Review: Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3 (iOS)

The previous two games were developed by Hothead. While both received modest critic praise, the second game didn’t fare so well in terms of sales, and nothing was heard of the series for four years. Zeboyd, who also made Breath of Death VII and Cthulhu Saves The World, took over development of the remaining two Penny Arcade games. I’ll say one thing off the bat: playing this game got me to buy Zeboyd’s double pack of their other two games on Steam. Take that for what it’s worth.

Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3
System: PC, Xbox 360, iOS (reviewed), Android, Mac
Developer: Zeboyd Games
Publisher: Zeboyd Games
Release Date: June 25, 2012 (PC), June 29, 2012 (Xbox 360) October 25, 2012 (iOS, Android, Mac)
MSRP: $4.99 (PC, Mac), 400 MS Points (Xbox 360), $2.99 (iOS, Android)

The plot of this game is based and expands on material written when it was thought that a game with this content couldn’t be made, which you can read here. While this game takes place weeks after the previous game, you don’t need to have played the prior two games to enjoy this game. Your created character from the previous two games does not show up in this game. You also don’t need to be caught up with the comics, though there’s references you’ll recognize if you are. The action kicks off with a phone call consisting of “10 minutes of silence”, which leads into investigating the theft of the Necrowombicon and a painting. Things spiral from there and resolve in a different way than you might expect and leaves the door open for the final episode. Those hoping to carry over their character from the first game will be disappointed, but that shouldn’t detract too much from the overall experience. The Penny Arcade brand of humor is present, which makes the flavor text and dialogue entertaining to read. There’s also Lovecraftian lore weaved into the dialogue and narration, and it can get a bit long winded, which I personally didn’t mind but others might.

The graphics are reminiscent of 16-bit JRPGs, and they brought Final Fantasy VI to mind as I played. There is one section that spoofs 8-bit RPGs like Dragon Quest (also known as Dragon Warrior), and it nailed that style dead on. They do depart majorly from those in the first two games, but they still work well here. The enemy designs are detailed, and some are rather amusing, such as the “Dude on a Walrus” (a dapper gentleman in a top hat eating ice cream while…riding a walrus). The music also suited the areas they played in, and the battle and boss themes stayed stuck in my head even after I stopped playing the game. However, there’s a pause in the looping of the battle music in Horkwall, which is a bit jarring. This pause in looping didn’t occur anywhere else in the game, but it was still distracting where it did occur.

I played this on an iPhone 4S, and for the most part the the controls worked fine. However, at times it was hard to get the party to move where I wanted them to go (such as to open a chest or inspect something), so it took repeated tries to get them to move correctly. I found it easier to turn off the persistent d-pad so either thumb could be used to move. On the world map, I could just tap on the desired destination, so this wasn’t an issue there.

There is a set number of encounters until you unlock the coliseum, and those encounters never respawn. However, while the enemies in the coliseum respawn when you leave and reenter, they provide limited experience and money, so even after you unlock it, grinding is limited (unless you have infinite patience). All enemy encounters are visible and in set places, with the exception of one area where they are not visible (but still set). So while you can avoid some encounters, I don’t recommend skipping any given the limited number of battles outside of the coliseum.

You start every battle at max HP and zero MP, and you gain 1 MP for every turn elapsed. MP does not carry over from one battle to the next, so you may as well let loose once you’ve accumulated enough MP. The turn gauge resembles the one in Grandia, with little portraits of each member of your and the enemy’s party moving from left to right from wait to command to act. You can interrupt an enemy’s attack, which moves them back on the gauge and delays their turn. If you manage to time the attack so that it lands when the enemy’s portrait is in the command area, their turn is further delayed, which buys you more time. Enemies get stronger as the battle continues, so dragging out battles for too long can be detrimental. You also get a limited number of uses for items during battle, which replenishes afterwards. You can find and buy upgrades for the number of uses and effects of each item, though I never felt a need to use items all that often.

The class system is somewhat like Final Fantasy V and class changes occur by acquiring class pins as you progress further in the game. However, since you only get one of each pin, only one character can be a given class. Each character has their own class and can don two class pins, giving them access to a total of three sets of abilities. This provides a good amount of flexibility in strategies and in setting up your parties. Besides the usual physically and magically inclined classes, there’s also classes with more quirky abilities that can be useful. For instances, when the Slacker class is leveled enough, the Tool Around ability can actually be handy, providing healing for the party or attacks that hit every enemy. Of course, there’s always the chance the character skips a turn, which at least has the benefit of them gaining one MP, and which effect you get is random, so it’s not completely reliable.

The way the battle and class systems and enemy encounters are set up seem geared towards decreasing the tedium of grinding and streamlining progress. You don’t have to be worried about getting stopped every couple of steps for a random battle, and you can freely switch class setups around as much as you like. You can also toggle the difficulty if the one you currently have the game set on doesn’t suit your fancy. As far as equipment is concerned, you only have to worry about a weapon and an accessory for each party member. Money can be hard to come by initially, but you can find enough equipment in chests that you don’t have to buy equipment as often. The two DLCs that have been released so far, Costume Change and Lair of the Seamstress, are included in this release. Costume Change lets you switch between appearances (normal, genderbent, and furry). Lair of the Seamtress unlocks after you raise every class to level 40 and visit the shrine.

That’s not to say the game is not without its bumps, however. Regular battles can drag because the enemy has so much HP to whittle down. They’re beatable, but it does slow things down when traversing a dungeon. I never felt like I needed to grind in order to get through a dungeon or boss battle. The only time I did grind was to level up the classes I used less often to unlock the Lair of the Seamstress dungeon, and the limited experience you can earn in the coliseum meant it took a while. Traversing the same dungeon (a haunted house) twice with two different parties was a bit tedious. Granted, I can see what the developers were going for and why they did it that way, but it still slowed things down. Thankfully that was the only area that that issue came up in.

Overall, I enjoyed my time with this game and look forward to the final installment of this series (and, more imminently, the final DLC) to come out. The battle system was neat and required you to use strategy to get through some of the tougher battles. While it’s not the longest RPG you’ll ever play, there was a good amount of content for the price, especially given the free DLC. In the interim, I have a double pack of RPGs to help pass the time.

PROS
* Less grinding needed to get through the main story
* Flexibility in party setups with easy swapping of classes
* Writing is loaded with humor

CONS
* Virtual d-pad can be finicky
* The pace dragged at points
* Pause in looping of music in one area

FINAL SCORE: B

Disclosure: A review code was provided by Penny Arcade. At the time of this review, around 12 hours were played and the main game and bonus dungeon were completed.

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About Aileen Coe