Indie Review: Penny Arcade 3
Penny Arcade Adventures: On The Rain-Slick Precipice Of Darkness: Episode 3 (yes that is its full name) was a long time in the making. At least, a long time as far as fans were concerned. Now that it's finally out, was it worth the wait?
- Worth The Time?If you're a fan of classic RPGs, then yes.
- Things LovedThe humour, the traditional design, the hilarious classes, the interesting and varied levels.
- Things HatedCombat balancing isn't quite there, can get a bit convoluted at times, you miss a lot of references if you don't read the webcomic, kind of eclectic.
- RecommendationIf you're a fan of Penny Arcade or you love old-school RPGs then really for this price, you will get no better.
- Quick ConclusionPenny Arcade 3 is a different beast to the previous two titles, but what changes it has undergone have been mostly for the better and the charm and grace with which everything is carried out makes it very difficult to hate.
- Name: Penny Arcade Adventures: On The Rain-Slick Precipice Of Darkness: Episode 3
- Genre: Indie RPG
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: None
- Platforms: Xbox 360, PC, Mac, iOS, Android
- Developer: Zeboyd Games
- Publisher: Penny Arcade
- Price: 400 MSP
- Reviewed On: Xbox 360
The Penny Arcade Adventures games started off in 2008 when episodic content was all the rage and people still believed that Half-Life 2: Episode Three was a thing, and how far we’ve come since then.
Indeed after releasing the first two episodes of this independently-developed gaming series based off the Penny Arcade webcomic, when episodic content began to die down and only Telltale Games still really soldiered on, hopes were dashed when the Penny Arcade website announced that Hothead Games would not be making the third game, effectively cancelling it, back in 2010.
Fast forward to late 2011 when the website announced that development had been taken up by Zeboyd Games, who were taking the series in an entirely new direction, and it certainly shows in the final release.
The first and most noticeable change from the previous titles in the series is that of the visuals. Gone are the 3D-on-2D animated visuals which I quite enjoyed, replaced with a more retro, more old-school 16-bit visual design, with music to compliment this change and even a combat style that is reminiscent of games you’ve played before, long ago.
Make no mistake, Penny Arcade 3 is that most classic of RPG formulas, with a serious focus on tactical, turn-based combat and an anything-but-serious focus on storytelling and tongue-in-cheek humour. The game is hilarious when it needs to be, without sacrificing any of that old RPG style in the combat and exploration sections.
Another change from the previous games involves the lack of a created player character, this time giving you control of the starring characters straight away, whom you might know from the Penny Arcade webcomics — and really if you don’t, what are you doing playing this game? Voice-overs have also been completely removed, favouring a more traditional streaming text approach.
Although the visuals, sounds and some gameplay aspects have been given an overhaul, as the title remains — and it’s a bloody long title at that — so too does the story, following on from the previous episodes, which sees Gabe and Tycho (the stars of the series, each interesting enough on their own) in their apartment, fresh off their acquisition of the necrowombicon, receiving a phone call containing ten minutes of silence.
Deciding that it can only mean one thing; mimes, they set out to explore the last place from the previous episode to look for more clues as to why a mime would try calling them, or even just making a phone call in the first place.
From there the story gets a bit more involved with the introduction of new characters as well as the re-introduction of characters from previous episodes, as Gabe and Tycho go on their next adventure. In truth it can get a bit convoluted at times and you will spend quite a while wondering just why any of this is going on and what the fuck it has to do with this duo.
Still, it’s a hilarious adventure that never holds back on the humour and more often than not, I found myself chuckling along, eager to read what Tycho or Gabe has to say next; or indeed what any of the other well-imagined characters have to say in their interactions with the leads. Whether it’s some higher-class deadpan, intricate wordplay or just plain immature innuendo, it works well to keep you the player entertained all throughout.
Between the exploration segments, combat is interspersed involving some of the most interesting and downright bizarre enemies you will ever find in a game of this nature. For the most part it’s turn-based, with a time-oriented sequence shown above the battlefield, which itself looks very much like an early version of Final Fantasy. You may opt to attack as normal, use a power, use an item or defend, the latter which increases resistance and speed for a turn.
There are some really interesting and funny classes that throw balancing out the window and opt more for humour and hilarity instead. Such classes include the Scholar, a play on typical mage classes, with their ultimate attack being the Master’s Thesis. There’s also the Slacker class which has powers that… well, do as the class might imply. You unlock these early enough that you can play around with and sample each before settling on one.
In all I found the combat segments well able to sate the desire of the turn-based RPG fan in me to have engaging, tactical combat that led to me using my brains in order to win. Further, I then got thrown mass amounts of witty satire and humour through my exploration of the world and interaction with characters. It was a treat to play this game, and I would recommend it to anyone who fancies comedy in their games, old-school RPG styling, or just misses their SNES and wants some reminding of what it was like back then.
I would have liked some achievements, but I guess that’s asking a bit much of a game not really meant for that sort of thing. Still, it’s quite something when you consider that this series of games is based on a name that started out life as a humble website featuring a daily comic. Look how far they’ve come…
One final thought, I’m not sure about you guys but I quite enjoyed the previous Penny Arcade titles for their visuals so the move away from that made me sad at first, but for some reason I still cannot quite understand, as I played through the many-hours-long Penny Arcade 3 story, I started to enjoy the visuals more and more. So yeah, for what that’s worth.
Penny Arcade 3 is a great title and I would recommend it wholeheartedly, as someone who has played every RPG this year. Get the trial if you’re still unsure, but do try it out. It deserves that much, at least.