Upon the falling out between Penny Arcade and Hothead Games, it appeared as though the Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness series would go unfinished. Fortunately, Zeboyd Games, best known for Breath of Death VII and Cthulhu Saves the World have stepped up and revived the series after almost 4 years, with the release of Episode 3.
PAA Episode 3 deviates from the previous two episodes by taking on an art style inspired by classic Super Nintendo titles such as Final Fantasy VI as opposed to Mike Krahulik’s work on the webcomic. Similarly, the player-generated character is nowhere to be found; while it is a bit disappointing that the player is no longer a part of Gabe and Tycho’s struggle against ancient gods (and that the impressive animated cutscenes are likewise a thing of the past due to the art shift), the rest of the game easily makes up for it through new characters, witty and oftentimes silly dialogue, and an even better battle system.
The battle system’s most interesting feature lies in the way MP is handled. In other RPGs, players would simply spam their most powerful abilities from the start, as MP was persistent and could easily be refilled. In PAA Episode 3, however, characters do not start with any MP, as they gain one point per turn. As a result, players can use up their MP on weaker abilities towards the beginning of a battle, or opt to store them up for stronger attacks. The interesting twist is that enemies actually become more powerful as battles drag on, so the longer you wait to unleash powerful attacks, the greater the risk.
The other new system in Episode 3 is the class system, which functions much as one would expect. While the playable characters all have one predefined class (such as Gabe’s “Brute” and Tycho’s “Scholar”), you can either supplement their existing abilities with classes that enable them to do a little of everything or focus on one area of expertise. Through this system, a mage character can equip the “Crabomancer” class to become a defensive juggernaut, averting the stereotypical “glass cannon” wizard sort of character. As only one character can use any given class, players must choose wisely, especially in the latter half of the game.
With only one more installment (as well as a few bits of DLC planned), the changes brought about in PAA Episode 3 have certainly renewed interest in series. For just five dollars, the ten-hour long ride through Gabe and Tycho’s latest adventure is definitely worth it.