WARNING: SPOILERS IN THIS POST
Rainslick episodes 1+2 are full-on Penny Arcade games with nice adventure game touches and basic yet servicable rpg combat mechanics, PAA 4 is 95% made up of a thick, impenetrable Zeboyd crust that gets in the way of the Penny Arcade elements, of which there is far too little.
I wish I could have just read the xml file containing the game script.
I played the 1st two games and loved them, because they delivered funny stories, had crisp jokes embedded in clickable objects, and had combat that was simple, mostly entertaining, and never cumbersome. I finished Ep1+2 with 100% completion effortlessly. Mike's art was appreciated as were Jerry's small jokes.
When Ep3 came out, I knew exactly what I was getting into - ie, excerpts of Jerry's text stories with combat segments inserted in between - and so I will skip most of my complaints. I had no problem with the graphics because either 2d or 3d could have communicated the story just as well. However I will point out the Zeboyd elements that stuck out like sore thumbs, a hint of things to come: references to their past games, the furry and gender-swapped stuff, and most of all the shoehorned in 'battle system' explanation.
Never in a billion years could I have imagined that Jerry or Mike would come up with 'class pins' as part of the Rainslick world. It's such a heavy handed way to justify the combat system in Rainslick, it really would have easier to just NOT MENTION IT. Not everything has to be justified in-universe. I cannot name one positive thing the seamstress added to this world, and this smacks too much of amateur game design thinking, inability to properly delineate gameplay and story.
And then there's Ep4.
The combat system
The very first thing that happens in the game is terrible. Just like the class pins above, did we need the Monstorb stuff? We couldn't have just said 'classes' instead of 'captured monsters'? Or just kept using the class pins? Now immediately off the bat there is ANOTHER new incongrous thing added to the Rainslick world. We're off to a great start. Cripes.
I do however appreciate the inclusion of comic strip characters. However, I appreciated them just as much in Ep1+2, as support characters. In short, there was no need for monsters that didn't appear in the strips. I don't care what kind of weird vision there was for a balanced game system or whatever, if they're going to add extraneous elements, no need to go further beyond and throw in like a dozen MORE extraneous things. No one cares about the monstorb! No OTHER one is going to care about the brodent!
I don't know how many times we are expected to play Ep4, but irreversible stat gains at level ups are not appreciated. Yes okay I get the reference to FF6. Can I please go back to undoing mistakes now.
Long story short after about 2 hours I realized I was wasting my life playing the combat, decided to minimize my error and turned it to easy for the rest of the game. If you are a bigger Penny Arcade fan than Zeboyd fan, you should do the same.
Too many standard fantasy RPG towns. Why would those exist in underhell? Are these assets for future RPGs, that for saving time are used in this game as well?
It's weird that there is still a physical world existing after our world ends, in fact it's almost TOO physical with 3 pillars holding up an island.
But then I do love the part where our world is already hell. That's a good touch, massive kudos to whoever came up with that, Jerry or Zeboyd.
The characters + NPCs
Everyone tries too hard to be funny.
There are essentially two people in the entire game. Person #1 is male and talk too much about wanting to kill stuff. Person #2 is sarcastic strong willed female. Moira, Hestia, even the Seamstress might as well all be the same person, because they have the exact same personality.
All the NPCs break the 4th wall.
Tycho is the main character of the series. In Ep4 he shows up only in like 4 scenes. That is unforgiveable.
In the Ep3 stories, his emotions take center stage. His struggle to both end the world and to create a better one, his being torn about his father's early absence and later reconciliation, make up the core of the narrative.
That is to say, a good Ep4 game would help you feel what Tycho is feeling. NOT watch him swoop in, doing something cool, then swoop out. A good Ep4 game wouldn't kill off his dad in the first scene you meet him. at bare minimum he would interact with his son. Come on! seriously. How could anyone read the Ep3 stories, and decide that this was a good treatment for Tycho? Which brings us to
About the only good thing Ep4 can said to have done, is to conclude the series. Not a good conclusion, but one all the same.
Many penny arcade fans have already speculated that the narrator is 1) a voice in Tycho's head and/or 2) the last god. It's kind of nifty that this proved the case, but we are never told just how this was done through the entirety of the Brahe bloodline.
That the last god was also a giant physical floating island is kind of silly.
Some transition between ideas would have been nice, especially at the end:
- How did we get to the periphery again?
- Why did Tycho replace bits of himself with other bits?
- How did the 4th god get inside him?
- What did the necrowombicon have to do with all this?
- What did the Rake Guy have to do with this again, why leave him alive if he's sent by the 4th god?
- you're seriously telling me Tycho and Gabe's interaction is summed up by 1 line in his dying breath?
I hope Jerry writes prose stories for Ep4, because the game is not enough. I feel that all Zeboyd got was an outline, because it shows.
Other unanswered questions include:
- so what actually happens to wives of Brahes?
- did they create the underhell or something? how was this deal worked out?
- Anne Claire's line is a cliche 'let there be light' and I groaned out loud. I hope Jerry didn't write that.
+ made me long for the ep4 story in prose form by Jerry Holkins
+ 3 good music pieces (title, boss fight, tycho fight)
+ is the 4th game in the Rainslick series
+ many interesting concepts that were under-explored
- made me long for the ep4 story in prose form by Jerry Holkins
- too many standard fantasy RPG elements
- aside from the 3 tracks above, completely forgettable music
- terrible humor
- gameplay stands between you and the story
- is really just a Zeboyd RPG with a few Penny Arcade bits thrown in. Did you LOVE Cthulhu saves the world and Breath of Death? I mean REALLY REALLY loved those games? You're in luck. Do you like Penny Arcade? I've got bad news.
In closing, don't buy this game, and don't buy Ep3. Just watch the let's plays, skip all the combat scenes, and just read the cutscenes. Do yourself a favor and tweet, email, ask Jerry to write prose versions of the Ep4 story. I will never know the true story behind why Ep3 and Ep4 were made, since the Ep3 stories were some of Jerry's best work, but I can tell you right now that his vision was not serviced by having the series dripped to us after passing through a giant unsightly layer of 2 ultra combat-heavy games.