeatedly are made interesting and complex so that each subsequent listening players can discover something new about the music. There are certain elements that repeat throughout each song that give the soundtrack a certain cohesion. For an example of a game that does this very poorly, watch the opening minutes of The Last Remnant and pay attention to the music when it switches over into its battle mode. In Child of Light, the battle music that you hear hundreds of times is always thrilling; each time it would begin playing I took it as a call to action inspiring to do my best in combat. In fact, many of the songs in Child of Light are calls to action, albeit in different ways. Some musical pieces demand heroism or beckon the player onward, while others call forth compassion and empathy. Each track contains elements of innocence and excitement tempered with a strain of melancholy and mystery. And that mystery is part of what pulled me into the world of Lemuria and why I am so enamored with what Ubisoft Montreal has created. Conclusion: I have no doubt that in time Child of Light will be remembered as a classic. Everything about it is so well executed and enchanting that I really can’t recommend this game enough. At $15, it is certainly a must play for anyone who likes RPGs or has ever been interested in seeing what RPGs are all about. Visually and musically elegant, Child of Light should be used as a textbook example of how to tell a simple, but effective story within a video game. Certainly it has some minor blemishes, but none of them are large enough to get hung up on. I hope to see more games like this in the future. Excellent job, everyone at Ubisoft Montreal! Child of Light was reviewed on PlayStation 4. It is currently available on PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and Wii U.
  4. Picture yourself at ten years old. Imagine snuggling into bed at night and asking your parents to tell you that one story. They’d ask you which story you meant and you’d say as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, “You know, the one with the clowns, the talking mountain, and the dragons. The one with Aurora!” Your parents would laugh and begin, “Once upon a time…” Through some feat of technical and artistic wizardry, Ubisoft Montreal has managed to breathe the imagination of a young child hearing their favorite fairytale bedtime story into every aspect of Child of Light. Child of Light tells the story of Aurora, a young princess who is whisked away into the magical land of Lemuria. She struggles to find a way to return home to her ailing father and free the various creatures and people of Lemuria from the oppression of the evil Queen of the Night. It isn’t a tale that’s pushing many boundaries or a story many will be unfamiliar with, but that’s part of the brilliance of Child of Light. It takes a familiar premise and executes it so well that it doesn’t matter that we’ve heard similar stories before. Part of what makes the entire package of Child of Light work so well are the characters. While on her journey, Aurora befriends a number of interesting companions like Finn, the fainthearted magician; Robert, the swashbuckling mouse; and Rubella, a talented vocalist/clown skilled in the ways of combat. The cast is diverse and Child of Light uses that diversity to its advantage, giving each character a memorable personality and at least one opportunity to prove their worth. For the most part, the story is constructed very well, but the moments leading up to the climactic ending feel a bit rushed and left me scratching my head regarding a few questions that were never addressed. Some people might also be put off by the fact that all the dialogue in the game is conveyed in verse rather than straight prose. Personally, I really enjoyed it, especially the jokes that make use of the format. At the very least it is trying something new and different. Of course, Child of Light entirely hinges upon its protagonist, Aurora. Beginning the game as a 10-year-old girl, Aurora’s character arc throughout her journey tackles issues like growing up, love, grief, and what it means to be brave. From the opening minutes, I was struck by how refreshing it was to see that the adventure throughout the mysterious Lemuria was undertaken by a courageous, kind, and intelligent female protagonist. Maybe that says something about the video game industry at large needing more awesome heroines or perhaps that is just where I am at in my personal life or possibly both. Regardless about what that says, I couldn’t help but think that when my niece is old enough to play video games we’ll be able to sit down together and play Child of Light. When we do, she’ll be able to point to Aurora as a role model both in video games and in larger world; and that’s something that is really important to me. I also think it is equally important that our young men have awesome female protagonists in their games. I had two of my nephews over for an evening recently and I showed them the classic Miyazaki film Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Their response when Nausicaä was revealed as a princess? “She’s supposed to be a boy.” That’s not their fault, but so many of the stories both in our games and other media have implanted this idea that women aren’t capable of the same heroism as men and that’s malarkey. We need more games like Child of Light so that the messages we are sending to our children aren’t so slanted and exclusive. Incidentally, I sat those kids (3 and 5 years old, respectively) down and had a chat with them on that topic, hopefully that straightened things out. The previous paragraph may have given the impression that Child of Light is for children, which would be misleading because it’s really a game for all ages. There is a very wide spectrum of behaviors and strategies that will serve to progress through the world of Lemuria. Players can opt to simply go from point A to point B if they wish, but Child of Light rewards almost all deviations from the path for those willing to explore. Rewards come in the form of chests that contain HP, MP, and Revive potions, stat upgrades, or oculi, which can be used to augment a character’s attacks, defenses, or to have some other effect in combat. While I never ran out of any single item in my playthrough, there aren’t any ways to obtain more potions or revives other than by finding them in the environment. This could potentially be a problem for players less experienced in RPGs, but it isn’t a likely scenario considering how many of each item I had in my inventory by the end. Speaking of the combat, it is an amazingly fun system from which I hope Final Fantasy takes notes. All combatants are placed on an action bar and progress toward the end at different rates according to their speed stat. After passing