Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 4

Post-Launch Review
Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 4 (PC)
Developer: Zeboyd Games
Released: June 7 2013
Played: complete in 7h:54min


The world has been destroyed but Tycho's planned apocalypse has failed. Gabe, Tycho, Moira, Jim, and Dr. Blood find themselves hurled into Underhell, the last bastion of existence propped up by the sole remaining god. Tycho is determined to finish his plan, accompanied reluctantly by his few friends and allies.

At Launch

Episode 4 received average review scores of 70%. Many reviewers called it a worthy conclusion to an enjoyable series, and praised Zeboyd's turn-based battle system. Some critics found the story confusing without enough recap of the previous games.

Post Launch

A few bugfix patches were released, most notably resolving some fairly major crash issues. Unlike Precipice of Darkness 3, no additional content was added.

In my last review I noted that Precipice of Darkness 3 felt a little formulaic and repetitive after having played Zeboyd's other games. Fortunately, 4 aims to mix things up right off the bat. Not drastically, but enough to feel a little different.

In Underhell, monsters are far tougher than our characters are used to, so they must capture and train Underhell creatures using a Monstorb - so there's a bit of a Pokémon vibe going on. You can choose which trainer is attached to each monster, which determines the monster's secondary abilities and level up bonuses. You'll want to experiment with different combinations to grow your monsters and benefit from trainer passive abilities, but you can swap at any time. This training feature, coupled with a reduction in combat options, adds a new layer of strategy while cutting down on the option overload. You don't have ten combat abilities per class for three classes - this time at max level you have five or six combat abilities from each of two classes, with passive abilities making up the difference.

The new overworld map makes the game feel less like a series of corridors even though it actually changes very little. It's a trick of perception - there are a few optional areas, but for the most part the game is just as linear as the last one. It took me a while to notice, though, so points for that. And the map looks pretty cool too.

Visuals and music are more distinctive and unique this time around. Environments that might normally be cliche (like lava world and desert world) are made weird enough that they're still interesting. And then of course there are some more unique areas like the ice cream caverns and the world tree zoo. Many of the audio tracks have more memorable melodies and more interesting sounds - enough for me to be writing about it this time, where last review it was more like "I guess it did have music".

I had fewer laugh-out-loud moments in 4 than I did in 3. I guess the subject matter - killing the last remaining god to destroy the universe and create a new one - is a bit less conducive to comedy than the more typical (but still weird) adventures in the previous games. But slightly less funny doesn't mean worse because the writing is still great. Tycho becomes an NPC this time around, acting more directly to fulfill his plans, and that's OK because it allows him to finally become as mysterious and badass as he's tried to appear all along.

Precipice of Darkness 4 provides a mostly satisfying conclusion to the series. I was a little disappointed that I didn't get to see end result of Tycho's work, but on the other hand, it would've been pretty hard to depict in just a few minutes. Anyway, if you enjoyed 3 you'll definitely enjoy 4. Though the opposite is also true - if you didn't enjoy 3 you'll feel the same about 4.

Recommendation: play it if you're a fan of the series.

(but not before the other games because you'll be really confused)

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