As far as strategy RPGs go, they’re one of the hardest games to recommend to newcomers. They’re time-consuming, for one, and the amount of depth in those games can be really intimidating to anyone unfamiliar with the genre. While SideQuest Studios’ Rainbow Moon is very much a hardcore SRPG, it’s one that offers more than enough to satisfy veterans and people looking to dip their feet in new waters.
Here’s what we liked:
Exploring the world - Unlike most games in the genre, Rainbow Moon has a big world to explore, not just a road map that will get players from point A to point B. It’s a vibrant, colorful world that features villages, forests, caves, and of course, enemies. Rainbow Moon is not sandbox-y though, it’s much more linear than that which wasn’t a problem for me. In fact, I liked exploring that world, mainly because I kept finding rucksack full of potions and money.
Tutorials - Rainbow Moon takes the unique approach of not boring the hell out of its players. Tutorials popped up only when I needed them, explaining very simply the basics of the game. I’ve been a fan of Strategy-RPG games for a long time so I know learning the ins and outs of a game can be a very daunting task, especially for newcomers. Luckily, Rainbow Moon doesn’t fall under the trap of trying to explain every detail all at once or, worse, burying that information under a ‘help’ selection. No one reads those.
The battles - The bread and butter of every RPG. Combat, like everything else in Rainbow Moon, is very accessible. Dedicated fans of the genre will no doubt jump in without a problem, and novice players, with a tiny bit of patience, will be able to hang with the best of them in no time. And that doesn’t change either, even when the game introduces stronger enemies, new battle elements, and more team members.
Battles, at least in the beginning, are relatively short. The first few fights will be very straightforward too, but as characters level up they gain additional actions during their turn. That goes for enemies as well, so strategizing and adapting become crucial in later parts of the game. This is what really keeps the pace of battles from feeling like a slow chess game.
Enemies can be seen prowling the world, guarding treasure chests, or just blocking the path to the next area. They can even pop up in random encounters — yeah, there are random battles in this game, but they’re always optional. It’s a nice tweak to an obnoxious RPG element. A message will appear with a list of enemies (and other details) and it’s up to the player to decide whether to engage in battle or go about their business.
The game doesn’t punish you - Rainbow Moon tries so very hard to not frustrate players and, for the most part, this game succeeds in doing just that. Checkpoints, another irritating RPG mainstay, have been done away with in this game. Progress can be saved at anytime except in battle. Healers, shops, and savants are also sprinkled across the land, even inside dungeons.
Dying doesn’t carry the same harsh penalty found in other games. EXP earned in battle and items consumed during it are lost, but that’s about it. I was relieved when the game didn’t force me to reload my previous save when my team bit the dust, it dropped me back into the overworld just before the last fight. There’s nothing as infuriating as losing hours upon hours of progress because of a risky battle or bad luck.
Players don’t have to wait until they level up or save enough money to buy expensive equipment to see any noticeable change in their characters’ performance. Defeated enemies drop Rainbow Pearls which can be taken to a savant in order to raise a character’s stats. However, attributes will initially have a cap, but once a character levels up, that cap gets lifted. It’s a nifty little feature the curbs the monotony of level grinding.
With all that going for Rainbow Moon, it may seem hard to believe that this game is actually difficult. Believe me, it is. A lot of what the game does may be convenient, sure, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to be challenging.
Here’s what we didn’t like:
Art direction - This one is a bit nit-picky considering how crisp and vibrant the game is already, but the visual style will leave some players wanting something more. And I wouldn’t blame them either. The characters in Rainbow Moon look generic and don’t have any charm to them, even the main character and his companions lack a certain je ne sais quoi. However, enemies look fine, though it wasn’t long before I found myself fighting pallet-swaps of the earlier monsters.
Lots of level grinding - Not a big surprise, but Rainbow Moon requires a lot of grinding, which becomes more evident as the team gets bigger. Luckily, battles do fly by, at least compared to something like Final Fantasy Tactics. And there are items that temporarily boost a character’s attributes, which come in handy when a new recruit can’t hold his or her own in a fight. Really, leveling up became a slog when I tried to get my new guys on par with the older ones.
Lackluster story - This is the biggest letdown for Rainbow Moon. It’s a very by-the-numbers adventure and the characters aren’t all that compelling either. It’s not terrible by any stretch, I just wanted to get invested in the story and the cast. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. The game also tends to meander from time to time. I recall dedicating a couple hours of the game going back and forth in a series of quests just to recruit a couple of characters. There was very little development in terms of story.
Despite it fumbling in a few areas, Rainbow Moon is a must-have for both veterans of the Strategy-RPG genre and newcomers alike. It manages to be very accessible to a completely new audience, and yet, still deliver a challenge to those looking for one.
Score: Buy it!
Rainbow Moon was developed by SideQuest Studios and published by EastAsiaSoft. It was released on July 10th for $14.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.