into the “casting” portion of the action bar, any attack that hits either the player’s characters or the enemies will cancel their attack and knock them back along the action bar. You can use this to a tactical advantage to get enemies trapped in loops unable to make a move. Each new character recruited to Aurora’s side introduces new potential strategies on how to deal with the assorted baddies that plague Lemuria. However, don’t let the apparent depth of Child of Light’s combat dissuade you. While thinking tactically feels rewarding and certainly make progress easier, even brute force, unthinking attack commands will get you through most fights. In my time with Child of Light, I only saw the Game Over screen once and that was because I ran into spiked walls a few too many times while exploring. Overall, I think Child of Light would be an excellent game to introduce someone to RPGs or video games in general. Child of Light is a largely single-player experience, but it can be played co-op to a certain extent. The first character Aurora meets in Lemuria is a firefly named Igniculus. Igniculus can be controlled via a separate controller to pick up collectibles, open doors and chests, heal characters in battle, and slow an enemy’s progress on the action bar. Granted, whoever is controlling Igniculus is getting the short end of the stick, but it is still a way to experience Child of Light with someone else who might not otherwise be able to play. Visually, this game is so charming it hurts. Everything has a dreamy, watercolor painting look to it from the characters to the environments. It lends a beautiful ethereal quality to the entire production that makes Lemuria feel both foreign and familiar at the same time. I cannot stress this enough: Child of Light is a pleasure to look at. Half of the time I wanted to see what was next in the story and the other half of the time I wanted to see what new creatures and environments were around the next plot point. One tiny nitpick I have about the visual design is that the character model of Aurora is rendered in 3D rather than 2D like all the other assets. This is an intentional design decision, but for what purpose I’m not entirely sure. It could be to make it clear that Aurora is from a different world than that of the Lemurians, but I wish they had gone a different route because the 3D model sometimes stands out in a less than pleasing manner. <a data-cke-saved-href="http://musique.coeurdepirate.com/album/child-of-light" href="http://musique.coeurdepirate.com/album/child-of-light">Child of Light by Cœur de pirate</a> The soundtrack was put together by Quebec singer-songwriter Cœur de pirate and it perfectly complements the visuals and story. This is the kind of soundtrack that is absolutely essential for an RPG. Songs that players have to listen to repeatedly are made interesting and complex so that each subsequent listening players can discover something new about the music. There are certain elements that repeat throughout each song that give the soundtrack a certain cohesion. For an example of a game that does this very poorly, watch the opening minutes of The Last Remnant and pay attention to the music when it switches over into its battle mode. In Child of Light, the battle music that you hear hundreds of times is always thrilling; each time it would begin playing I took it as a call to action inspiring to do my best in combat. In fact, many of the songs in Child of Light are calls to action, albeit in different ways. Some musical pieces demand heroism or beckon the player onward, while others call forth compassion and empathy. Each track contains elements of innocence and excitement tempered with a strain of melancholy and mystery. And that mystery is part of what pulled me into the world of Lemuria and why I am so enamored with what Ubisoft Montreal has created. Conclusion: I have no doubt that in time Child of Light will be remembered as a classic. Everything about it is so well executed and enchanting that I really can’t recommend this game enough. At $15, it is certainly a must play for anyone who likes RPGs or has ever been interested in seeing what RPGs are all about. Visually and musically elegant, Child of Light should be used as a textbook example of how to tell a simple, but effective story within a video game. Certainly it has some minor blemishes, but none of them are large enough to get hung up on. I hope to see more games like this in the future. Excellent job, everyone at Ubisoft Montreal! Child of Light was reviewed on PlayStation 4. It is currently available on PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and Wii U. View full article
  5. Famed throughout the world for his talents as an illustrator and character designer, Yoshitaka Amano partnered with Ubisoft to craft an artistic rendering inspired by the upcoming downloadable title, Child of Light. Yoshitaka Amano has quite the legacy in the video game industry. There is a reason you might have gotten a Final Fantasy vibe from the completed piece; Amano designed the iconic look of the franchise himself. From 1987-1994, Amano worked for Square as their main character, image, and graphic designer. He has also continued to create logos and promotional images for the series up until the present. Child of Light releases as a downloadable title on April 30 on Xbox Live, PSN, Wii U eShop, UPlay, and Steam. It features a unique melding of traditional turn-based RPG gameplay and western folklore visuals. Personally, this is one of my most anticipated smaller-scale titles for the coming year and I am excited to see Ubisoft going out of their way to show support for such a cool project. Keep your eye on this one, folks! View full article
  6. Famed throughout the world for his talents as an illustrator and character designer, Yoshitaka Amano partnered with Ubisoft to craft an artistic rendering inspired by the upcoming downloadable title, Child of Light. Yoshitaka Amano has quite the legacy in the video game industry. There is a reason you might have gotten a Final Fantasy vibe from the completed piece; Amano designed the iconic look of the franchise himself. From 1987-1994, Amano worked for Square as their main character, image, and graphic designer. He has also continued to create logos and promotional images for the series up until the present. Child of Light releases as a downloadable title on April 30 on Xbox Live, PSN, Wii U eShop, UPlay, and Steam. It features a unique melding of traditional turn-based RPG gameplay and western folklore visuals. Personally, this is one of my most anticipated smaller-scale titles for the coming year and I am excited to see Ubisoft going out of their way to show support for such a cool project. Keep your eye on this one, folks!
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