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Monday, July 9, 2012

Review: Rainbow Moon (PS3)

I could summarise a review of Rainbow Moon in five words: “do you like level grinding?” That would be a very short review, though, so here’s the long-winded version:

So, do you like level grinding? Rainbow Moon is all about it – it’s entirely about it, and in many ways it’s a beautiful game for it. A little like the SRPG version of Diablo, Rainbow Moon is all about wandering through dungeons, killing beasts and gathering loot. Every so often the difficulty level will spike with tougher monsters with higher levels, so you’ll need to grind up a few levels to take on the new challenges.

This structure is held together by a plot that explains itself with snippets of dialogue and the odd paragraph in the quest book. To say Rainbow Moon makes Diablo look like a modern version of Dante’s epic poetry is an understatement. A cut-scene at the start of the game tells you about being sucked into a portal or something, and from that point on, it’s monster-killing. Quests and sub-quests alike are all about fetching inanimated stuff and killing moving stuff – be that collecting rare item drops off monsters, or clearing out a dungeon that has become populated by monsters – and the reward is, as can be expected, loot.

And you’ll be doing this for some 500-odd character levels. If this sounds intimidating, that’s because it is - you’ll likely spend 10 hours on just the first, tiny, tutorial island, and on the higher difficulty levels the game has no problem slamming your heroes’ faces into the dirt, but that’s ok; Rainbow Moon is so damn compelling that you’ll be channelling Oliver Twist with a “please sir, can I have some more?” even as you weep tears of pain and, at times, frustration.

Combat plays out mercifully quickly – one way or the other. Either your team will emerge victorious from the SRPG-style grid of turn-based battling, or you’ll be slaughtered and sent back to the nearest village for a quick revival. Because encounters take place in fairly enclosed spaces injuries are common, so there’s a bit of backtracking involved to heal up after every couple of encounters. But as dull as that backtracking is at times it’s thankfully frustration-free because random encounters are entirely optional.

The game’s many dungeons do become something of a highlight in terms of offering variety, because each contains a couple of puzzles to sort through before reaching the inevitable end-boss. These puzzles aren’t exactly taxing on the brainpower, but they do break up the action just enough so that each dungeon feels like it has its own personality. The boss battles are a highlight of the combat, and while the tactics that this game requires are quite limited, those boss battles will require some strategic planning.

The game features a nice range of characters to recruit and each of those characters has a charming, happy little personality. Attack animations are simple and subtle, but humorous, and the various noises each utter reminds players constantly not to take the game too seriously.

Visually, the game in general is gorgeous and colourful. Towns and the people that inhabit them are a kaleidoscope of colours, and the monsters that roam the world do a nice job of giving players the full gamut of beasties to slaughter. Given how long this game is in terms of raw hours of play I would have liked to see less palette-swapping and more original creations thrown at players more often, but thanks to the brevity of encounters somehow fighting the same enemy coloured slightly differently never quite gets old.

Disappointingly, given how much this game owes to the design philosophy that made Diablo such a hit, there’s no online play here. It would have been difficult to make it work effectively, given the game is turn-based rather than action, but it would have helped break up the loneliness somewhat. There is, however, a very detailed statistics system in play that can be uploaded to the game’s Website. From there you can even grab your gamer tag and share it online. It’s a clunky system – rather than being uploaded automatically you’ll need to visit a specific person in town to send the data – but that’s a very minor complaint.

This game isn’t for everyone. Grinding is a laborious process and that platinum trophy is going to be a hardcore challenge beyond the patience of almost anyone, but for its small niche it’s endlessly charming and cheerful, and there’s literally over a hundred hours of content here. That makes it quite possibly the biggest PSN game to date.

- Matt S




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Review: Rainbow Moon (PS3)
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