Someday, songs will be written about the development of Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3. In the nearly four years since the release of Episode Two, the third game in Penny Arcade’s episodic RPG series underwent both a developer and art-style change in its journey to a download service near you. Gone are the Gabe-inspired character designs and modern graphics of the previous episodes. In their place are the 16-bit stylings of Zeboyd Games and a part three that, at times, feels like both a brand new game and a continuation of the adventure thus far.
Platforms: PC (Version Played), Xbox 360
Publisher: Zeboyd Games
Developer: Zeboyd Games
Genre: RPG From the Age of Steam
Release Date: June 25, 2012 (PC), July 3, 2012 (XBLIG)
ESRB Rating: Not Rated
In their quest to rebuild Penny Arcade 3 from the ground up, Zeboyd Games actually kept most of what made the first two episodes great. The world of New Arcadia may be made up of pixels now, but the bantering between Tycho and Gabe is as hilarious as ever.
Battles also work much the same way, with players being able to switch between regular attacks, magic-based attacks, and items as they fight for their lives. Thankfully, each group member once again recovers all of their hit points after every battle. It was a good system, so it’s nice that Zeboyd didn’t feel the need to fix what wasn’t broken. On that note, they did toss out the Block mechanic, which was one of the weak points of the first two episodes.
Early on, many players will feel like they can just power through any fight because there’s no permanent cause of death in New Arcadia. But later, each battle feels more like a puzzle, with the player having to figure out the best combination of spells and attacks to win. This puzzling feeling is compounded by the ability to add spell effects and helper characters to the turn order bar. Equipping “Class Pins” adds yet another layer to character management as players will have to know which spells, latent abilities, and weapons combine to form the most badass team.
Another element of Episode 1 and 2 that was removed from Penny Arcade 3 is the player-created Player Character. His (or her) rake-based attacks will be missed, but Zeboyd made up for his (or her) absence by adding three new playable characters to the Penny Arcade universe. In the first two episodes, Jim was the head in a jar seen in the background of the Startling Developments Detective Agency. Now, he’s a head in a jar that can do magic and battle monsters. Moira is Tycho’s private eye ex-wife and a crack shot with her pistol. And finally, little Anne Claire joins the party during the game’s prologue.
Even with these new additions, Penny Arcade 3 quickly finds a familiar (and funny) groove. I love the little descriptions that go with each monster and the way that RPG conventions are joked about. You’ll never be able to look at a goblins, orcs, imps, and zombies the same way. For further PA points, the bestiary also includes Penny Arcade mainstays like the Deep Crow, the Broodax swarm, and Merch/Fleshreapers.
This love for all things Penny Arcade and all things 16-bit pervades On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3. One perilous mission even sends the group back to medieval times and the graphics follow suit, de-evolving from 16-bit to 8-bit. Even the battle conditions change! Enemies no longer hang out on the map, but randomly appear to fit in with this earlier era.
Any fan of classic RPGs (or the first two episodes) will want to give Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3 a look. At only five dollars, it’s a steal. I honestly cannot wait to see what Zeboyd (and the Penny Arcade boys) have up their sleeves for Rain-Slick 4. Especially since I didn’t quite “get” the ending of part three.
Review Disclosure: A review copy of Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3 was provided by Zeboyd Games for the purposes of this review.