Review: Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 4 delivers comedic RPG goodness
Zeboyd Games has become something of an authority on the comedy RPG. With past gems like Cthulhu Saves the World and Breath of Death VII: The Beginning, the studio was able to bring a bit of revitalization into what many consider a very serious genre. The developer previously took over the Penny Arcade series of RPGs, delivering the jovially entertaining Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3. Now Zeboyd has turned out the next chapter in the series, aptly titled Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 4, and it definitely lives up to the standard set by the dev with its previous efforts.
Rain-Slick 4 takes place immediately following the events of the previous game. Basically, the world's gone to the crapper and it's up to you to fix things. That's right, the world has been consumed by hell (or something), and our protagonists have to figure out exactly how to bring it back from the dark, fiery depths. Surely this is a task fitting for a video game detective agency.
I don't know about you guys, but I'm a sucker for crotch jokes.
Wackiness notwithstanding, the plot can be a bit hard to follow if you missed the last Penny Arcade game. That said, it should be noted that the story here isn't all that easy to stay on top of anyway, because the writing in Rain-Slick 4 is so long-winded and convoluted that it borders on incoherent at times. It's a bit of a shame, because I've always loved Zeboyd's style of writing. It just seems that the studio was trying to create something too grand for its own good here.
Thankfully, while the story itself may not actually be that good, a lot of the actual writing is. Fans of Zeboyd's work — or, at the very least, Rain-Slick 3 — will recall the limitless pints of humor poured into the studio's endeavors, and this adventure is no stranger to that lighthearted, self-aware comedy. Because characters are always talking to each other, they usually have funny things to say. The text narration is also quite comical, describing situations and poking fun at the characters in lovely tongue-in-cheek fashion. Then there are the enemy descriptions during battles, which are just pure gold pretty much every single time.
If you played past Zeboyd titles, you can expect a lot of the usual RPG mechanics in Rain-Slick 4. These games have a nice way of being approachable while still leading up to a formidable challenge the further you progress. I've never felt that completing a Zeboyd game was a lost cause; instead, I merrily progressed and ultimately found that the game got a little tougher, but not massively so. The same can be said about Rain-Slick 4, which presents you with a great deal of accessible gameplay and smooth progression.
Enemy descriptions in Rain-Slick 4 are an absolute joy.
You control a party of characters and their demon pets as you traverse towns and dungeons. The former is where you'll meet quirky NPCs, buy and trade items, get leads on your next task, and so on. Dungeons make up the bulk of Rain-Slick 4, and these areas feature enemy encounters, boss battles, and a ridiculously satisfying battle engine. The whole thing is turn-based, and you can mix things up with power, magic, and item attacks. Also, here's where you meet the awesomely ridiculous enemies that are quite possibly the absolute best parts of the game. Seriously, those descriptions are too funny.
Unlike its predecessor, Rain-Slick 4 doesn't put you in control of the main characters during battles. Instead, you collect demons along the way and those little critters do your dirty work for you. Mechanically, this doesn't change too much. That said, you come across a number of different creatures, and depending on which character you assign as their master, you'll get varying results. Some characters, for example, give your demons a magic boost, while others give them an increase in strength or speed. Different attributes are also affected when you level up, giving you multiple things to keep track of. Keeping in line with the spirit of Zeboyd's style, nothing is ever overly deep, and it's not confusing trying to manage your characters and monsters.
The writing can be a bit much, but it's often funny despite being long-winded.
This time around you've got an open world to play around in. Don't expect it to be too robust or brimming with extra things to do, though. You can, however, gain some extra XP, cash, and items if you decide to travel around the world map. It's a nice little addition that maybe wasn't necessary in a Zeboyd game, but it comes with its share of gratification. If you'd much rather stick to the main road, you can certainly do so. If anything, it's exciting to think of this as a test run for the studio possibly leading up to a project with a more engaging emphasis on exploration.
If you're expecting a major change to Zeboyd's brand of RPGs, you may be in for a disappointment. If you're a fan of the studio's work, however, you'll get exactly what you're familiar with. These folks just know how to make a great RPG. The writing can get annoying at times when it rambles, but it's pretty funny nonetheless. The art style is retro-influenced pixelated goodness and harkens back to classic games. It's the gameplay, however, that will keep you enthralled in this otherworldly adventure. Rain-Slick 4 may not exactly be better than its predecessor, and Cthulhu Saves the World remains Zeboyd's best title to date, but if you're looking for a lovingly crafted work of well-placed wit and tasty RPG joy, this game is a damn good candidate.
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