To be honest, Rainbow Skies is a moniker I’ve misnamed numerous times (I originally thought it was Random Skies or Freedom Skies). Though the name doesn’t stick to my feeble brain, the actual game is a total keeper that over delivers as an immersive RPG. I’m six hours into the game, and thankfully I’ve barely scratched the surface.
The storyline begins with players taking on the role of Damion, an entitled monster tamer who is not ready for his final exam, much to the dismay of his examiner and good buddy Layne. Damion’s lack of preparation proves he has a ton of growing up to do, and do an unforeseen occurrence he and Layne fall from their environment (they live on a world that is situated amidst the skies) and an entirely new land below. The pair believe that they would immediately suffocate due to the supposed toxic air of this world, but that was probably a tall tale to keep inhabitants from wandering outside their comfort zone.
Rainbow Skies’ opening chapter introduces us to Damion and Layne, but after they fall we are immediately introduced to a third hero, an intrepid lady named Ashly who’s carving out her own path. Ironically, most of the game’s opening section is devoted to her adventures, and by the time Damion and Layne become part of her crew, I was actually more attached to her character.
This simple twist of fate, story wise, is what makes Rainbow Skies an intriguing RPG; it essentially zigs when you think it’s going to zag. There’s one moment where the screen goes nearly black, signaling the game has completed, but it’s simply done to keep you on your toes (and for a little amusement). Like much of the humor-filled interactions in Rainbow Skies, it’s seemingly nonsensical. Placed in a broader picture, however, these comedic situations are a palette cleanser to the game’s true bread and butter – the battles and ever evolving skill trees.
If you’ve played your share of top down based, tactical RPGs, nuance sometimes gets overlooked in this grind it out aesthetic. Moving from title to tile, hacking and slashing (or spell casting) your way to defeating your foes is a dynamic we’ve all come to expect, but Rainbow Skies infuses a refreshing level of variety into the mix.
For instance, when one monster attacks you with their special powers, it will immediately cut to another scene (that is off the tiled board) as you watch one of the heroes take damage from the creature. Though it’s a split second sequence, it keeps Rainbow Skies’ battles from being visually monotonous.
Though you can grind your way through the game on easy mode, the game enables you to switch to a higher grade of difficulty (which I suggest doing once this opportunity arises in-game). Making the game harder actually enhances the experience, as your trio will have to use a bit more strategy in their approach (basically the “tactical” part of Rainbow Skies is worth it). Under a higher difficulty mode, my heroes have taken their share of lumps (a binding spell, which keeps characters locked on the same tile for several turns, is a doozy), but finally coming out with a victory gives one a much deeper sense of accomplishment.
Another huge plus for Rainbow Skies is the numerous ways you can upgrade your characters. Along with leveling up via battles and upgrading your weapons through found or purchased items, your weapons and clothing also gain experience and seasoning with every battle. On your information screen you can access your development on the main quests and also open up another section that centers on your side quest progression. As an RPG enthusiast who actually prefers wasting hours on side quests than actually completing the story, this element is highly appreciated.
If one or more of your heroes dies, they can be revived (for several gold pieces) at a nearby center, so don’t worry about restarting your game if any of them perish in the heat of battle. If all of your party gets eliminated, the last remaining member still has several hit points to work with to get the group into a nearby healing area or merchant (where they can buy healing potions).
Also, if you’re not a fan of dialogue driven RPGs, there is a skip option which thankfully gets you right down to business. I would relished this option in my twenties, but as an older gamer who, in his autumnal years, prefers to take his time, I’m cool with a little more conversation before the inevitable conflict.
The best RPG games understand that the battles are really, excuse the pun, just “half the battle.” Rainbow Skies, which has been in development for over five years, understands that building a world filled with numerous upgrade options and an ever growing storyline are just as important. I haven’t even touched the monster taming part of Rainbow Skies, and even if that doesn’t happen for another several hours, I’ll be more than fine. I may forget its name time and again, but I attribute that to old age, and not the wonderful Rainbow before me.
Rainbow Skies Rating: 4. 5 out of 5
***Disclosure: A PS4 code of Rainbow Skies was provided for review from the publishers.