By: Brian Gunn
Ray Gigant is the latest game from Experience Inc. In this dungeon crawler, they’re attempting to recruit a new audience that might like a bit more story and an easier difficulty. Unfortunately, they’ve concocted a mix that feels like it might put off both newcomers and veteran fans alike.
Ray Gigant has fairly standard controls when it comes to dungeon crawlers. It’s both grid- and turn-based, and combat is handled through simple menus. There are some annoying quirks in the menu systems themselves that are somewhat annoying, making things like canceling attacks in battle or upgrading outside of them a little more tedious than they need to be, especially since many buttons don’t get much use. Still, it’s fairly straightforward and gets the job done.
Graphics are a mixed bag with Ray Gigant. While the player character models are frequently gorgeous and stylishly animated during the setup of a battle stage, most everything else falls flat. Enemies vary, though only the boss fights really register as memorable, and the general dungeon crawling is pretty ugly and doesn’t gel at all with the way characters are drawn. The art style itself is nice, offering an anime style that’s more muted than a lot of other recent JRPGs.
A strangely jazzy soundtrack awaits players in Ray Gigant. It’s not bad music in general, though it often didn’t fit that well with the game. It feels more like it’s attempting to ape the Persona series rather than standing on its own. There’s some voice acting that’s solid, all in Japanese, continuing the trend of niche JRPGs forgoing a dub.
Ray Gigant thrusts players into the role of three different protagonists set in a modern world in which vaguely alien monsters — that also seem to look like mythological creatures — have attacked Earth. In their wake, however, ancient spirits have awakened and bonded with select humans to give them the special abilities needed to do battle with 100-foot-tall creatures. The game throws a lot of terminology and exposition at you from the start, and it’s all a bit confusing; though the game seems to know that and just asks you to kind of go with it.
Unlike most dungeon crawlers, this one is notably heavy on story. In fact, it takes several hours until you get your real final party together, opting to instead give introductory chapters to the various main characters and filling out your parties with minor ones instead.
Sadly, it’s all kind of by the numbers. You play a variety of young “chosen one” types that have to balance their heroics with things like growing up and all that jazz, similar to pretty much every other recent JRPG with a school setting. It’s passable stuff, but nothing particularly compelling.
Where the game truly stumbles, however, is with the various mechanical systems. The game feels sort of experimental, and a lot of those experiments don’t pan out. There’s no loot or experience to speak of, with every battle or treasure chest instead giving generic resources that can then be allocated to upgrade your characters.
This ends up taking a lot of flavor out of the dungeon diving when all grinding and exploring does is get you a variety of resources. Loot is handled as a character stat, where you upgrade a slot like weapon or a ring, and then spend another resource to get a random new item in that slot. It all seems needlessly convoluted and dry.
Being able to allocate resources as you see fit does allow you to customize your party to an extent, but the actual battle system ends up making those decisions seem moot. You only have three abilities to use in combat, ranging from an attack to waiting a turn, and while you will learn a few different attacks, in battle you can only access one at a time. This makes for bland battles that are reliant on setting things up before battle to exploit weaknesses you may have no clue about.
Combat itself feels odd. Each round of combat allocates 100 action points to spend as you see fit, with each character able to take up to five actions, each consuming a various amount of that AP. Most times you won’t want to actually use them all as once you get to 0 AP, you’re screwed. So battles are more about gauging how much effort you need to expend so you don’t run out of AP for the next one.
Ray Gigant also introduces a few advanced mechanics, one of which lets you use actions for hit points, which are always regenerated after battle, and thus can make for some very powerful bursts of damage. There’s also a pseudo super move that’s bizarrely similar to a rhythm game, though these are rare.
Eventually though, all these obtuse systems can’t hide the fact that the game is incredibly easy. It is by far the easiest dungeon crawler I’ve ever played, and while that may seem like a selling point for casual fans, I don’t see them getting much out of it.
Ray Gigant almost feels admirable in the way it messes with the conventions of the dungeon RPG, with unique systems and an oft-charming story. Sadly though, it seems to serve more as a reminder of why the genre has so many staples in the first place. Without them — or with emphasis elsewhere — it doesn’t end up very compelling.