As PAX Prime and East are as much about smaller and Indie games as it is the larger AAA titles, it is fitting that the first public playable reveal for the new On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3 game (OtRSPoD3) was at this year’s PAX East. I had a chance to try out the game and talk to the developers and it left me very excited to see more of this game.
Developed by a three man company called Zeyboyd, it is a classic throwback to the 8-bit and 16-bit era of RPGs, but without all of the flaws that associated with them. It is reminiscent of Super Mario World in its overworld map, Grandia in some of its combat mechanics, and Final Fantasy in it’s overall look and tone, but is still very much a Penny Arcade game.
Robert Boyd from Zeboyd is doing much of the writing, but in speaking to him and Jerry Holkins (Tycho from Penny Arcade) it comes out that they have been very collaborative during the process. Jerry told me that as writing is his constant passion and he has dived into this project with Robert, both editing the text and adding his own dialogue and story elements to the mix. The result is a game that has snappy dialogue, a story that is deeper then you would expect, and item/weapon/monster descriptions that generated many chuckles from me during the demo.
The art and look is handled by Bill Stiernberg and it was interesting discussing the art with him as the characters and monsters are only a few pixels high. The characters of Gabe and Tycho in OtRSPoD3 at least have very distinctive hair and jawlines and that can come across in just a few pixels. Someone like Anne from the game though is a little tough as making her too short makes her seem like a child and too tall by a pixel makes her seem like an adult. With his diligence and attention to detail Bill, was able to pull of the looks of the characters and their distinctive enemies amazingly well in this 16-bit look and feel.
The gameplay is a refreshing mix of old school style and modern day convenience, delivering a game that just seems fun. There are multiple character classes you can progress through and the game does not have random encounters, making this a fun game and not a chore. You can save anywhere in the game, but if you lose a battle you actually start just before it instead of at your save point. The team really wanted to give players an interesting system that is challenging but does not frustrate the players into rage quitting and it seems they have succeeded.
Combat is presented in typical left and right Final Fantasy style, but instead of timed bars dictating actions, the characters go in sequence based on Grandia style. This makes for snappy gameplay (no required waiting), but you can choose to take your time to decide your next action. Each character has special moves as well as standard attacks and sometimes battles have conditions adding to the variety of the scenarios. Items are also handled well, weapons and equipment tell you at a glance if they are better options, and potions double as healing and resurrection if a companion falls. Put it all together and it is a system that remains challenging but fun to play.
Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3 is scheduled to come out in the next few months on PC, Mac, the Xbox Live Indie Games channel, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Android, so basically everything. Zeboyd told me that as PC and Xbox Live Indie Games is the development platform and they will most likely release there first with the other versions to swiftly follow. The game is a refreshing mix of old school look and feel mixed with modern mechanics and I am looking forward to playing the next chapter of Gabe and Tycho’s adventures once it launches.