By William Haderlie / May 7th, 2016
|Genre||First Person Dungeon Crawler RPG|
|Age Rating||ESRB T For Teen|
One of the most consistently interesting experiences in my playthrough of the new Dungeon Crawler RPG to come out of Japan, Ray Gigant, was the constant comparison to the most recent Western example of the genre, Severed. I recently posted my review of the latter title here, and the reason it remained so lodged in my mind throughout this game was because they are almost polar opposites of each other. Each game has their major strengths, and each has their few weaknesses, but they are each extremely different. This one, for better and worse, is much more of the traditional dungeon crawler RPG, but it definitely does some innovative things with the gameplay. And that art design is quite obviously a major highlight here.
In the near future the world is devastated by the invasion of giant alien beings from outer space called the Gigants. They have destroyed most of the major cities so people are living like refugees. After rampaging uncontested one is defeated in Tokyo and it is discovered that a boy named Ichiya was the one who defeated it, however he also went on a rampage causing almost as much damage as the Gigants did. When they were finally able to recover him it was discovered that he used a family heirloom that was host to a Yorigami, which is Japanese for Wandering Deity. The Yorigami is an emblem that when used grows into a shield and a sword, and when it injects enough power into the host, the host can turn into a form that is similar in many ways to the Gigants themselves. A secret organization takes the unconscious Ichiya captive to use for their own devices in order to combat the Gigants. And that is where the story truly begins. There is quite a bit of story compared to an Etrian Odyssey game, presented in predominantly visual novel form, but not nearly so much that you would actually call this a Visual Novel. By comparison, it does not even have as many of those sequences as your average Neptunia game does. So it is not overwhelming the amount of time you spend talking compared to the time you spend in the dungeons. And, while you may not realize it for quite a while, your story as Ichiya is only the beginning.
One innovative thing that this title does, that I have not seen in another dungeon crawler, is to split the story into separate parts staring different characters. The classic example of this style of storytelling in games would be Dragon Quest IV, but a more recent example would be the fabulous Megadimension Neptunia V-II. However, in this game the three initial parts to the game serve the function of getting you used to the mechanics along with telling the story, but also you will not be keeping all of those characters. And that is quite valuable to understand, so I don’t mind spoiling this at all. The only characters you are going to use after the first three parts are the Yorigami users. So make sure you max out their skill trees first before you finish the part you are on. Your other two party members will never be used again after the three main characters get together. It was fairly obvious at a certain point because you will notice that the three main characters comprise the three different classes; tank, ranged, caster. But if you are not paying attention that could lead you to wasting a lot of upgrades.
And that is one aspect of this game that is surprisingly similar to Severed, you actually use parts you gain from the enemies and treasures to upgrade yourself. There is no experience to be found in this game at all. And that puts a fairly hard cap on your power, especially in the first three parts. In the beginning you will only be able to level any character to level 15, but that actually helps prevent you from doing something stupid like leveling up an auxiliary character up to the 30s but leaving your main characters down at the teens. When your characters join up for good, you’ll have access to slightly more of the skill trees and higher levels than 15, but not too much more. So focusing on the Yorigami users first worked out very well for me. I ended up being pretty powerful throughout. And prioritizing that one character turned out to be a fairly easy route for defeating the dungeon enemies as well. Really having the other two characters just be able to survive so that they can provide a few assists or some bonus AP meter charge (by using the Wait command) was pretty much their only use for the first 2/3 of the game. When your three main characters get together, the enemies also get much stronger, so you will be able to use some more complex strategies.
That being said, the battles never are really all that tough, especially compared to other dungeon crawlers out there. This is no Etrian Odyssey or Dungeon Travelers game, but it also doesn’t need to be in order to still be entertaining, and there is the option to go through a more difficult version of the game on your second playthrough. You can also choose to play on God Mode after your first completion or to carry your characters over and make the game easier, if you so choose, so that breadth of options was actually refreshing. With your first playthrough the battles are actually kind of the easy part. The more difficult part for people, I suspect, will be the dungeon crawler elements. There are quite a few puzzles here, and while they aren’t brutal, they can be tricky in a few parts, especially if you are not used to games like this. But after that last dungeon crawler I played, that was a welcome change, and the dungeon crawling elements of that one were pretty boring by comparison. Another similarity between this and Severed, though, is that you can see every enemy before you engage them, there are no random encounters. Moreover, you can also see their difficulty by the color of their icon; Blue for easy, Yellow for normal, and Red for difficult. The enemies themselves are no more difficult than the others, but the amount of AP (Active Points, in the upper left corner of the above screen) that you use for moves is halved for easy or doubled for difficult. Unfortunately you will not get any better rewards for taking on a more difficult fight, so you will often be better off avoiding the Red markers as much as possible, unless a puzzle demands the fight. This is something to be very cognizant of especially considering that your AP at the end of a fight is maintained going into the next one.
