Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Ray Gigant (PS Vita) Review

By Aly Hand

Let me start off by saying that I love dungeon crawlers, but I never manage to invest the time in them that they truly need to get the most out of them.  I don't think I've ever managed to get to the end of one, if only because they require so much grinding I get bored or lost or distracted with other games.  At first, this one seemed surprisingly different.  For a first-person dungeon crawler similar to the old Wizardry-style games, it has a startling amount of detail.  Ray Gigant mixes elements of the old-school game styles with more modern RPG aspects, to create a game that, at least for the battle system, offers something unique to the genre. 

The story begins with a basic explanation of the premise and an introduction to the two different types of weapon wielders.  Rather than allow you to create your own characters, the game has a more traditional RPG format, where you have a main character and follow his progress throughout the story.  In terms of character development, unfortunately, there isn't much new, interesting or unique.  The characters tend to fall into the same stereotypical formula you see in much of Japanese anime and video games: a young, inexperienced protagonist with too much confidence in himself; an over-protective big brother figure who is willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done; and a bossy female figure who may or may not be the main character's love interest depending on how you continue the story and the options you pick during event dialogue.

As you progress through the game, characters come and go and each one fulfills specific roles within the party.  Players are also forced to change parties completely at certain points of the game based on the progression of the plot, something that serves as a method for introducing other characters with natural weapons rather than artificial ones.  The plot itself seems mired in post-apocalyptic tropes, and has very little to distinguish it from other similar-themed stories. 

What truly makes this game stand out is the battle system.  Most games in this genre are static.  You have a first person perspective, the enemy graphics are stationary, and everything is done in turns based on speed.  Ray Gigant takes that concept and gives it a unique twist.  Enemy graphics have animations (basic ones, but still present), and while the player is selecting the character's actions for that turn, there will be an animated graphic of the character on the screen as well.

The other thing that is unique about the battle system is that if you wish you may also completely ignore a character.  If there is nothing for that person to do, and you want to conserve action points, you can simply ignore that character by selecting a different one.  With differing actions either increasing or decreasing a character's weight, this can be a handy tool when trying to maintain specific bonuses for a character.  You can also choose for a character to "wait", recharging spent action points to a degree, or you can have them prepare food to heal or cure status ailments. 

As with all games in the genre, however, you will still be spending hours grinding to improve your character's skills and stats.  Perhaps the biggest difference so far, however, is that leveling up is extremely limited.  No matter how much you grind, gaining levels is determined exclusively on item drops, as it takes a specific type of item to level up.  Also, you don't obtain equipment, accessories, or food items via battle, but instead via the skill tree, which can be confusing at first.  It is worth noting, however, that it's best to put more into the main character's skill tree before the secondary characters.  Not only does it make grinding easier, but the secondary characters have more limited skill trees, and so take less items before they hit their cap.

Grinding is both easy and difficult, as there are no random battles in dungeons.  This means it is easy to avoid unnecessary fights.  Also, there will be a point in the dungeon where you can save, and also respawn enemies, which makes it simple to grind the easier battles.  Like other games of the genre, there are traps and trick floors to avoid, and hidden paths to find.  In terms of dungeon exploration, there really isn't anything that unique. 

Overall, Ray Gigant isn't anything spectacular.  The only thing that makes it stand out from the competitors is the battle system and animated graphics.  Gameplay isn't unique enough to make it superior, and the plot isn't interesting or remarkable enough to make a player want to come back to it.  It was kind of fun, but not enough to make it something that "has to be played."

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