Tactical turn-based RPGs are a genre that I respect and value for what they have brought to the gaming table in regards to depth and intelligence in design. They can quite often offer a rich, story-driven experience coupled with some incredible combat and management mechanics. That said, kick back and enjoy our Rainbow Skies review on PS4.
If you have read many of my reviews and articles you’ll note that although I appreciate the genre, I struggle to play through this style of game. As a long time shooter fan, anything slower than Halo or Doom has to work hard to keep my focus. Despite this, I am a fan stretching my gaming preferences and was excited to try my hand at Side Quest Studio and Eastasiasoft’s newest tactical turn-based RPG Rainbow Skies. So after spending several hours of this last week with the title, I have to say I’ve come away with several thoughts on Rainbow Skies and all that it tries to accomplish.
As a sequel to 2012’s Rainbow Moon, originally released on PS3, Rainbow Skies has worked hard to polish and refine many of the facets of the original title. With a new group of young heroes fresh on a new adventure, the game works hard to bring some serious depth to the tactical RPG. The story itself takes some interesting twists and turns and is actually much longer than expected with some great moments. Story delivery is handled through a mix of dialog windows and cutscenes, that latter offering a nice break the former.
In regards to the dialog windows, Rainbow Skies suffers from having too much story to tell and not enough good ways to tell it. Many of the dialog interactions seem to take forever to go through and I’m not referring to heavy lore moments or big reveals but rather simple quest interactions and casual conversation. Many times there seems to be an unnecessary dialog that I think was designed to help flesh out characters but instead serves as a boss fight with patience as you mash your X button through endless dialog.
There is the option to skip dialog but more times than not in the midst of the endless walls of text is one or two key pieces of information that help push the story forward. At the end of the day, the story is great, if your willing to grind through the walls of text to get to it. Upon review, it really comes down to pacing or in this case an unbalanced approach to pacing and at times it really does make playing feel like a grind.
Story delivery aside Rainbow Skies does have some interesting characters and world design at play. The game takes you across a remarkably large set of biomes, each with a unique and often interesting theme. A day and night cycle coupled with a light and dark system make navigating the world and dungeons interesting. The world itself feels unique and quite pretty to walk through with the aforementioned biomes offering some great visuals. With a whole set of achievements associated with discovery, there really is an incentive to explore the world and see all that it has to offer.
Rainbow Skies has a huge list of different game mechanics for players to dive through. From an upgrade token system to inventory management all the way to gear upgrades and RPG character development, this game crames a lot of features into its indie package. It’s a great node to retro Turn-based tactical RPGs. The systems work fairly well together with each upgrade or refinement having a noticeable impact on your characters and their progression.
I actually expected to be bogged down with grinding for most of my playtime, as is typically the case with the genre, but with the progression systems being as impactful as they are, any grind I experience was shadowed by the sense of progression I felt from doing it. Don’t get me wrong, grinding is still a part of the Rainbow Skies experience but it feels like the developers have worked hard to make it as painless as possible for players.
Combat in Rainbow Skies is an interesting affair. The system relies on a grid-based movement system coupled with a traditional menu system for casting spells, using items, etc. However, the game also comes equipped with couple quality of life features such hotkeys for basic attacks and accessing the skills menu. These coupled with the ability to skip combat animations by pressing R2 help to make combat feel quicker and more streamlined. The tactical elements of combat are very much still at play as positioning and movement are key to being effective both offensively and defensively during combat. I found the system to be pretty straightforward and easy to pick up and felt that after about an hour of group play I was comfortable engaging multiple enemies with confidence.
The one other area that I found to be a bit rough is in regards to how the game communicates important information to players. Throughout my playthrough there were times where the game seemed to leave me wondering what I was supposed to do next with nothing but a map indicator as a guide whereas other other times I felt bogged down by unnecessarily long tutorials on seemingly simple concepts. This seemed to be an overarching issue for Rainbow Skies, for as I had mentioned earlier, the story also suffered from putting too much detail on the wrong elements of delivery.