Title: Punishing Gray Raven
Developer: Kuro Games
Release Date: July 16, 2021
Reviewed On: iOS
Publisher: Kuro Games
Genre: Gacha Action RPG
Gacha games have improved significantly over the years in terms of quality. Companies push themselves to meet that demand, and while sometimes it fells in the design, Kuro Games’ Punishing Gray Raven seems to be doing it right. The in-game systems carry a significant familiarity to them if you’re an avid mobile player, but a few features make it extremely tough to put down.
Punishing Gray Raven presents the Earth in ruins and mankind close to extinction. Earth has been overrun by a robotic army—the Corrupted—twisted and warped by a biomechanical virus known as The Punishing. With the remaining survivors on a spaceship called Babylonia, they’ve developed their own army of cyborgs to take back earth. What’s messed up is that most cyborgs were once human and joined the military (at least in what’s been explained in the story so far).
You follow the story of the Gray Raven team, led by Lucia, a battle-hardened cyborg with her own clouded past that she’ll slowly uncover over the course of her missions. We’ve seen the plotline of the planet being destroyed before, but Punishing Gray Raven does an excellent job of developing the story around the main squad of Lucia, Lee, and Liv.
Side stories of each character further detail how the war has impacted them and shaped who they are. There’s also some light-hearted aspect of these side stories, but I’ve never been so attached to B-level characters enough for me to level them up so witness their resolve. There are also missions where equipped items that provide stat boosts known as memories get their own little side story showcasing their role in the war.
Dystopian cyberpunk themes have been done before, but the way Punishing Gray Raven presents its world can get you fully invested thanks to its great writing and character interactions. Lucia displays a lot of the typical main squad leader archetypes you see in these kinds of games/anime, but yet she feels more relatable since she early on exhibits she isn’t some cold-hearted soldier.
Stages are kept short where players fight through a few waves of enemies and the occasional boss. The action RPG systems offer basic attacks, a dodge, and different colored-coded abilities that depend on the unit class, which can be switched in battle. The abilities mix up how you approach a fight.
During a fight, you’ll notice abilities appear on the screen at random. When two of the same color-coded abilities are next to each other, it’ll increase its power. At the same time, three or more increases the attack further and activates a QTE to bring in a teammate of that color code to fight with you for a brief moment. The abilities a distinct level of interaction and strategy to the fights that makes them engaging.
Dodging enemy attacks at the right moment brings up a slow-motion state where you can smash up your foes. Sure it’s nothing groundbreaking, but it’s responsive and fun to execute. The controls don’t hold back the smooth animation of the on-screen action. Luckily, there are options to change the control scheme since the default layout doesn’t work too well.
Punishing Gray Raven seemed to have been a victim of review bombed after issues surrounding launch rewards. And unfortunately, it worked with the developer creating a dev blog addressing energy usage issues during an early event, pricing of in-game currency packages, and novice awards.
While the energy issues definitely were a problem for people playing a normal amount per day, the pricing and rewards controversy doesn’t stick, considering this is a free-to-play game. At the start of the game, you get access to pick one S rank unit. Each character has unique stats, but you can pick the S-Rank Kamui, who’s considered the most powerful even in different regions as he can blow throw quite a lot of the campaign thanks to his mixture of high damage and tankiness.
The game gives you an overpowered character from the start, so there was never a reason to argue pay-to-win issues. Even if you’re slightly “underpowered” to complete a level, you honestly don’t have to worry about completely failing a mission unless you’re more than 1000 battle power below the recommended amount. Even then, the game gives you plenty of opportunities to earn the right materials to level up your characters, weapons, and memory equips. I understand that their monthly pack was slightly off what it normally is in other regions, but you don’t need to buy it. I’m a firm believer in paying for some things in free-to-play games if you enjoy them, but you don’t have to.
Punishing Gray Raven joins the pantheon of high-quality gacha greats where only so few reside. Following a rocky launch, this game offers intense action gameplay, deep customization, great characters, and highly detailed designs wrapped in a decent free-to-play model. Even though the game doesn’t break ground in the genre, every feature creates a great mobile experience. I feel communication on future events is key to the survival of this western version, but everything I’ve played so far has me hooked.
This post may contain Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate Noisy Pixel earns from qualifying purchases.