Game Music, Reviews

Child of Light OST (Review)

May 9, 2014 | | 146 Comments Share thison Facebook Child of Light OST (Review)on Twitter

A soundtrack for a fantasy game that features the piano as the primary instrument? Alright, this soundtrack definitely has my attention. Child of Light is a new fantasy RPG developed by Ubisoft. The game centers around the young Austrian princess Aurora, who wakes up in a strange fantasy world called Lemuria. A force of darkness controlled by a being known as the Black Queen has caused havoc in the world. It’s up to you, and the allies you meet along the way, to recover the sun, moon, and stars to restore order and light to the world. A good portion of the game has you exploring the world of Lemuria and solving the problems of its inhabitants. The game also features an active time battle system, similar to the ones found in the early Final Fantasy games, and an art style that is inspired by the movies of Studio Ghibli and the artwork of Yoshitaka Amano. The game’s atmosphere is similar to that of a fantasy story book, which is appropriate given the story’s subject matter. While it’s presenting you with a typical RPG fantasy story, Child of Light will likely be appreciated by many fans of the genre.

The music for Child of Light was written by Canadian musician Beatrice Martin, aka Coeur de Pirate. She’s known primarily for her talents as a vocalist and pianist, releasing her first solo album Coeur de Pirate back in 2008. Over the past five years she’s received several nominations and a handful of awards for her music. She’s an interesting choice for a videogame music project, being known mostly for her singer-songwriter style of pop music. The Child of Light OST is Martin’s first step into the world of videogame music. So how does this newcomer to the videogame world tackle creating the music for Child of Light? Read on to find out.

Much of the music in the Child of Light OST makes use of the piano as the primary instrument. Pieces like “Pilgrims on a Long Journey” feature Martin’s piano playing with accompaniment from the strings and a few solo instruments. A majority of the music has a tranquil and melancholic feeling. The main character has been separated from her home and family, and the music helps evoke the sense of loss and separation that the main character is experiencing. This is especially true in the early hours of the game, when Aurora first arrives in Lemuria. Track 2, “Aurora’s Theme” is a piece that emerges multiple times throughout the adventure. As the name suggests, it is the main theme for Aurora and plays a prominent role in the game’s story. At key parts of the game, the melody from this piece emerges when Aurora plays a magic flute. These pieces help bring a sense of identity to the main character, while evoking the dangerous new world that she finds herself in.

Many of the areas in the game world maintain a tone similar to the opening tracks on the album. Gentle piano playing that either plays with light string accompaniment or the piano accompanies the melodies of a solo instrument, like the flute or cello. These pieces use a small and intimate ensemble, which fits the story about a small cast of characters well. Tracks like “Patches of Sky” are, again, very tranquil and soothing. The music never has a sense of urgency in these environments, whether they are dark forests or volcanic caverns. The music encourages the player to relax and just take in the scenery of the different areas. In some places I found this a little odd. The last place I’d expect to hear relaxing piano music would be a spider infested cave filled with lava. I can’t deny that the music is beautifully written, but I’m not sure if it’s helping produce the right atmosphere or player response for some of these locations.

The music does take a more dramatic turn when you enter the battles against the various monsters in the world. The appropriately titled piece “Dark Creatures” serves as the primary battle theme. Featuring slightly heavier orchestration than the other pieces, this music provides the more tense and urgent pacing needed for a tactical battle. One of my favorite battle themes on this album is “Metal Gleamed in the Twilight.” The track is used for what ends up being the smaller scale boss or mini-boss fights. Even with the orchestra playing, you can still clearly hear the piano making its presence known. It helps tie the battle music to the rest of the soundtrack, making the battles feel like a cohesive element of the game’s story. Overall, the battle music provides a nice contrast to the rest of the soundtrack. While a majority of the music in the game has a relaxed pacing to it, the battle themes bring a sense of immediacy, prompting the player to focus on the battle before them.

While there are some excellent pieces featured on this soundtrack, some of my favorite music from the game is sadly absent. While a handful of the battle pieces are on the Child of Light OST, the music from the major boss fights is shockingly not included. For instance, a boss that you battle at the bottom of a well, a few hours into the game, has an amazing track that features a full orchestra and a choir. No version of this piece seems to be included on the official soundtrack. As of this writing, I have yet to find out why this piece and a few other boss pieces were excluded. Another missing boss piece is a version of “Metal Gleaming in the Twilight” that features a choir singing along with the original arrangement. It is easily some of the best music in the game and it’s disappointing to see it missing. Hopefully these pieces will get an official release, but for now it’s a serious omission in an otherwise great collection of music.

The final track on the Child of Light OST is a song titled “Off To Sleep,” which plays during the game’s credit sequence. Listeners who are familiar with Beatrice Martin’s pop repertoire will recognize her singer-songwriting style on this track. Unlike her solo album work, this piece is actually sung in English. It’s a nice tune to close out the album and the game, while also showcasing Martin’s well known singing abilities. Again, Martin’s piano playing acts as the central accompanying instrument for this piece, so it works well in conjunction with the rest of the album.

At the end of the day the Child of Light OST is a decent game music album. The music captures the characters and setting quite well and is enjoyable to listen to on its own. While the relaxed pace of the music may not fit every area of the game perfectly, it produces the needed atmosphere for much of the experience. It’s a shame that some of the most exciting pieces of music are not included on this album, but what is present is enjoyable in its own right. If you enjoy tranquil piano pieces and some decent battle music, you’ll find something to like in this album. However, if you’re looking for a complete soundtrack with some of the game’s best music, like me, I’m afraid you may be out of luck. I’d personally like to see the rest of the music released at some point. Hopefully that is something that will be coming soon. For now we’ll have to settle for the album as it exists now. The Child of Light OST can be purchased on Bandcamp and iTunes.

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