When you reach the dungeon crystal, not only can you save, but you can also restore all Gigants to their previous positions, so you can always just go back through to farm some more materials off of the yellow and blue enemies if you are running short by not engaging the reds. However, you will never receive a level up crystal from any regular enemy, they are only ever from treasure chests and from bosses. The right gauge you see is for SBM (Super Beat Mode), basically your super rampage move that you can access at 50 or 100 points (the later being a longer more powerful version), and oddly enough that super move turns into a bit of a rhythm game that you time button presses to the music and good timing gives you more hits upon completion. I only ever used it once outside of a boss fight, and that was to get a trophy for overkilling an enemy using it.
So far this is a pretty glowing recommendation for this title. But there are a couple issues that I have to bring up that prevented my experience from being even more memorable. The first issue with the game is a fairly minor one, and that is the translation. There were a few grammar and spelling issues, to be sure, but really only maybe 5-10 in the whole playthrough. But that is not really what I mean by the translation, what I mean is that the character dialogue does not come off very naturally, it seems to be stilted at times. It’s a bit difficult to pin down how much of this was a change in localization because the characters do not actually voice many of their conversations. The game file is very large, but most of that seems to be used on the fantastic art and movie assets, not voice work. But I cannot lay all of the story issues at the feet of the translators, my second issue is actually my major one, and that is that hardly any of the characters are actually likable. The Part 3 characters were my favorites, and Nil was definitely my favorite character overall, but even then there were plenty of despicable characters. Especially in Part 2, I found myself routinely rooting against my party members and hoping that they would lose. But a lot of that is personal taste, I could never stand going through a Mass Effect game as Renegade, I’m frankly very poor at being a sociopath. But it wasn’t just that they were necessarily bad human beings, although frankly many of them were, most of them were just plainly unlikable.
But, in the end, this is a dungeon crawler, so it matters more to the experience of the game, and my personal enjoyment, for the dungeon crawling and combat elements to be enjoyable. And in those respects this is a very solid title. This is a medium length entry into that genre at about 40-60 hours, depending on how much you want to grind to make sure you can coast through those boss fights. That may seem a bit long compared to other games, but trust me when I say that I’ve played many dungeon crawlers for upwards of 200 hours. The music is also pretty good, and that’s important for spending so much time in those dungeons. I never really felt the need to turn on some other background music, but I also did not have to do nearly as much grinding as I would normally do in one of these games. But clearly the superstar here is the artistic design. I do not even want to show you any Type I Gigant fights here in this review because they are better off not spoiled. They are basically the Chapter bosses in the game (of which there are more Chapters than there are Parts), and comprise of fights with massive Gigants that is like going toe to toe with a Kaiju (Godzilla or the like). The normal enemies and the dungeon designs are all very artistically fascinating, but those giant fights are truly beautiful and feel appropriately epic.
Another subtle example of the fantastic art is that each Part of the game has it’s own opening movie, similar to Megadimension Neptunia V-II, and they are not only well done, but they help provide more of an anime series feel to the whole game. Between this one and Severed, this one is definitely more expensive at $29.99, but you are also getting a lot more game for it as well, so they each have their own place. This is a game I will honestly likely go through a New Game+ run completely, even though I only have one trophy left to get the Platinum, and that’s just for the sheer enjoyment of the fights. I can skip enough annoying dialogue from characters that I want to strangle that I will still get a really enjoyable dungeon crawler experience while I wait on the next Etrian Odyssey title to be exported to our shores.
Review Copy Provided By the Publisher
acttilBandai Namcodungeon crawler rpgExperiencePS VitaPSNRay Gigant