This actually launched at the tail end of last week, but not in time for last week’s round-up, which put it in official contention for Game of the Week with this week’s batch of new releases. And, well, let’s just say that after finally getting my hands on it and spending the entire last week playing it, I can see why Kuro Game’s Punishing: Gray Raven has been such a sensation in other parts of the world and why it was so highly anticipated to release in the US this week.
There’s been a general buzz about Punishing: Gray Raven for some time now, and I’ve heard it described as “a cyberpunk version of miHoYo’s Genshin Impact” which is the type of back-of-the-box bullet point that had me sold. However, that’s not really the case at all. There are certainly similarities, but I feel like Genshin Impact is defined by its massive open world, and Punishing: Gray Raven just isn’t set up that way. Instead it’s defined by its excellent combat mechanics that take place across a more traditional string of much smaller levels, and in this way it actually has a lot more in common with miHoYo’s other hit game Honkai Impact 3rd.
Where all of these games shine is in collecting, customizing, and upgrading a huge cast of cool characters. Yes this can be a grindy affair and rely heavily on loot box luck, but like the best of these types of free to play mobile games the core gameplay is so solid that the grinding doesn’t really feel like grinding since it’s actually fun. The combat in Punishing is flat out excellent, with a neat match-3 sort of combo system (it’s a lot cooler than it sounds on paper) and a bullet time evasion system that makes for dynamic battles that actually rely on strategy rather than button mashing. I can see the combat just never getting old, even if I somehow collected and maxed out everything there is to do in the game.
This journey of combat and collection is tied together with a very text-heavy story and a graphical novel-style cutscene presentation. It’s very well done, but after Genshin Impact I think I’ve become too accustomed to having the bulk of a game’s narrative voice-acted and animated, even if some of that voice acting is grating (cough Paimon cough). It’s fine though because the story and entire premise of Punishing: Gray Raven is very interesting, and I want to find out more about this world even if that means reading A LOT of text. For free, it’s hard not to recommend everyone give Punishing: Gray Raven a download and 30-60 minutes of time, if for nothing else than to experience its wonderful combat.