When the world has been destroyed and everything that existed hangs in the balance, and the only people that can save it are Tycho and Gabe… Well, let’s just say it’s best if you make yourself comfortable with the notion of not existing. In Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 4, we again join our, quite frankly inept, heroes as they attempt to save the universe from the destruction they accidently wrought. Much of Episode 4 is similar to Episode 3; the retro style is back in full-force, classic JRPG combat makes a return, and the occasionally great writing and humor is on display. But, there’s something about the journey this time around that’s all-together less compelling than its predecessor.
Upon starting Penny Arcade Episode 4, it’s immediately apparent that there are nearly no differences between this new entry and the one that came before it, as far as presentation goes. The art style, music, menu UI and nearly everything in-between are seemingly identical. The only real change comes in how the party system works in battle. For reasons that I, and the game itself for that matter, can’t quite explain, the battle system in Episode 4 is more akin to a Pokémon game than anything else. Throughout the adventure you’ll happen upon various monsters, and occasionally, after you’ve defeated them, they’ll join your party, which is comprised entirely of such creatures. In Episode 3, the party consisted of various characters that were integral to the story, which was helpful in creating a connection between the player, those characters, and the story. This time, the uninspired monsters serve to create no such connection, and the explanation for why this must be is flimsy at best. The actual combat is identical to that of Episode 3, but not quite as enjoyable at the same time, due to these changes.
Whereas Penny Arcade Episode 3 held my interest and kept me mostly entertained throughout its duration, halfway through Episode 4 I was ready for this particular series to reach its conclusion. It isn’t a bad game, just a bit tired. The occasionally great writing and humor just weren’t strong enough on their own to carry this journey. The alterations made to the battle system, a nice change of pace in theory, served only to detract from my being able to care about what was happening. Had it remained as it was in Episode 3, it would have retained a much needed and helpful connection between the player and the story’s characters. As it is, there’s no real sense that Gabe, Tycho, or any of their companions are even present. That’s a particularly harmful problem for a series that relies so heavily on the humor and banter of its main characters as a focal point for what makes it worthwhile.
There is a bit of fun to be had in On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 4, and the charm present in Episode 3 can occasionally be seen, but the majority of the time it’s far harder to find than it reasonably should be.