Simplicity is always a good thing. Giving players plenty of options while never coming to an unorthodox level of complexity (I’m looking at you, Cross Edge). Fantastically, Rainbow Moon by Sidequest Studios offers exactly that. While unfortunately rough around the edges, this unexpected downloadable title makes the most of timeless RPG components to make a game that is addictive with its gameplay, if you can look around it’s weaknesses. In fact, it may be one of the better valued options this year.
On the surface, Rainbow Moon looks totally barren. Pathetic character animations take the form of apparently low-budget 3D animation, even for a downloadable title. Character bios reveal images of your protagonist that look like something straight out of Deviantart. All of this makes for a rather ugly game, but when you look past it, you find something rich in experience.
See, the charm and excitement of Rainbow Moon comes from the heart of someone who loves Strategy RPGs. You will spend a lot of time on the Rainbow Moon. I mean, a lot. Mastering the game’s simple battle system, easy-to-use alchemy, and more is only the beginning of a game that truly is an iceberg. You have to play it to really understand what it has to offer.
Fans of the Fire Emblem, Final Fantasy Tactics, and this year’s Pokemon Conquest, will be enthralled with Rainbow Moon’s simplified, but similar gameplay. Using a turn based set up, players are granted sub-turns, in which they can move across the map, attack, activate a skill, use an item, etc. As you progress through the game you unlock new companions, such as a character of the game’s odd archer class, which acts like a rook on the chessboard of battle. Don’t take that literally, it isn’t a chessboard, but tile based combat tends to be one in the same. Rainbow Moon is exactly that. Don’t come looking for a brand new take on the tile-based strategy game, but looking for a game that celebrates what that genre has accomplished into a humble package.
Random encounters are non-existent, as you are given the option to take on enemies or let them be. However, certain enemies appear on the overworld in order to block your progress. These encounters are used to chug along the comparitively dull narrative.
The story, like the game’s visuals, however, leave a lot to be desired. Again, a humble feat, but it’s shallowness might not be something that justifies the time spent with Rainbow Moon. As a mysterious warrior who has appeared on the Rainbow Moon, a foreign world, you must vanquish the moon of monsters so you may escape, and save the plane itself. Characters often call you the cause of recent monster infestations, but never really have interesting dialogue. Most simply blindly are enthusiastic about your existence, in total cookie cutter NPC fashion. It wouldn’t have killed to have a little more variety and interest within a story that I wanted to invest myself in so deeply.
Considering the time and repetitive nature of Rainbow Moon at times, again its appeal is brought into question. If it weren’t for Rainbow Moons entrancingly addictive combat, I would’ve grown tired of the game’s requirements to fulfill simple fetch quests and a large amount of grinding required simply to stand a chance against the next enemies. The game boils down to a series of grinding to complete one area, encounter new obstacles in the next area, grind again, rinse and repeat. Some players may be totally enthralled by this, some will be turned away. As someone who loves the strategy genre, I can say it works.
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Another thing that I found particularly interesting is the manner in which you level up. Instead of giving you predetermined stat upgrades, Rainbow Moon makes you choose how you want your character to develop. Level ups at their core only give you minute health and mana upgrades. You then must travel to special stat upgrade stations where you use your skill points, earned in battle, to upgrade particular stats. You must budget out your earned points in order to make the most out of your character’s capabilities. This manner of development is the one thing that was particularly interesting about the game. Exploring different skills, like a strength focused archer with a tank of a sword user was a very fun thing to test out. It gets even more interesting when you add even more characters to your party.
In addition, the game’s many weapons are fully customizable using the game’s crafting system. Loot drops that you accumulate from the plethora of different enemies you encounter all have beneficial stats. These objects can be molded onto your weapons at designated crafting tables. This can be a gamble of its own however, as once enchanted, the items cannot be disjointed, and it takes up an irreplaceable forge slot on that particular item. By playing with caution, you can combine your custom tailored stat boosts with your custom weaponry to make a very personal experience with Rainbow Moon.
Rainbow Moon is a glorification of all the things that make the turn-based strategy RPG genre so purely fun, addictive and great. In it’s small $15 package, Rainbow Moon is an amazing deal, bringing you TONS of play time (one trophy requires you build up 100 hours played), and enjoyable combat. For fans of easy to get into RPGs, turn-based strategy games, or good values, Rainbow Moon is up there as one of the best places to spend your money. However, certain conventions, such as relentless grinding, may drive some players away. None of this stops Rainbow Moon from being a very solid, and unexpectedly good game.