Review: Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3 from @werezompire and the rest of Zeboyd
Zeboyd Games quickly made their mark on the indie gaming landscape with Breath of Death VII, a Dragon Quest inspired retro-RPG, which was originally released as an Xbox Live Indie Game back in 2010. Cthulhu Saves the World, a 16-bit RPG, followed in 2011 and both games were subsequently released on Steam. Fast forward to 2012 and Zeboyd Games has released what is easily its best game yet: Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3 (‘Rain Slick 3’ for the rest of this review).
Without going too far into the politics of the situation, Penny Arcade and Hothead Games parted ways after making the first two Rain Slick games (the last of which was back in 2008), clearing the way for Zeboyd to step in to make the Rain Slick 3, which was released on Steam on June 25, 2012, and on XBLA on June 29.
Rain Slick 3 is, like Breath of Death and CStW, a retro 16-bit RPG at its heart. Its graphics are lovely, clearly inspired by Final Fantasy VI, one of the prettiest games to be released on the SNES. The graphics are lovely, and inspired all-manner of nostalgia, from the character sprites, to the menus, to the ridiculous cast of enemies that you face along your way. It’s a gorgeous game that will make you remember the era of 16-bit games fondly if you have any memories of such things at all. Even if you don’t, I would think that you could appreciate the nice sprite-work.
While many roleplaying games play at being ‘strategic’, very few actually end up with anything of the sort. However, Zeboyd succeeds where others have failed by creating an economy that you must manage during your fights. Instead of starting a fight with a set amount of MP, each character gains 1 MP each turn. You can get to your next turn faster by defending but, of course, you won’t harm the enemy that way (although you may be able to unleash a much more powerful move on your next turn). Knowing when to use a spell, when to defend, and when to do a regular attack is key to your victory in Rain Slick 3. Luckily, random battles have been done away with in favor of battles at set points in the game. Believe me, you will still be fighting plenty, you just don’t have to worry about being stopped every five feet as you try to get through the game. Enemies get more powerful the longer you take to defeat them, leading to the need to devise strategies which dispatch the enemies as quickly as possible. Enemies have different weaknesses, and discovering and exploiting those weaknesses can be key to winning a fight quickly versus struggling through or losing outright (I believe I was only defeated once or twice on Normal difficulty, but I did feel that the game provided a steady challenge and made me pay attention while fighting rather than just hitting ‘Attack’ – a sure way to fail).
The combat can get a little repetitive at times (a symptom of the genre as much as anything), but this is alleviated by the fact that you level at a nice pace and you gain a ton of abilities as you go through the game. Honestly, a ridiculous number. Each character has a set class, but can also eventually choose two extra classes for each of your characters. Each class has its own power list and provides its own stat bonuses, so combining the powers to make the characters play the way you want is a big part of the game. Every time I felt comfortable that I had a really great team and fighting strategy, I would get a new power that made me rethink it all over again. The classes (Scholar, Gentleman, Dinosorceror, Cordwainer, and Slacker, to name just a few) and abilities (the ability to inflict ‘Hoboism’, which reminded me of the ability to inflict ‘Diabetes’ in Barkley Shut Up and Jam Gaiden) are suitably ridiculous and mesh very well with Penny Arcade’s sense of humor. Even if you are not currently using a class, it continues to level up so that you can use it later if you would like to.
Jerry Holkins’ sense of humor and writing style is still very much intact in Rain Slick 3. If you enjoy reading Penny Arcade, then you will likely enjoy the writing in Rain Slick 3. The game is frequently funny, and actually made me laugh out loud in many occasions. There are also numerous allusions to the the comics and staff of Penny Arcade, especially as you get near the end of the game, where it starts to look like they were trying to put as many references in as short of a time as possible (which I thoroughly enjoyed). The humor is consistent throughout the game, from the dialogue, to the enemies (‘Optimus Mime’ jumps to mind), to the aforementioned classes and powers.
If you have the least nostalgia for old RPGs, you really should pick up Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3. It’s a love letter to a genre that I love, from the period that it was arguably at its greatest. Even if you don’t enjoy Penny Arcade, you should still pick it up, I mean, the story is at least coherent, which is more than I can say for most of the RPGs I played on my SNES. If you are a fan of Penny Arcade, this is a no-brainer. The writing is spot on, the ton consistent, and the art fantastic. If you can’t stand RPGs even a little, however, you might want to reconsider. Even with a great combat system and the lack of random battles, it is still an old-school RPG at heart (with some of the rough edges filed off, mind you), so this probably isn’t going to fix the genre for you. If you are a fan of both the genre and of Penny Arcade, then I’m a little confused why you wasted your time reading this wonderful review when you could have just been playing the game. Steam says it took me 7 hours to beat the game (although I left it running to grab dinner and whatnot a couple of times, so real play time is probably a little over six hours) and the game only costs $4.99 on Steam and 400 MS Points on XBLA