Physicist's revenge

This was the moment Peter Higgs has been waiting 45 years for. This was the moment scientists from the Large Hadron Collider’s ATLAS experiment, at CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research) confirmed that they had found a Higgs Boson like particle and have confirmed the finding to 5σ significance (I’ll come back to this in a bit).

Okay, this all well and good, but what does it mean and why should you care?

Well, I can’t answer that. I can tell you why Physicists care and you can fucking well decide for yourself whether you care or not!


Now, the first question you’re asking is “Why am I reading this blog?”, the second question is probably “what is a Higgs Boson exactly?”. Excellent question hypothetical reader!

In a nutshell it’s the holy grail of particle physics. It’s something that has been sought after for the past 45…

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Should I Buy? – Penny Arcade On The Rainslick Precipice Of Darkness Episode 3

Which, to save me from typing out that mammoth title every time, shall henceforth be referred to as Rainslick 3. The history of this series is a little troubled, the first two being fully 3D hughly linear riffs on JRPGs, Cthulhu mythos style apocalyptia and Penny Arcade’s trademark humour. Though the first one did reasonable business, the second game (despite being superior) only sold half as well and the series was shelved for several years until a deal was struck with Cthulhu Saves The World dev Zeboyd Games. Zeboyd signed on to complete the quadrilogy, their own irreverent humour and use of antiquated JRPG mechanics nicely  matching Rainslick’s.

So how’d it do? Well, for the most part. Obviously there’s been a severe graphical downgrade which unfortunately a lot of Penny Arcade’s signature art that made the first two episodes look so great is missing. Luckily though, Rainslick 3 trawls through the Penny Arcade backlog to deliver a host of familiar creatures like the Broodax and the Deep Crows.

The music, while also a departure from the previous episodes, is enjoyable though not exactly memorable stuff that’d sound right at home in any given 8 or 16 bit JRPG.

Character customisation is obviously gone, in its place is an entirely new combat system with four party members. See, each character has an innate Class, like Brute or Scholar, and characters can equip Class Pins to gain additional classes like Hobo or Tube Samurai which level up and learn new skills just like the innate ones, with the bonus of being switched between the team for different strategies.

I gotta say, some of the class pins are downright worthless. Whether its a lack of skills or just downright terrible skills some will simply not be useful whereas others like the Hobo and the Elemenstor are more useful than some innate Classes.

Items are also pretty useless, though only at lower difficulty levels. At high level play the additional stat boosts and other such effects become much more useful as battles become more protracted.

It also uses the full restore after every battle shtick to both streamline play and to promote the use of as much power as you can muster in each fight, fitting the surprisingly fast pace of the battle system. See, MP starts at zero and you get one point each turn, so you have to play strategic and think ahead. Luckily most techs fall between one or two MP, but anything beyond that won’t see frequent use.

It also has a unique time mechanic that, while a little tricky to get used to, adds another layer of strategic depth to the title. See, when nobody’s doing anything all the icons representing characters and enemies move along the bar at the top of the screen and when they reach the ‘CMD’ section, you get to input the command which won’t come into play until it reaches the end of the bar. But if you use an attack with the Interrupt property on an enemy who’s between CMD and END, they’re sent waaaaaaay back along the bar. Newcomer Moira gets cheap techs that do just this and if effectively used, make boss battles laughably easy as they struggle to get a single turn in.

The secondary Classes are an eclectic mix. The Hobo is a hard hitting bruiser with a powerful poison type effect in the “Hoboism” disease that works so well when given to Gabe, but at the other end of the scale you have classes like the Masochist and the Diva which have weird, weak effects and undesirable side effects. You’re likely to find one good combination and stick with it the whole way.

All in all, combat works really well. It’s more forgiving and a little more laid back than Zeboyd’s previous games, and the difficulty that you can adjust on the fly will allow you to find the challenge sweetspot.

Which is great news, because this game basically is dungeon crawling. Sure, there’s a world map with some shops and such but dungeons are everywhere, to the point where one dungeon has two more inside it.

This is a shame in some ways, as we miss out on a lot of the dialogue the previous games revelled in. It’s still sharp and witty, but most of it is loaded onto the front of the game and the plot seems stretched pretty thin over the game’s many dungeons. Penny Arcade’s great writing is there, there’s just not enough of it.

Despite being plentiful, the dungeons are pretty small and bare. What Zeboyd can do with combat, they do not match in area design. It’s way more a series of rapid fire gags than a string of impressive set-pieces. Well, so long as you’re not in one of the dungeons with a plethora of damn durable monsters, in which case it’s a slow gag that you will just want to end.

I’m not entirely sure where it is that the narrative elements fail to come together. Perhaps its that the villain doesn’t get enough screen time? Or that the game doesn’t explain its plot as well as the previous entries? That the previous two were much more focused in design and location and subsequently much more narratively focused? Probably some combination of the above.

The expansion on the hinted at Brahe family history is interesting, if a little mishandled. Also Gabe, whose childlike enthusiasm and simple-mindedness are somehow even funnier than Tycho’s caustic wit and misanthropy in these games, gets a dramatically reduced line count as the game progressed. Tycho’s ex-wife Moira holds promise but her relatoinship with Tycho is never followed through and she fails to really leave an impression.

But the game is a blast to play for fans of old school JRPGs, easily eight hours long (the length of most single player campaigns in AAA titles these days) and great value for the ridiculously low price they’re asking for it. Seriously, you could buy this game with pocket change…If the pocket change were actually in your bank account cause you have to buy it digitally…

Anyway, I totally recommend this as a fun distraction to while away a couple of afternoons or one dedicated day.

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