doctorsage's Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness - Episode 3 (Xbox 360 Games Store) review

It's a good thing a game this wordy has excellent writing

Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3 is a game that doesn’t skimp on the writing. Dialogue is abundant, the monsters you’ll be fighting have their own bits of flavor text, you’ll never be left wanting for dialogue, weapons have individual descriptions, sometimes after fights characters will chat about what they just fought, and there’s quite a bit of dialogue. I suppose it’s a good thing that the writing, presumably all done by Penny Arcade’s head scribe Jerry Holkins, is actually quite fantastic. The game does a good job of building a world that I want to know more about, and the aforementioned sea of text is a delight to read. New players shouldn’t feel too lost; by the time it was over, every question I had was answered by a series of plot twists in the game’s final hour.

There are also some fun setpieces, like a level that pays homage to very early Final Fantasy, or a Star Trek/Alien level. It was nice to take a break from the streets of New Arcadia and chuckle as Gabe and Tycho discuss the cliché of random encounters. Since the game is essentially an extended homage to the JRPGS of old, the gameplay isn’t especially deep, but has some nice twists all the same. The characters that form your party for the majority of the game all have a set class that can’t be switched out, but once you get far enough in the story, you unlock more classes in the form of ‘class pins’. Initially, each character can equip one additional class, but once you find the second group of pins, you can have up to 3 classes on one character.

The odd thing about the battle system is that it doesn’t really feel like the developers want you to play the game like a traditional RPG. Items and health regenerate between battles, MP doesn’t carry over, and there are no random encounters. It’s almost like Rain-Slick 3 wants you to approach battles like a puzzle. A bar at the top of the screen shows when each character will take commands and then execute their commands, which allows you to plan ahead, and a lack of cooldowns allows you to actually make those plans. I focused on having my necromancer summon a skeleton every turn to deal consistent damage, while the other characters buffed stats so their stat-based attacks would plow through the late-game enemies. That took me through most of the game on ‘Easy’, and I’m willing to bet you’ll find something that works pretty early on. Sometimes it feels like a few crucial attacks need too much MP, but there are ways around that with held items and consumables. It’s not the most exciting combat system ever devised, but I had fun with it. As for difficulty, I wish there was a level between the ‘Easy’ and ‘Normal’ settings. Some around when I entered the bank, I found the ‘Normal’ enemies fairly challenging, so I switched over to ‘Easy’. From then on, combat was no longer a problem. You should consider this when picking a difficulty, but if you want to switch mid-game, it’s not a problem and can be done in about five seconds from the in-game menu.

Rain-Slick 3 is one of those odd games that went on just a little too long for my tastes. I experienced a tough “final” boss fight after a great plot moment and was ready for the credits to roll…but the game kept going for another twenty or so minutes. I killed a few standard goons and then had another, significantly easier, boss fight. Maybe skipping the goon combat sequences would’ve helped the flow, but there’s still a very small pacing issue here. Still, a mediocre twenty minutes isn’t enough to prevent me from liking this game. Recommending this game would be easy even if it cost more, but the asking price must be factored into the final review. On the ‘Easy’ difficulty, it took me about 5 or so hours to complete the game. I hear from a lot of people that game critics don’t take price into account, so let me get this across as clear as possible. At the time of writing, you can get this game for a mere $5 on Steam and Xbox Indie Games. Five dollars is pocket change for most gamers. That’s $1 per hour, not to mention replay value on the other difficulties. It’s a decent RPG with some welcome bare-bones combat at its core, but Rain-Slick 3 stands out with some of the best game writing I’ve read in ages. Even if good writing isn’t what you look for in a game, the streamlined combat elements should be enough to entice you. And remember: it costs five dollars.
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