Like its older episodic siblings, Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3 is not an RPG you play strictly for its gameplay or story even. While the stories are always interesting, the Penny Arcade games have been mostly memorable for their wit and clever parody of RPG tropes. Though Rain-Slick 3‘s development changed hands from Hothead Games to Zeboyd Games, developers of Breath of Death VII and Cthulhu Saves the World, it’s still the writing and irreverent humor that carry the experience.
Like Hothead’s previous work, Rain-Slick 3 is what I like to refer to as a diet-JRPG. Other than combat, which there is a lot of, there isn’t a whole lot else to do. Where previous episodes sprinkled in some lite adventure mechanics between prolonged stretches of dungeon crawling, Rain Slick 3 doesn’t have anything to break up the veritable slog of combat – save for story exposition. One dungeon may trade the derelict streets of the iconic Hobo Alley for that of a high-fantasy game, but little is done throughout the entire game to alter the progression loop of fight enemies, proceed down corridor, then fight the next batch of enemies.
Now combat isn’t necessarily a bad thing and many old school role-players have relied heavily on combat to great success. However, Rain-Slick 3‘s combat issues are two-fold; it happens far too often, and it generally requires very little thought. Rather than revive the Super Mario RPG timed button presses of Episode 1 and 2, Zeboyd has borrowed the wonderful combat system of Game Arts’ Grandia series, but in the process, largely forgot what made that system sing. In Grandia both enemy and party actions can be interrupted with specific attacks, sending each back to the beginning of the action bar. The appeal of Grandia’s combat is using your team in a manner that minimizes not only the damage the enemies inflict, but also the amount of attacks they even execute, thanks to a constant stream of interruptions. On paper, Rain-Slick 3‘s combat works in exactly the same manner; in practice, the system falls completely apart due to Rain-Slick 3‘s RPG-lite mechanics.
On default difficulty there is absolutely no risk in trading attacks with opponents. Since the majority of encounters in Rain-Slick 3 are unavoidable, your characters will always be adequately leveled, which means no need for grinding, but conversely means you’ll never be in much danger – boss fights withstanding. While Grandia games were never particularly difficult either (they’re pretty damn easy actually), it was always in your interest to interrupt enemies to conserve one’s resources. Here, after every fight HP and items are fully replenished, leaving no reason to play conservatively. Zeboyd attempts to balance this by the enemy’s attack power increasing steadily as fights wear on, but it’s too little, too late.
Despite the lackluster combat, New Arcadia remains a memorable destination for famished JRPG enthusiasts looking for some nourishment. The wacky class system (Dinosorceror!), sharp writing and deranged enemy designs all combine to create an eclectic fiction worth revisiting, just not all that cautiously.
Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3 was developed by Zeboyd Games. This review is based on the PC version, which is available now on Steam for $5.