Title: Rain of Reflections – Set Free
Developers: Lionbite Games
Publisher: Lionbire Games
Genre: Turn-based Tactics
Official Site: Rain of Reflections
Tested on: PC
Release Date: October 4, 2019
Rain of Reflections is an odd experience. It’s unarguably beautiful to look at game that has excellent design work. Unfortunately, not all the mechanical aspects work out as intended and there is some distracting and confusing narrative work that reduces the overall impact of the game. In the end it’s more of a game for those specifically into the turn-based tactics genre or sci-fi dystopia than a crossover title.
The most impressive aspect of Rain of Reflection is its graphical fidelity. The characters and environments are all very detailed and visually compelling. The costuming, especially for the enemies, is also very well done. Add to this the fact that most of the game takes place in the pouring rain with some of the most convincing rain and water effects anywhere and Rain of Reflections becomes a real feast for the senses.
Stealth Tactics in Rains of Reflection
Most of the player’s time in Rain of Reflections is spent in turn-based stealth sections. Whether sneaking past cops or corporate security Winoa, the main player character, does so two actions at a time. Ultimately the stealth sections revolve around the player’s ability to manage the charges for the optical camouflage device the game starts Winoa off with. The maximum six charges for the device ends up getting stretched by the need to clear a path for characters lacking a stealth device by distracting guards. While not as deep or fully featured as the stealth system in, say, Invisible Inc. the stealth sections of Rain of Reflections are challenging enough to be satisfying.
If a player fails a stealth sequence in Rain of Reflections open combat takes place. The combat mechanics in Rain of Reflections are a cleverly fitting spin on the turn-based tactics system reinvigorated by games like X-COM: Enemy Unknown. When players find themselves in combat turns and rounds proceed with each team acting in turn. The biggest twist on the combat formula in Rain of Reflections is the ‘Motivation’ mechanic that takes the place of HP. Every character in a battle starts with a set amount of motivation points which represent their will to fight. Motivation is lost when a character is attacked and regained when they complete the objectives. Motivation is also affected by the speech system in Rains of Reflections. That system allows characters to encourage allies or discourage enemies by talking. When a character loses all their Motivation they flee the battle. If it’s a player character, the player loses control of the character. In terms of matching up with the fiction the system makes sense as many of the characters in the game aren’t trained soldiers. The problem with the Motivation system, though, is that, in practice, a character that has lost motivation is almost never going to survive their attempt to flee. Effectively, there isn’t much of a difference between a character dying when they lose all their HP and dying a turn after they lose all their Motivation.
Mixed in between stealth and battle sections there is a series of Adventure Game style sections. In these sections Winoa mostly talks her way around problems but there is the occasional environmental puzzle to solve. These sections of the game feature branching dialog choices. The choices don’t really affect the outcome of the story of Rain of Reflections but do affect which characters survive encounters sometimes, so it’s important to choose words carefully. Unfortunately, the dialog options reveal most of the characters as kind of flat and boring.
Another negative aspect of the game affected by the way it handles dialog is the general quality of life. Players can’t skip or speed up dialog in any way. Cutscenes are also unskippable and there is no way to disable the tutorial hints. Normally this would be less of a problem but Rain of Reflections is the first chapter of an episodic game and as such is only about three hours long. This short playtime makes the game easy to replay to see the different conversion outcomes. By that same token, though, not being able to speed up dialog or skip cutscenes means actually replaying the game is a bit of a slog. The lack of a manual save system also exacerbates this quality of life issue.
Scattered throughout the stealth, combat, and adventure sections of Rain of Reflections are a variety of hacking puzzles. Like most hacking puzzles in games these are more of cyber skinned mazes, rotating block, and momentum puzzles than actual programming logic or circuit board wiring challenges. They are also fun enough to be one of the highlights of the game.
All these mechanics exist in a well made but not that well thought out narrative and aesthetic package. Rain of Reflections is set in a dystopian sci-fi future where humans have lost the ability to naturally reproduce. This has somehow led to the flooding of major cities and the consolidation of political power under an apparently fascist state. The main quest of Winoa in this game is to rescue the first new child born since the beginning of this apocalypse. This Child is being held at the same lab Winoa works at. That lab is apparently capable of cloning so it’s not clear why the inability to naturally reproduce has had so much impact on human society. The lab is run by Winoa’s father as well. If that seems like a convenient coincidence, it might be balanced by the fact that Winoa’s mother is apparently a highly placed official in the fascist government and sends guards to stop the rescue.
The game also has an almost medieval view of non-neurotypical people. There’s a section of the game where the player needs to find their way out of what is essentially a ghetto for mentally ill people. The whole sequence plays on outdated stereotypes about dangerous ‘crazies’ while also making jokes at their expense. It’s also telling that the only forced combat encounter in the game is against one of these dangerous ‘crazies’. That forced encounter is one of the worst examples of railroading in a game with dialog choices in a long time. The game lets the player get three or four conversations deep and dangles a non-combat solution only to have an NPC force a combat situation for tutorial purposes.
Verdict: Rain of Reflections is a very pretty game that has some interesting ideas about turn-based tactics, some confused ideas about its dystopian future, and some bad ideas about people suffering from mental illness. Big fans of graphics and strategy games will find some value here but otherwise it’s skippable.
- Beautiful Graphics
- Interesting tactical encounters
- Fun hacking minigames
- Sloppy Storytelling
- Quality of life issues
Stephen Krusel, known as Sven Kroosl to some, has played video and tabletop games since 1987 and has written about the gaming industry since 2008. He has yet to be convinced that Final Fantasy Tactics is not the pinnacle of gaming.