Almost a year after the release of the third game in the downloadable role-playing series based on the popular webcomic Penny Arcade, developer Zeboyd Games, which took the reins from original developer Hothead and revamped the polygonal series into a 16-bit-styled throwback, is wrapping up the series with Penny Arcade’s On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 4. The game is definitely larger in terms of scope, but not necessarily in the way I was hoping. It’s even more reliant on long sessions of fighting than before, and the result is a game that, while still excellent from a writing and presentation standpoint, isn’t as much fun to play as previous entries.
The story picks up right where the previous game left off, with protagonists Tycho and Gabe’s world thrown into hellish chaos and the main group of protagonists separated. Gabe finds himself in an uneasy alliance with former antagonist Dr. Blood, while Tycho’s ex-wife Moira and their undead buddy Jim wind up in parts unknown. Gradually, a plan laid out by the now-missing Tycho to restore balance to the universe is revealed, and the two pairs set out to make things right.
As with previous games in the series, the dialog, delivered entirely through text and character portraits, is very well-written and humorous. Characters are able to show a lot of personality through the lines written for them, and while the actual story is hardly what I would call gripping, I did always want to see what entertaining conversations would pop up next. The game also isn’t afraid to be unapologetically bizarre at points, too, but I mean that in a good way. When an antagonistic trio similar to Team Rocket showed up, complete with a fully vocalized theme song playing in the background during my fight against them, I couldn’t help but laugh out of sheer bewilderment.
Traversing the world is slightly less linear than the previous game. While the third entry restricted you to a map with specific paths and points to travel to, this provides a more expansive and less on-rails overworld, akin to older titles like the Super Nintendo and PS1 Final Fantasy games. While the paths you can take are still fairly straightforward, you’ll be able to find hidden nooks and crannies from time to time with secret goodies awaiting you.
The turn-based battle system, while largely similar to its predecessor, has received some overhauls in certain areas. The main change here is the fact that instead of having the main protagonists directly fight, they recruit various creatures they discover and have them fight Pokemon style. The actual battle system is generally unchanged, which I do consider a good thing, as its system of regenerating items and health after each battle was a welcome change of pace in the previous title, compared to the finite amounts that most other RPGs deliver.
I will admit that I missed seeing Tycho, Gabe, and the rest directly involved in the action, but I think this is more of a personal gripe than anything else, and probably won’t bother many others. Even the class-changing system from before is worked back in, with the cosmetic change of switching between the protagonists as trainers to learn different moves and upgrade different stats between battles.
The environments, while certainly retro and Super Nintendo-esque in presentation, still have a lot of charm, and more detail and variety compared to the previous game. The soundtrack also has more variety, with a guitar-heavy main battle theme and more atmospheric songs for the overworld and each location. Zeboyd has championed the game as their biggest, most robust title yet, and those claims were completely valid.
The downside is that my main problem with the previous game felt even worse this time around, and that is the element of repetition. I found myself spending what felt like far too much time engaging in battles with similar enemies over and over, and while there is certainly an element of genuine strategy to it all, it still becomes a chore the more you play. Actual dialog and story events feel more spaced out and infrequent, and the fact that the characters are split up for a significant portion of the game means less funny instances of their personalities bouncing off each other.
I didn’t expect it, and I certainly wasn’t hoping for it, but there are many sections of the game that just feel like a chore to play because of their sheer monotony. As mentioned before, the actual gameplay mechanics are solid, and when the story decides to show its face, you’ll get some laughs, but dungeons feel much more drawn out than before, for what feels like the sole purpose of making a longer game. Yet, considering the game costs only $5, it wouldn’t feel like that big of a loss to have a more compact experience, especially if the game’s true qualities showed themselves more frequently as a result.
On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 4 is a decent game overall, but I have to say I actually preferred its predecessor, for the reasons mentioned above. If you couldn’t get enough of the gameplay in the last game, you’re going to be very pleased with the increased length of the journey this time around, but personally, I was a bit let down. For such a low price, it would be wrong to say you won’t get your money’s worth, but Tycho and Gabe have had better adventures.
This review is based on a PC copy of the game that was provided to us.