Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick: Precipice of Darkness Episode 3 Re-review

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…Yeah, I know.  I already reviewed this game less than a year ago.  I realized that I didn’t remember much of it at all when I talked about it’s successor, so I decided to dive back in, play it once more, and give reviewing it another shot because I had no direction back then, and only have a general one right now, not helped by comments that are negative, but lack any backing in logic as my only criticism as of late.  Alright, let’s do this one more time.

Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick: Precipice of Darkness Episode 3 Re-review                  Release Date: 25/6/2012                                                                                                 Platforms: XBLIG(Reviewed), Steam, Android, iOS, Mac OSX                                           Developer: Zeboyd Games                                                                                                Publisher: Zeboyd Games

Originally intended as a series of four episodic titles from Hothead Games, Penny Arcade’s Principle of Darkness: On the Rain-Slick was a series killed off halfway through, and when I wasn’t looking at it.  But after four years, it was brought back by Zeboyd Games, a two man studio that originally stood out to me as those guys who made the Xbox Live Indie Games look wonderful though some dirt cheap, but very enjoyable, JRPGs for a lack of a better term.

Not having played the first two in the series due to a demo that left me lukewarm, with the backstory being provided via short introduction that the developers claimed was enough, I am still a bit confused as to what Rain-Slick 3 is actually about.  In part due to Wikipedia summaries that sound like the rambling of either a hyperactive man man or a mad genius.  But more often due to a fairly thick block of lore that is a mix between oddness, with squid mimes being a thing you fight, paired with some genuinely neat aspects.  With a very large scope of universal destruction through the unintentional assassination of deities.

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While taking place in an alternate 1922 with magic as both the writing style and characters are based on the webcomic the game is named after.  It is not surprising that a lot of things storywise seems a little bit off.  Well, except for how the seventh and eighth chapters in this ten chapter game have the main quartet that makes up your party go through the cliff notes of an NES RPG in the form of a love letter, assuming Zeboyd’s prior two titles didn’t make that quite clear.  Followed by a mix between Star Trek and Alien that lasts about half an hour before it is never mentioned again.

I suppose I can understand the feasibility of this along with their outfit alterations for the chapters.  I mean, one of the four party members in this game is a skull in a jar.  But from a structural standpoint, it seems more like a manner to recycle assets and cause the player to gain about an extra nine levels.   Which I guess I don’t mind due to how much I like the gameplay provided.

Using the basic framework kept in place since 1986, Rain-Slick 3 more or less takes several neat ideas of it’s declared genre, making it one of the more compelling examples of the genre.  Presented in a manner resembling the classic Final Fantasy titles, the game uses a turn based system similar to the Grandia titles.  With a bar displaying the turn order of enemies, party members, and certain turn based effects.  Made all the more engaging when the game introduces moves that interrupt enemy actions, and how the enemies get stronger as battles wage on.

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Along with an MP system similar to Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light, where you gain a point every turn as every move costs a set number, with zero acting as one for a good chunk of them.  Allowing for an enjoyable replacement of the traditional MP system, with battles that are made more intense due to how you needn’t worry about MP, HP, or even items after any given battle.  as all of them being at the same state for nearly even encounter.  As encounters themselves have more of a weight based on how there are comparatively few with the variety of enemies being the inverse of that, as I can’t recall seeing one in more than a handful of encounters let alone a recolor.  As well as remove the randomness by having the baddies be visible on the map, in stationary positions while only respawning in one area.

It allows for a very structured setting where the player is pretty much guaranteed to be a certain level range at a given encounter.  Which I actually enjoyed very much, with encounters rarely being too easy or too hard.  Although, the extremes existed as I played through the game on Veteran, with chapter six being the oddly place and quickly arisen peak, while I made it through the final trinity of bosses with tension gripping me more than their difficulty.  With the only justification being how I took part in the game’s sole sidequest and made it through eight encounters as part of a coliseum, the only place you can get extra experience.

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Or perhaps I wasn’t suppose to have the best moves for every class until after the boss of chapter nine of ten, which seemed like a reward for carefully managing this game’s fairly robust class system.  With every character assigned a default class that offers them both passive and MP consuming abilities, you eventually unlock 13 class pins that can be swapped around your party of four.  It actually leads to a lot of experimentation, and fun due to how the classes pull wild cards that sound silly at first, before proving to be widely useful.  From the powers of a hobo and gardener being very useful traits in longer battles, to transforming into a dinosaur, to mustering up stacked apocalypses.

Although, I didn’t find a use for every class, with Diva mostly acting as a speed boost for my magical cannon, and the Delusionist was mostly just a toy in my “brilliant” strategy of stacking four hindering effects on most bosses.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t help but feel the process of alternating my classes around every battle, seeing as how I like all my levels to be even across the board, to be a bit more work than it should be.  If only due to how you are only given the level of a class pin when selecting it, not the exp needed for a level up.  You need to equip it to know how much exp the pin needs to level up.  It didn’t make the battles any less fun, because despite how I mostly kept a single strategy for every line up, there was a lot of room for experimentation due to the volume of abilities at your disposal, with most of the new or upgraded skills making me think, “Y’know, I should use this more.”  Although, some made me wish that I could easily retry the battle without needing to die.

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I’m actually pretty impressed the system was done by one guy, and I suppose I can say the same thing about the visuals too.  Taking a page and a half from Final Fantasy VI with the main character models with backgrounds that more or less derail the idea of this game looking like a fully authentic SNES title due to the different visual details.  And the visual details are certainly nice, with plenty of detail thrown about, to the point where the main characters actually have two alternate sprite sheets.  Admittedly, the setting of a decently slummy city is not the best thing to work with, but it more than makes up for it through a truck’s worth of enemy designs complete with idle, attack, and damage-taking animations.  With their only downside being how there is no baddie viewer like in Zeboyd’s previous title, Cthulhu Saves The World.

Sitting next to a score that, while fully enjoyable in its own right, can often feel a bit too booming for walking through a bank, opening the menu, and then fiddling with your classes.  It certainly fits the setting and the whole semi-retro angle the game is pushing for, with the battle themes being quite solid along with some pleasant sound effects.  Although, I didn’t have any issue with this in the free DLC mini-campaign that I’m guessing only 20% of owners heard about.

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I suppose it would come off as no surprise that I still like Rain-Slick 3 quite a lot.  I mean, I only reviewed it a few months ago.  And while I do appreciate the plot and even mechanics a bit more, the fumblings are more evident, while never being a pain, as much as they were perplexing.  WIth two chapters that could be more or less removed as the enemies were scaled back, and my few issues with the system looking like specks of dirt of the beautiful ivory I’d choose to represent it.  They don’t stop me from finding Rain-Slick 3 from being one of the most prime examples of how to distill a genre and lose next to nothing.

Great! (17/20)                                                                                                                      An impressive product, but won’t always astound due to a fair number of flaws that are difficult to ignore.  Still worth your cash and a few hours of your time.

Oh, and it is on sale this week.  It is only a dollar on Steam, which I’d recommend even more, seeing as how it is normally five of them.

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