Child of Light is an upcoming RPG game from Ubisoft about a princess who becomes a warrior and saves the land… or some such. Now as a very strong enthusiast for the narrative and such a thin grasp of the story, something else must make CoL interesting.
I wish this statement wouldn’t be so political and emotional, but it can’t be helped: I feel the most interesting part of this project is that the protagonist is a young female. Now I want to be quick to establish that as an adult male, I do not see this fact as a point for identifying with the character. I feel the dozens of other characters that already lead games give me ample targets for that. But it is hard to argue that there are not demographics that games from major publishers ignore especially for the defined protagonist seat (I specify defined to separate a game that defines a female protagonist like Tomb Raider or Beyond Good & Evil from a game where one can choose to be female like Saint’s Row or Borderlands. I also would like to recognize that there are plenty of other neglected demographics, but must point out that progress is slow).
So if I don’t want to make a political statement, why do I care so much about inclusive demographics and so on? To be perfectly honest, for rather selfish reasons: because I feel video games, a medium I love, will benefit greatly from it. In the end, diversity is what brings so much fun and flavor to video games. I do love narratives a great deal, so the possibility of having new stories to tell with female leads is downright exciting. It was The Stanley Parabol and Papers, Please that created some amazing narrative experiences that honestly probably topped what fun I had with Bioshock: Infinite (though I appreciated the full length experience of Bioshock: Infinite which is also harder). I say this as no insult to Ken Levine (from the Bioshock games; he has made amazing and fun games). I merely found the other two to give such a fun new experience that they had to rate for me. And CoL might be a way to introduce more of those experiences.
Though The Stanley Parabol might have tugged at the definition of game and gone more to a world I like to call experience, Child of Light gets to sit firmly in the game camp. It was described early on as a JRPG taking after Final Fantasy VI with the visuals of Hayao Miyazaki (Kiki’s Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, etc.), Yoshitaka Amano (Final Fantasy), and John Bauer (Among Gnomes and Trolls). Then we combine this with a poetry-fairy tale story and a skill system that reminds me of Dust: An Elysian Tail, and I become excited.
But in the end, if I really want more people to be included in this world of video games, there is also an entrance cost. Games can be hard. Games can also be an experience that you offer to someone else, and you just hope that they will enjoy. But CoL actually was designed to be played by parents and children at the same time. I don’t have any children yet, but to help them to get into video games, this seems like a great path. But what about when the parent isn’t around? Is this a game like Borderlands where solo is a huge detriment? This is a JRPG, so maybe it’s like Bravely Default where grinding isn’t a strategy; grinding is fairly required and max level cannot save you. This preview claims that the game will be definitely playable by oneself and that grinding is the strategy for overcoming difficulty like it should be in JRPGs yet playing together was still built in from the start.
All of these things sound like the correct answers to my concerns. The game may be different than the current things that AAA game publishers are doing as new IP is a risk the publishers don’t want, but I see this as a time that people can vote with their wallets. I look forward to having a well supported studio churn out something artistic while still looking to have fun. And I firmly believe that not every game needs to be epic and sweeping. Even Blood Dragon was a much smaller version of Far Cry and it has done well critically and commercially. Seeing Child of Light even being made is a great sign that Ubisoft is willing to take some risk even if they are hesitant. And progress is slow, so we shouldn’t rush it.
I’m excited about Child of Light. As a game, it seems fun and as a mark of progress, I feel it is well timed. Hopefully you will take a look. If you do plan to pick it up, don’t forget to check for discounts. Sales numbers are much more important to show success than you having to spend any extra money.