Title: Raji: An Ancient Epic
Developers: Nodding Heads Games
Available on: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Version Tested: PC
Official Site: rajithegame.com
Release Date: October 15, 2020
It’s been great to see more games out of other countries, not to mention based on other cultures. After playing many Western titles all these years, getting a taste of other cultures is a breath of fresh air. That’s why we see high praise for games like Sekiro, even if that game’s combat takes center stage. One of the latest titles to make use of cultures is Raji: An Ancient Epic, developed by Nodding Heads Games. With a whole host of elements from ancient Indian and Hindu culture, how does Raji: An Ancient Epic fair? Good in some places, and frankly abysmal in others.
Roots of Hindu Religion in Raji: An Ancient Epic
More on that shortly though. First, it seems fair to give some sort of premise. Raji: An Ancient Epic follows the story of Raji, a young girl who’s part of the circus with her brother Golu. During one of the performances, otherworldly demons attack and take many children including Golu. Thanks to the help of the Hindu goddess of war Durga, Raji is sent on a quest to put an end to the demonic threat and save her brother.
Much of Raji is focused on the Hindu religion, following gods Durga, Vishnu, and Shiva as she experiences her quest. As far as I can tell, much of this is authentic and sticks to true Hindu heritage, which is great given how few games explore this idea. It was nice getting an eye into a new culture, even if that lied mostly in audio clips. It would’ve been nice to see more of this told through the world, but I understand that’s no simple feat and would take a lot of time to execute.
Strolling Through An In-Depth Story
This doesn’t take center stage though, as Raji: An Ancient Epic lets you skip this to focus on the story. Much of this is told through various 2D puppet shows, which is interesting given this all starts with a puppet show at the aforementioned circus. It’s also told through dialogue between the gods, giving a powerful outside perspective on the story. This is mostly engaging, but it’d be an understatement to say the ending won’t make it all worth it. I won’t spoil in case you really want to give Raji a go, but I sat there confused and concerned once the credits started rolling.
Raji’s major strong suit though lies in its beautiful art style. Fans of ABZU are immediately going to be drawn to its stunningly wide setpieces. It takes a lot from that game, but also makes use of it in its own style to show off some great Indian architecture. The style of the Taj Mahal is very apparent in one of the levels, while the sprawling deserts are beautiful (even if it’s mostly shades of yellow). If there’s one thing that was focused on, it was balancing Raji’s beauty with great performance.
Raji’s Flawed Sounds of Combat
The majority of the budget going to one section of a game doesn’t always spell out well for the full game, and Raji, unfortunately, suffers from that. For example, some of the sound design, for the first time in my reviewing career, is mediocre. Some tracks truly portray Indian culture in Raji, but some are incredibly repetitive and can be annoying to listen to. This, combined with combat sounds being harsh on the ears, makes for an experience you’d rather mute sometimes.
It doesn’t get much better when it comes to combat, as it has interesting ideas but is ultimately frustrating. There’s a fair amount of depth with several weapons and movesets, but these are harshly inconsistent. Raji will fail to jump off walls, jumping while using the bow makes you jump closer, and a lot more. Those bow issues can be annoying if you’re trying to dart around an enemy only to jump into its crosshairs. The rest of the weapons don’t do that either, so why the bow does is beyond me.
It’s a shame because the enemy design actually strives to be challenging and varied throughout the whole experience. Raji constantly introduces new enemies to spice things up, giving you more to consider through each battle. Not only that, but they’ll even predict your movements to force you to have to vary your strategies. Other games never do this so it was a pleasant surprise to see it in a game like Raji. I just wish the rest of the combat systems were a bit more consistent to match it.
This all combines with a few other minor issues, which hamper the experience as a whole. One particular area that annoyed me was the abysmal voice acting for the main character, Raji. She’d say various lines that feel so forced and unnecessarily exaggerated. Needless to say, that gets very annoying when in combat. There’s also the issue of options, which feel basic especially when paired with a lack of accessibility. If you need the latter to play games, you won’t find much luck in Raji: An Ancient Epic.
Verdict: Raji: An Ancient Epic provides a great game on the surface that could lead to something magical. You have a story that isn’t perfect but alright, some beautiful graphics, and great combat mechanics. These are severely hampered though by an anti-climactic ending, poor consistency in the combat, mediocre sound design, and various other issues. While some hardcore action-adventure fans may find something to love, Raji will likely wash away in the sands of your mind as quickly as it arrived.
- Beautiful visuals
- In-depth story
- Intricate combat
- Poor ending
- Poor sound design
- Inconsistent combat
- Awkward voice acting
- Lack of accessibility and options