Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3 review
Who says an RPG has to be so damn serious? If the legendary Earthbound has taught us anything since its launch on the SNES back in the '90s, it's that not every entry in the genre needs to take itself so seriously. Sure, it can have themes of destruction and disaster, demonic villains who want to rule the world, and all kinds of epic happenings, but that doesn't mean it has to fill a certain stigma. RPGs can have hilarious dialogue and quirky characters. And if you've ever played a game by developer Zeboyd Games, then you should know by now that that's exactly what you get with the studio's latest effort, Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3.
The plot in Rain-Slick 3 takes place a few years after the second game. As Gabe and Tycho, you must solve the mysteries behind this Lovecraft-inspired apocalyptic tale. While there are certainly a handful of nods at the previous chapters, you don't need to have played those two games to get what's going on here. The character dialogue does a great job of summarizing what's going on without ever feeling threatening or complex.
Aside from being informative, a lot of the narrative in Rain-Slick 3 is also brilliantly comical. If you've played Cthulhu Saves the World or Breath of Death VII: The Beginning, then you're aware of just how clever the writing in Zeboyd's titles really is. Whether the characters are poking fun at each other or simply being observant about their current situation, most of what they say is really funny. You'll find yourself not only chuckling, but laughing a hearty laugh at some of the things Gabe, Tycho, and company have to say.
The writing isn't the only thing that stands out in Rain-Slick 3. The whole design of the game is absolutely offbeat and witty. One level, for example, features portraits of the monstrous Cthulhu, paying homage not only to Zeboyd's previous RPG, but also to Lovecraft's brain-child. Additionally, the enemy design in Rain-Slick 3 is extraordinarily wonderful. Evil mimes and suit-wearing dinosaurs are just the beginning. There are countless awesomely bizarre baddies in the game to keep a goofy smile on your face while you play. Oh, and the enemy descriptions during battle sequences? Pure gold.
Despite the comical overtones throughout the entirety of the experience, the battle system in Rain-Slick 3 is no joke. Though it certainly has a retro style to it, Zeboyd has thrown in some deep and refined gameplay into this RPG. Most of this depth revolves around the different class systems. Rain-Slick 3 features traditional RPG classes such as mage and brute, but there are some odd types among the bunch, as well. For example, there are dinosaur and hobo classes, which offer their own advantages and disadvantages. And before you ask, yes, the dinosaur and hobo classes are as weird as they sound.
You've got physical and magic attacks at your disposal, as well as MP that depletes with every attack. MP cost is higher or lower depending on the strength of your attacks, and sometimes you need to hold off from using commands that waste a lot of MP so you can stock up for the major damage-dealing offensive moves. There's a tactical edge to Rain-Slick 3 that really makes you think before you attack often. And while you can most certainly get away with dishing out the same moves at times, that won't work out throughout the entire game.
The level of challenge in Rain-Slick 3 fluctuates throughout the course of the experience. Most of the time, everything flows smoothly and you'll be able to get through battles by making smart decisions and choosing the right moves. There are a handful of bosses, however, that are pretty brutal. It can actually be a bit frustrating if you're trying to breeze through these bouts as if they were any other battle. That said, if you plan out some smarter strategies — proper healing, powering up certain characters, knowing when to sacrifice an attack in order to stock up on MP — you'll be able to conquer any challenge. Oh, it'll still be tough, but it'll at least be doable.
Previous games in Penny Arcade's series of RPGs featured polygonal graphics, but with Zeboyd at the helm, Rain-Slick 3 looks a lot more like something you'd see on the SNES. You know, something like the awesome Earthbound, which I mentioned earlier. If you dig retro-style RPGs, you'll probably like how Rain-Slick 3 looks. It really is a nice tribute to classic 16-bit RPGs. The same can be said about the sound design, which features some awesome themes, as well as chippy sound effects, all of which are highly welcome.
As cool as the positive aspects of Rain-Slick 3 may be, there are a few things that aren't all that great. The writing, while clever, can drag on a bit during certain sequences. Yes, there's a lot of funny dialogue in the game, but there are a few instances were characters — mostly enemies and sometimes Gabe and Tycho — just go on and on about the end of the world. Additionally, while I personally enjoyed the challenge in Rain-Slick 3, there were a few difficulty spikes that felt a bit cheap and unnecessary. Despite these few complaints, there's a level of quality here that's simply outstanding, and these minor warts don't take too much away from that.
Rain-Slick 3 isn't some massive 60-hour affair. This RPG is less traditional as far as its lasting value is concerned, and you can get through the game in about 10 hours. In those 10 hours, however, there are countless laughs to be had and a deep gameplay system that will challenge you. Sometimes it'll challenge you a bit too much, and it's hard to ignore the sometimes-tedious narrative sequences. Even then, Rain-Slick 3 is still a worthwhile experience for fans of the series, RPG aficionados, or someone like me who's just happy people are still making great games like this.
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