The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness

JP asked about my opinion of the new Penny Arcade game, officially known as "Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness". I've finished the game although I'll probably play through it a second time, because I didn't unlock the "bonus comic" which I'd like to see.

It's an action RPG and the combat is grounded in the recent Final Fantasy titles with a dash of new real-time gameplay added. Now, a competent action RPG on the 360 isn't something to sneer at but without the Penny Arcade humor there just wouldn't be enough game here to justify a purchase. The combat action is interesting and it gets a bit frenetic as you're deciding what moves to use next, whether to heal a character or unleash a special attack and all the while timing blocks against enemy moves. So far what I've written could describe Diablo, but there's no random monsters and there's little to no loot. There are inventory items to buff or debuff stats, as well as bandages and a handful of things like oranges (which distract robotic enemies - and if that doesn't make sense then you don't read Penny Arcade ;-) ) as well as explosives. But there's no armor or gear. You can upgrade the weapons of your three characters, but each has a unique weapon and there are two upgrades for each and it's all strictly linear.

There aren't any random encounters and I'm of mixed mind about that. On the one hand the incessant "take two steps and stop to fight a monster" gameplay of a Final Fantasy is usually why I stop playing it (and the other reason is that I get ahead of my character levels because I haven't fought enough random encounters). From that perspective it is refreshing to have each encounter matter. But on the other hand it really makes the role playing element of the RPG seem hyper-shallow. You may thing that's a odd statement to link the RP elements to random encounters but no random encounters means no random loot drops as well, which means there's no glee in finding a better rake then the rake you started with and there's no telling your friends how they need this particular item because it's +3 versus mimes.

OK, so it's a shallow RPG game with an interesting combat mechanic and a fairly limited amount of content. Why is that exciting? The answer is that it really does feel just like the comic. You're fighting mimes (and you learn of the dark god the mimes worship, one who wants to bring silence to the world). You're fighting what amounts to steampunk Fruit Fuckers. You're killing hobos in order to make sure they don't indiscrimately pee on the important "urinology" research of the local scientist. (Which is to say that he pees on things. But he pees scientifically see and that science makes all the difference.) Much of the world has little custom descriptions and many of them are funny. If you're the sort of player who will get a kick out of reading the description of every crab on the boardwalk in order to see every crab joke then you'll enjoy the game. If all you want to do is level up and grab all the phat loot (I've put my time in the Barrens chat channel, I know how the kids talk these days ....) then you're going to find this a fairly thin experience.

All the reviews I've read basically say "If you enjoy reading the comic you'll like the game." and I think that's mostly true. The one exception that I'd make is that if you enjoy the comic and you'd enjoy an action RPG then you'll like the game. I know people who read and enjoy the comic who aren't going to enjoy the actual futzing about picking out attacks and managing their healing items and the like. Perhaps they'd like watching somebody else play it but I do think there's a weird disconnect between the casualness lightweightness of everything except combat and then the hardcore multitasking of the combat system.

The demo lets you play the whole tutorial and by the end of that you should have a good idea whether you'll like the game. If you have a 360 go ahead and check it out.