Punishing: Gray Raven Review – Satisfying Sci-Fi Gacha Combat
Punishing: Gray Raven is a consistently good sci-fi action experience with satisfying combat and more than a little NieR: Automata inspiration.
The release of Genshin Impact last year pushed the potential of mobile gaming forward leaps and bounds, offering an experience that remained compelling across console, PC, and mobile devices. While Punishing: Gray Raven from developer Kuro Game is an Android-only mobile experience at launch, it follows up on the quickly expanding possibilities of its platform with a consistently good sci-fi action experience that draws more than a little inspiration from NieR: Automata.
Punishing: Gray Raven sees players inhabit the role of a Commandant, a human in charge of android-like Constructs. The Commandant leads an elite squad of human resistance called Gray Raven that seeks to reclaim Earth after it was overrun by the Corrupted, machines that have fallen victim to a deadly Punishing Virus that pushes them to seek out the eradication of humankind. Its story, which sees it attempt to tackle questions regarding what separates machines from humanity and the importance of memories, is heavily reminiscent of NieR: Automata, though the latter’s narrative beats remain significantly stronger.
It’s within the story that Punishing: Gray Raven also sees its first stumble. The game’s localization is a little hit or miss, with some grammatical errors scattered throughout most of the dialog chapters. It’s nothing too egregious, but it certainly lacks some of the polish that other titles like Arknights and Honkai Impact 3rd have. The game’s UI will be exceedingly familiar to those who have played Arknights, too, right down to some of the system layouts and the organizational methods for different gameplay mechanics.
Luckily, the story is still solid, and it’s not the game’s main selling point. Punishing: Gray Raven boasts some truly fun combat, with a slew of customization options available to further refine the experience to meet a given player’s needs. Combat sees players field their team of Constructs against various missions involving Corrupted enemies. Some characters have melee skillsets, while others have ranged, and the ability to hot-swap between them in the field means teams sent into a hostile environment that makes melee difficult won’t be dead in the water.
The game’s combat offers players a series of different skills they can tap during combat after generating points towards them through regular attacks. Mixing and matching these abilities offers a variety of different decision trees, ultimately culminating in powerful finisher moves – complete with cool anime-inspired cutscenes – that dramatically alter the course of a fight. It’s a simple system, but the combat is also exceedingly smooth, with the action-RPG freneticism nicely translated onto mobile.
Effectively combining characters is satisfying, and the ability to equip them with weapons and other gear that further boosts synergies and stats makes the game feel like there’s a lot of potential in its team building mechanics. It is important to note, however, that Punishing: Gray Raven is a gacha game in the truest sense of the genre, with potentially powerful characters locked behind an RNG system that sees players feeding in-game currency into banners with the hopes of acquiring a new hero.
That being said, the Punishing: Gray Raven gacha system has a failsafe that some popular titles like Fate/Grand Order do not: a pity system. For those unfamiliar, a pity system means players can only spend so much in-game currency and fail to roll the character they desire before the game automatically gives it to them. At launch, it’s neither overly forgiving or stingy, feeling a lot more like the gacha system from Genshin Impact than anything else.
The best point of comparison for the game is actually Honkai Impact 3rd, which features similar action. Truthfully, Punishing: Gray Raven can feel like a bizarre amalgamation of a lot of successful titles: Honkai Impact 3rd, NieR: Automata, Arknights, and more. It’s own identity is as a good-to-great science fiction adventure that features a silky smooth combat system on mobile that makes tapping feel as effective as holding a controller.
That’s an achievement in its own right, however. While live service and gacha games tend to suffer from uncertain futures given their dependency on player interest, at launch it appears Kuro Game has provided Punishing: Gray Raven with the best chance possible to stick on a platform that’s suddenly flush with captivating experiences demanding players’ time.
Next: Scarlet Nexus Review: A Superpowered Action RPG
Punishing: Gray Raven is available globally on Android today, July 16, 2021. Screen Rant was provided with an early access .apk file and some premium in-game currency for the purpose of this review.
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