Despite how massive some modern day 3D RPGs have become, sometimes all it takes is a scaled down RPG with dozens of hours of content to satiate a player’s level grinding needs.  From the makers of the old-school revival series Soldner X, SideQuest Studios, comes Rainbow Moon, an isometric 3D RPG that, despite the silly name, is about as hardcore as you can get.  If you love stat mapping, defeating enemy after enemy for a few more experience points and completing fetch quest upon fetch quest, then look no further genre fans, your latest addiction has arrived.

The set-up for Rainbow Moon is as nonsensical as the title, and truly has little bearing on the game you’ll be playing.  There is a series of main quests you’ll be asked to tackle as you progress farther out into the game’s comparably vast and varied landscape, but you’ll likely forget why you’re on this journey the moment you enter your first battle.  Having arrived on Rainbow Moon concurrently with a group of despicable creatures, the protagonist is blamed for upsetting the balance of this world when he only hopes to return home.  So, in an effort to cleanse the land and find his way back, players must lead the hero Baldren on a long (emphasis on long) quest.

The story is hardly a sticking point, as evidenced by the lack of voiceover during the game aside from the greeting and farewells of each character.  When engaging an NPC in conversation, they will make a sound not far removed from how a South Park character might speak, which, while an amusing tick the first few times, was not compelling enough for me to play with full volume.  And while the music suits the world and its diverse geography, it serves more as background accompaniment and less as emotionally stirring in any way.  That’s not a bad thing, though; Rainbow Moon never exactly aspires to be a grand tale.

From snow-covered plains to dense forests and underground caverns, the landscape of Rainbow Moon is a vast and diverse one.

What the game does aspire to, however, is an addictive grindfest, and here Rainbow Moon largely succeeds.  With a title like this gameplay is really what matters, and the downloadable romp offers a fighting system that combines traditional RPG and strategy elements to produce an incredibly satisfying battle experience.  By engaging either in random encounters or by colliding with enemies in the world, the player is transported to a stage inspired by the current environment.  Though skirmishes are turn-based, this is not a simple attack and wait pattern.  Players must move their characters – parties can have up to three combatants – around the battlefield to actually attack opponents.

Each character can either move, attack, use a skill or choose from a few other options once per turn (though by leveling up characters can have multiple sub-turns to gain the upper hand).  While this system is not as complex as what strategy RPG fans may be accustomed to, it provides a welcome shake-up to battle norms and forces the player to do more than simply watch a battle play out.  Players will certainly need to grind now and then to progress, but the chore feels less laborious when systematically taking down a dozen enemies one by one.

Thankfully the creatures that players will spar with are a varied and intriguing bunch.  The character design for the player’s own party is a bit less inspired and typical of RPG heroes, but the enemies encountered in battle are an amusing bunch to fight.  In the first few hours of the game, I battled imps, thieves, stone golems and giant blue blobs, and the new opponents continue to surprise.

Stats. So many stats, you may forget there's an actual game to play.

And that is perhaps Rainbow Moon’s greatest achievement – there is just so much content that every few hours players will encounter new environments and denizens.  The structure of the game is fairly derivative – a player levels up his or her party, learns of a new quest and usually travels into a dungeon-like area to battle a boss and complete the mission.  Don’t expect to leave areas anytime soon; leveling up is truly a key to success here and players cannot coast by at the lowest level possible.  For some this format may be off putting, but for those interested in such an adventure, Rainbow Moon caters to the need for continual progression.

Characters in a player’s party afford myriad opportunities to alter stats and craft the team that most suits an individual style.  Armor and weapons can be changed and materials can be applied to bolster them as well.  After each battle, players earn pearls from the enemies they defeat, and these items can be applied to different attributes including health, magic, speed (which determines how quickly a character’s turn comes up in battle) and luck, among other options.

This system adds another incentive to the need for grinding, which in other games has turned me off far earlier.  Here, however, I actually found myself playing extraneous battles to increase a stat, as sometimes an extra point in a character’s strength component can make all the difference in battle.  The frequent battling can become tedious at times when trapped in an environment facing the same enemies again and again to earn experience, but in general the system is a joy to use and engaged me for far longer than I would have expected.

Rainbow Moon would not be an RPG without towns where players can purchase items, equipment and stat upgrades.

Combining this strong battle system with a sense of discovery, Rainbow Moon succeeds in catering to fans of the old-school RPG.  With its lack of an intriguing tale or truly relatable characters, the title will likely not convert those averse to the genre.  But what Rainbow Moon does it does generally well, with a sense of fun and reverence for its predecessors.

I would have loved to see the presentation match the wealth of content, but it’s hard to deny that this downloadable offering gives players their money’s worth.  There’s even a trophy for playing the title for over 100 hours, and with the campaign likely taking several dozen, that number, as scary as it may sound, does not seem out of the question.  And if Rainbow Moon‘s battle system sounds appealing to you, it’s difficult to pass up that big a game for so small a price.

 

Here’s the Rundown:

+ Intriguing and engaging battle system
+ Enemy and world design is a varied palette
+ This game will keep you busy for a long time…
- …But unless you’re a fan of the combat, you may not want to play for long
- Story and characters are practically nonexistent
- Quest structure is derivative

8 and 8.5 represent a game that is a good experience overall. While there may be some issues that prevent it from being fantastic, these scores are for games that you feel would easily be worth a purchase.

Rainbow Moon was developed by SideQuest Studios.  It was released for the PlayStation Network on July 10 for $14.99.  A copy was provided to RipTen for the purposes of review.