SideQuest Studios made one heck of a solid shooter with Söldner-X, so when they follow up with a tactical Strategy RPG, curiosity gets the better of me. As somebody that has a solid majority of his gaming collection built around the genre, Rainbow Moon’s colorful aesthetic and flashy move sets looked intriguing.
Most downloadable games in this genre haven’t fared well, though, and I struggle to think of even one good one that has released on consoles this generation. Hit the jump to find out if Rainbow Moon breaks this trend or if it’s another example of mundane strategy gaming.
Rainbow Moon is the combination of two niche genres that rarely crossover. That’s not to say dungeon crawling tactical games haven’t been done before (Zettai Hero Project springs to mind), it’s just the territory isn’t common as most of them copy already established games. The way Rainbow Moon approaches this combination, however, is fairly simple. It incorporates many western conventions of dungeon crawling seen through games like Diablo and simply adds a separate tactical turn based battle system on top of it. This presents two major challenges to the game. The first is that it potentially slows down dungeon crawling. The second is that it could remove many of the more technical features from the tactical side of the game.
I’d like to say these are challenges the game overcomes somewhat. Initially, these two hurdles are enormous. With only a single character and a single move, you are grinding for the hope of something better. Something better does fortunately come along.
Rainbow Moon works because the tactical genre usually adds layers on top of gameplay for each advancement you push through. This makes each new achievement an actual reward as your character gains better mobility, new fighting tactics, and new allies essentially equating to better overall gameplay and strategy. This isn’t just simple skills or strength that you gain. You are basically unlocking the gameplay mechanics the further you go in.
You are so hindered in those first few hours that Defend and Attack are the only real strategies for fighting. That’s why the initial character to your party is just a Tank class. It is this way because building up from a character with no options is a bit more intriguing than building up talented classes. That is technically true of the six members you gain as they each start with nothing and must quickly build themselves up to something better. It is telling of the care put into this system if you can raise 6 party members acquired at different points in the game from the bare basics into a suitable army.
As typical of games in the genre, your only goals are to clear out your area of monsters and then proceed to the next shiny new area with different, tougher monstrosities. This is creatively done through the separation of areas into islands. Clear out one area and it’s through the gate or over the sea to the next with your only reward being the opportunity to level up your character with better items and more rewards.
It is in this rewards system where we see the game at its most interesting. It really has to be, as it is the only driving force behind motivating the character forward. Defeating a monster on the battlefield nets the character who defeated it with distributable points that you spend on increasing stats. This goes along with your standard XP which levels your character up. So in the image above, there are 16 monsters with 16 distributable points (not including if monsters yield higher point values) shared between the two main protagonists. With these collected points, you can now boost your luck, strength, defense or any number of a list of stats.
Monitoring these stats is also important because if you make your character lopsided physically or magically, it has a positive and negative outcome on your basic defense and offense against monsters specializing in those fields. It really is a complicated leveling structure hidden behind such a simple interface. Each battle nets a usable reward even if its a small one. That mentality builds the game up and makes each playthrough just a bit longer.
Rainbow Moon handles the battles in a positive manner. Most enemies are visible enemies including bosses that you have to initiate by running in to them. Unfortunately, most enemies that are visible have to be cleared out of a dungeon. Not so much on the world map, but the jump in level of enemies necessitates this. In addition to being visible, the enemies have their stats displayed so you know exactly where you are at before facing them down.
Even if you find yourself battling an overwhelming opponent, death has virtually no consequence. It’ll cost you money and items to revive party members, but for the most part you just lose and have to fix your party before tackling this challenge again.
What if you haven’t leveled high enough and are still having issues with a boss, though? Well, there are optional random encounters that pop up on screen all the time. At the press of a button, you can initiate a battle. It’s a good option for those who want or even need to grind up past their current objectives by offering a set of battles with opponents on par with your strength.
The amount of care put forth by such basic systems is actually quite incredible. It makes it so that Rainbow Moon simply grows on you the longer you play it.
I do have one major gripe with Rainbow Moon. This game has an odd control scheme for the battles. You can invert how you want to move and the game tries to accommodate some of your errors, but it takes a lot of patience to get used to. Movement in all isometric games works in diagonals due to the 3/4 angle. This is unfortunately mapped to a d-pad with vertical and horizontal commands.
