Going in, I wasnít exactly sure what to expect from Rainbow Moon. I had heard some generally positive buzz on the game, but you can never really guess the true quality of a game that comes out in the middle of summer. Even so, being pleasantly surprised by a game is never a bad thing, though sadly, Rainbow Moon doesnít always hit the right notes it needs to hit. The game is basically a Fire Emblem style turn based strategy game that involves taking turns moving around and commanding the characters in your part while the enemy does the same. This basic, well known concept is made fresh by some really interesting and enjoyable ideas that are often bogged down by lack luster, and possibly even offensive, design decisions.
The entire game is played from an isometric perspective in an overworld where you walk around, go to shops, talk to townspeople, and encounter enemies, as well as on a battle screen where all the combat takes place. While walking through the world you will see creatures standing still or roaming around, and when you get close to an enemy you can see its name, level, and how many of creatures you are actually going to fight when you engage it. Oddly enough, there are actually random encounters as well, but these arenít annoying like many other games with random encounters. You actually have a choice whether or not you want to fight in that encounter, and if you donít, you can simply just ignore the little pop up on the screen. Although most of the time avoiding the random encounters is probably the best idea, they can really help later on when you may have to do some grinding to prepare for an extremely tough Boss fight.
Once you actually engage an enemy, you will enter the grid based screen where you take turns moving, defending, attacking, using items, and using skills. The difficult part is trying to decide how to effectively take these turns and minimize damage while taking out your enemy as quickly and effectively as possible. To do this, itís helpful to have a firm grasp of the many systems at work in Rainbow Moon, and there are many. The game tries to pretty much take all the well known systems from other strategy games and RPGs and combines them into one game. There are statis effects, skills, items, enemy/character weaknesses, and even weapon strengths and weaknesses versus other weapons to consider when in combat. Thankfully, there are tutorials that roll out over time to get you used to each system as it is presented, that way there isnít an overwhelming amount of information right at the start of the game.
The combat is extremely fun, and is also fairly difficult. If youíre careless itís not all that difficult to die in a normal encounter, thankfully the leveling and progression seems to happen fairly quickly. Before long the enemies that were once scary are easily taken down with one simple attack. Although there are definitely some points where grinding is necessary, the game generally feels like it moves along fairly fast. On the surface, and when first jumping into the game, it seems like a pretty decent, competent strategy RPG, but after awhile some of the design decisions really bring it down.
To start off, pretty much everything in the game requires an item. There are items to heal yourself, items to equip, items learn new skills, items to increase attributes, items to upgrade and weapons and armor, and even items required to light your way through dungeons and food to keep your characters food bars from getting low. Almost every system in the game requires some kind of item, and thatís because this game desperately wants you to buy items in its store. In fact, the entire game seems to be set up to encourage you to buy those items. The game is relatively easy until you get to a Boss fight, and if you havenít been spending a lot of time grinding random encounters before that, chances are you are going to get crushed. Then, your options are to either spend a few hours grinding random encounters, or you could go spend a couple dollars to get some extra stat increases.
Now, in all fairness the game is a pretty long game with some interesting systems and fun combat, but the entire thing comes across as some kind of free to play Facebook game that wants to take your money through micro transactions. Even the second you start the game there are two things that are apparent. First, the game looks and animates like a free to play game, and second, the little story that this game does have is generic and boring. In fairness, the game doesnít shove the store in your face and tell you to buy things. In fact, I didnít even realize it was there until I just randomly decided to go to the store option at the main menu. So when it really comes down to it the game is probably worth the $15 up front, but it really just comes off as sleazy when combining the free to play vibe along with the way the game design seems to encourage micro transactions.
At the end of the day, I had a pretty good time with Rainbow Moon, even if there are some things that rubbed me the wrong way. However, if you arenít into turn based combat RPG games, and you hate grinding and item management, then I would stay away, and even if you want to dip your toe into the genre, there are some better choices than Rainbow Moon.