Rainbow Skies Review: One Hot Mess After Another
Rainbow Skies is the sequel to the large, turn-based RPG Rainbow Moon. The main characters are three unlikely companions who just happen to be accidentally bound to each other for all eternity, thanks to a little spell gone wrong.
Two of the three aforementioned characters are from a race of people that reside on a floating island in the sky, and they have to keep their identity a secret lest the denizens of the moon find out and crucify them. They must travel together with a spell caster from the surface to try and puzzle out a way back home. This journey takes them across several continents and through many terrifying lands that are home to many terrifying monsters.
This doesn't sound wholly dissimilar to most RPGs on the market, so what makes Rainbow Skies stand out from the rest? And is it worth spending your time on?
Rainbow Skies Is a Few Shades Off
Rainbow Skies is the type of game where the story takes a back seat to the gameplay. It's all about finding some way to undo the Spell of Binding so that your party can finally separate and so that the characters from the floating island can find their way back home.
It's nothing to write home about, but it gets the job done, I suppose. It's really just there to get you from one battle to the next. As you make your way further into the story, it gets to the point where it feels like there are a ton of battles just shoehorned into the game for the sake of battling. Which I guess is cool if you're into that.
However, despite my reservations here, I would like to take a second and say that the writing is actually pretty good. I'm not going to sing too many of its praises because it does some questionable stuff at times, such as forced flirting, a few odd instances of gaslighting, and an unfortunate knack for reusing the same jokes over and over again. All the same, though, I was pleasantly surprised that the dialogue was more jovial and entertaining to read than many RPGs.
Combat and Gameplay
Let me say one thing right off the bat: the combat in Rainbow Skies is sort of draining. It's turn based, where the character's speed stats determine how often they can act. Your characters are arranged on a grid alongside enemies, and you have to get into the right positions in order to properly attack. I sort of enjoyed it at first, but it quickly became a slog.
Your skills barely do any more damage than a regular attack, which means they basically just bring a little bit of versatility and variety to the field. Your regular characters are just weak as heck unless you spend hours grinding -- even if you play on the easiest difficulty setting. And difficulty spikes are insane and seem oddly frequent.
There are several points in the game where it feels like you're hitting a wall. It's probably for the purpose of making sure you're strong enough to head into the next area, but these walls pop up so often that it barely feels like you're making any progress in the actual game.
Playing through any combat scenario is like trudging through a swampy mire. Some of the easier fights can take as long as 10 minutes while some of the harder ones could take you the better part of an hour -- and sometimes you'll spend all of that time struggling, wasting all of your hard-earned resources just to lose and be forced to start over from the beginning.
This wouldn't be so much of a problem if there were a speedup or animation skip feature. Every attack animation is slow and it just takes forever for the battle to actually be realized even after the commands have been made. Sometimes the game shows a shortcut for skipping an animation but I've tried pressing that button in every way I can think of and I've never managed to get it to work.
On top of that, enemies that are around your level take so little damage, even if you're sure to always hit them with attacks that they're weak to. Every battle ends feeling like a battle of attrition, just trying to stay alive until you can finally whittle down the enemy's health.
This may be exciting to some players, but to me, it just made the game feel like it was dragging on. Hours would pass in the blink of an eye and it wasn't because I was having fun, but rather because the battles would take way longer than I ever expected them to.
And then there's Monster Taming, Rainbow Skies' most anticipated new feature. I didn't even gain access to this feature until I was a solid eight or more hours into the game, despite the main characters teasing me with it the entire time. And when I finally unlocked it and experienced it for myself, I was so underwhelmed I was close to being infuriated.
In order to collect monsters, you need to find eggs, which only drop after you defeat that monster a certain number of times. Then, in order to hatch a monster egg, you need to leave it with a tamer and battle a certain number of times until it finally hatches. Then you can upgrade its abilities with Skill Stones and teach it skills as if it were a regular character -- and you can even make it the party leader so you can run around the overworld as the monster.
However, you can only have a small number of monsters at any given time, meaning you must release some if you collect too many. On top of that, you can only battle with an even smaller number of monsters, leaving you unable to really utilize many of them.
On top of that, Monsters come out of the egg so much stronger than the main characters, even if they're several levels below them, which really makes me scratch my head.
I was struggling with battles for so long, fairly certain I wasn't missing any important part of upgrading my characters, and then, when this thing finally comes along, many battles that I struggled with before turned into a cake walk. I couldn't believe it. The moment I saw my newbie monster deal over double the damage that my spellcaster could while it was half my spellcaster's level, my jaw hit the floor.
Upgrading and Resource Management
When I was introduced to the upgrade system, my first thought was that it was really unique. The more I played, however, the more I realized just how grindy it was. Every level, your characters and monsters earn new upgradable stats. You can spend Skill Stones that you find from battling monsters on these stats in order to buff your characters. It's possible to max all of these stats, and probably even necessary if you want to play on higher difficulty settings, but grinding for Skill Stones is such a chore that it would take forever to max out each stat every level.
You can read Skill Books to teach certain characters new skills, which we've already noted won't do much more damage than your regular attack. If you use these skills enough, you'll increase their power and eventually learn even more skills. There's nothing inherently wrong with this system, other than the fact that you don't get a heal spell until pretty late in the game.
Then you can increase your stats by infusing materials you collect from enemies with your weapons and armor. There's not much to say about this, other than it doesn't really help your power much, especially when you can only slot a handful of materials in the earlier levels. Apparently, there's a system where you can reinforce weapons and armor to make them stronger in general, but I never even got far enough in the game to be introduced to it.
And finally, there's resource management, which has to be the biggest pain I've ever had the displeasure of experiencing. Bags such as your potion, miscellaneous, and food bags are limited to only five or six items a piece at the start. As you go through the game, you can buy or find bag upgrades out in the world to make it less of a pain, but you stumble across so many good potions and items that you'll want to keep along the way that you're so often left to make a decision on what's more important.
You could say it's a way to keep the player from cheesing the game and being too prepared for a fight, but that logic doesn't even hold up very well. The best potions I can even buy right now heal so little health that even if I use as many as I can in a turn, I'd still be losing health overall if even one monster my level was close enough to hit me. It's as if it doesn't even matter.
Verdict: A True Slog, Through and Through
All-in-all, Rainbow Skies feels like a lot of heart and soul went into it, but it comes across as poorly designed and downright convoluted at points. There's a ton of content here for people who are interested in delving into it, but I can't see this reaching beyond a niche audience or a cult following.
There are better turn-based RPGs out there; I honestly recommend that you save your money. Go play Disgaea or something, I promise you'll get a lot more out of that game than this one. I just can't, in good conscience, recommend this game to anyone.
If you think you'd enjoy it based on my description, though, be my guest, please. And if you have a different opinion, I invite you to refute my review in the comments section below.
Rainbow Skies is available now for PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, and PlayStation 4.
Writer was granted a review copy by the publisher.