Now, most strategy RPGs do away with this very simply, they ask you to confirm commands. It slows the game down considerably, but your movement options are given a bit of precision. Rainbow Moon doesn’t do this. Let’s just say you want to walk North West, you would usually hit up. You would be wrong. You should have hit left. This movement system applies to each character and without confirmation, it forces you to look at your movements beforehand instead of relying on the arrows.
The arrows do change to the d-pad configuration to highlight your movement, but it takes a few seconds. Getting used to this system takes a while and really frustrates your strategy if you make a wrong move. Simply copying the systems that games like Tactics Ogre have been using for years would have slowed things down, but would have made for a much better control scheme.
[+Interesting Mash of Genres] [+Evolving Gameplay] [+Addicting Leveling System] [*Odd Battle Controls] [-Slow Start]
Rainbow Moon is a joy to listen to. Each colorful new area in the game gets its own unique tune and it highlights the changes from one area to the next. As soon as you become bored of one area, the next new area proves something fun to listen to. Even visually speaking, the transition from place to place is excellent as the worlds change landscapes. Even the world itself goes through a day and night cycle that forces the player to monitor their time wisely. Since characters consume food to maintain energy levels, monitoring what you do is crucial. Yet the developers took in to great consideration for a player’s habits.
If you rest at an inn, the clock for the day doesn’t start until your conversation with the innkeeper is over. Need a bathroom break, it only takes a minute for the game to pause itself to accommodate your break. There is a great deal of care put in to how this game functions that’s impressive for a simple downloadable title.
This visual presentation isn’t really pushed onto the enemy and character designs, but the systems put in to their gameplay mechanics make up for that. That being said, enemy patterns are the only real appealing thing of the tactical battle system. Rooms are all eerily similar to each other with the occasional random object to change things up. No height discrepancies, no terrain changes, nothing to really differentiate the rooms of a dungeon from the plains outside of it. Lighting from the day does factor in, but it’s not going to black out half the screen like it does when you are exploring.
If you are looking for a great tale in Rainbow Moon, you won’t find it here. Like many in the genre, this game is almost entirely about grinding to the next area. That’s it. Sure there is a sprinkling of story in how your main protagonist’s appearance is the cause of a worldwide monster outbreak, but that’s not going to stop people from asking you to fetch them two honeycombs.
The way these characters are presented, however, is legitimately interesting. Sure, they don’t have much to say other than get this or do that, but there is some humor and personality written in to each character. While this might not make all the fetching any less tedious, it does make me want to slow down and actually read what some of these people have to say.
That’s a rare occurrence these days.
[+Interesting NPCs] [+Amazing Soundtrack] [+Lush World] [+Great Attention to Detail] [*Forgettable Story] [-Simple Battle Arenas]
I’ll be frank, $14.99 is worth it. If you have some inkling towards either dungeon crawlers or tactical strategy games, Rainbow Moon provides hours of gameplay for you to lose yourself in. Those on the fence though will have to factor in the grind.
This is a slow build and it takes a good 2 hours for it to really start getting good. Fortunately, the demo they provide is an hour long. They have in effect covered their bases. If you don’t find this game interesting after an hour of free play, it probably won’t be worth the investment. If it’s still fun after an hour, it only gets better from there.
[+Hours of Content] [+Good Pricing] [+Hour Long Demo]
I enjoyed Rainbow Moon. I would recommend Rainbow Moon’s demo to all of you. It is a game that takes a bit from the strategy RPG and Dungeon Crawler genres and puts them together with an impressive amount of care. Care that I rarely see in console downloadable RPGs.
This might be a bit too much of a grind at times, but it is a quality grind with plenty to get out of it. Try the hour long demo and see if this game is something you would enjoy. If it is something you could play a bit more of, it’s only going to get better and better.
[+Interesting Mash of Genres] [+Evolving Gameplay] [+Addicting Leveling System] [+Interesting NPCs] [+Amazing Soundtrack] [+Lush World] [+Great Attention to Detail] [+Hours of Content] [+Good Pricing] [+Hour Long Demo] [*Odd Battle Controls] [*Forgettable Story] [-Slow Start]