In the distant future, mankind's first zero-point energy nuclear reactor gives birth to a new type of virus in its vacuum chambers, known as "the Punishing". When it escapes and spreads along the wind currents of Earth's atmosphere following an explosion, the cybernetic pathogen proceeds to kill humans and infect machines, causing them to mindlessly seek to destroy anything with a human consciousness. Humanity thus sees no other option but to escape into space, where survivors live aboard the space colony Eden. To reclaim their lost planet, humans devise a way to modify their bodies into virus-resistant combat cyborgs: the Reconstructed Soldiers, or in its short form, the constructs.
You are the commander of a team of constructs: Gray Raven Squad. With them at your side, the counter-invasion of Earth will begin its next chapter.
At its core, Punishing is a high-speed action game in the vein of Devil May Cry or Bayonetta, with the wrinkle of a Match-Three Game: As players land hits with default attacks, a queue begins randomly filling with one of three different types of special moves. If two or three prompts get joined together, the attack becomes much more powerful, and opens access to each character's unique passives.
Punishing is developed and published by KuroGames using the Unity Engine and first released in December 2019. It was originally only available in Chinese through an official client, Bilibili and Taptap — the Taiwanese version was released in August 2020; the Japanese version was released in December 2020; and a Global release is underway.
This game provides examples of:
- After the End: The Punishing virus has left the world devastated, leaving various robots and post-humans to battle to see who will inherit the Earth.
- Attack Drone: Untold Naraka, being a Crossover with NieR: Automata, included Pods from the guest game that assisted during stages. Later, the Echo Aria update added robot pets that can be upgraded separately to give buffs to the characters equipping them, as well as attack on their own.
- The Anime of the Game: Panini: Gray Raven, a Denser and Wackier series of short animations based on the game.
- Beach Episode: 2020's Grand Blue event, preceded by the Memories on Venus Beach short story, where Gray Raven squad explore an abandoned beach side resort and amusement park. (And of course, several characters got new swimsuits to commemorate the event.)
- Bullet Time: Similar to Bayonetta, a correctly timed dodges causes enemies to temporarily slow to a crawl, allowing players a chance to land some free hits. Furthermore, any special attacks performed at this time will be at their highest value, as if they were fully combined.
- Crapsack World: Punishing's world isn't forgiving, to say the least. Humanity is sequestered into bickering enclaves that all have their own agendas, people are often left at the mercy of authorities that rarely have any, and just about every character has a terrible past. Despite this, their determination, camaraderie and unyielding hope that the Punishing virus can be defeated keeps them moving forward, and their battles end in worthwhile victories often enough.
- Crossover: January 2021's Untold Naraka event, which was a collaboration with NieR: Automata. For a limited time, players had a chance to recruit the main characters of that game — 2B, 9S, and A2 — to use as playable characters.
- Easter Egg: The stages added during the Untold Naraka event have two hidden in out of the way routes. One leads to a field of "Lunar Tear" flowers, which appear in both Nier games, while another has posters showing KuroGames's previous game, Twintails Battlefield (战场双马尾).
- Elemental Powers: Certain attacks have properties besides physical damage. There is fire, ice, and lightning, as per usual, but other elements, like Dark damage, also exist. Elemental RockPaperScissors is also in play as a result, with different enemies being weak or resistant to certain damage types.
- Freemium Timer: The game has a stamina system which regenerates one pip every five minutes, though it can also be refilled when the account gains a level, or by spending Black Cards.
- The Future: The future's future, even. Punishing is set around 2180-2185, one hundred years after the initial Punishing virus outbreak. It's been long enough that history has even had time to assign two post-apocalyptic eras, the Immunity Era (2079-2140) and the Era of Retaliation (2140 onwards).
- Gameplay and Story Segregation: While the player can recruit all sorts of constructs via Gacha, the game's story assumes the only cast present in each situation is Gray Raven squad itself, consisting of Lucia, Liv and Lee, along with any construct who appears as a secondary character; not whoever you're running the game's stages as. The most egregious example is likely Alpha, who you can select for normal chapters, even though she is essentially one of the story's villains, as a member of the Ascendants.
- An Interior Designer Is You: Punishing's barracks system allows for rooms to be decorated to resemble other places. Classy pub? Sure. Chinese restaurant? Of course. Austere funeral service? Well, why not?
- Limit Break: All constructs have a meter under their health that can be filled and then expended for one particular high-powered attack. They shouldn't be considered Finishing Moves, given the durability of enemies. Fire them off as quick as you can for free and safe damage. Other constructs use the meter to activate a Super Mode, rather than a single attack.
- Mêlée à Trois: Kowloong Metropolis has Eden vs Kowloon vs the Ascendants, and winds up dragging every previously seen faction into the fight, each with their own agenda.
- Me's a Crowd: Each construct variation are considered separate characters, meaning there's nothing preventing a player from assembling a team with two, or even three of the same character.
- Mobile City:
- The "eternal train" Oseram consists of several building-sized carriages. It runs through Eurasia in order to power the filters that protects its population from the Punishing virus and uses its mobility to position itself as a Merchant City that can buy and sell anything from anyone.
- Later, the story introduces the Nona Ouroboros Night Vessel, a ship that's been turned into a massive floating city. It has similar mercantile leanings, but it's quickly overshadowed by the numerous hidden agendas being pursued by rulers of the vessel. It also is ultimately subordinate to Kowloon, a stationary city-state in the middle of the ocean.
- Play as a Boss: Certain hidden chapters include an opportunity to play from the perspective of bosses like Berserk/Dark Kamui and Roland. The former example eventually became Promoted to Playable as Camu.
- Socketed Equipment: Playable constructs can equip up to six "memories". When two or four of a set are put together, they provide varying buffs, ranging from flat damage boosts of differing elements to calling down lightning strikes or providing free Bullet Time on the next three-orb combo.
- Sprint Meter: Punishing's dodges are fueled by a regenerating meter, to prevent players from trying to avoid attacks by just spamming evasive moves over and over.
- Unexpected Gameplay Change: Every so often the game's special events toss in wrinkles into the typical hack-and-slash fare. Eternal Engine had a short chapter involving a driving sequence, while Kowloong Metropolis had rudimentary stealth sequences, including activating distracting props, stealthy walking, and Back Stabs.