It’s hard to think of games set in India with purely Indian themes. Prince of Persia and its various iterations is the only series that comes to mind. So it’s safe to say that it’s a setting that hasn’t been thoroughly explored. Raji: An Ancient Epic does so beautifully—set in an ancient India, it deals with stories and deities from the Hindu religion, and brings Indian culture into a video game in a way that hasn’t really been done before.
Raji: An Ancient Epic is a narratively driven third person action adventure game. You play as Raji, the titular character, who is attempting to save her brother Golu who has been abducted by Gadasura demons. From that moment forward Raji single-handedly wages war against demonic forces in an attempt to save her brother—and, as it turns out, the world.
Raji is an acrobatic badass that can flip around and make a fool of the demons she’s facing. And she lets them know it, too, as she’s constantly talking trash. Raji is probably one of my favorite parts of the game. She’s tiny, tenacious, and able to topple hordes of demons many times larger than her while asking for more. Raji can flip and dodge infinitely, and while she isn’t exactly invincible while she’s doing it, she’s nearly untouchable. When she attacks, she’s equally tireless—stamina isn’t a consideration as she cuts down her enemies. It also helps that she’s being looked out for by some pretty powerful allies.
Watched over by Vishnu and Durga—Hindu deities—they make sure that Raji encounters weapons and elemental powers that can be used to defeat her foes. At first you are given a trident type weapon, then a bow, and then a sword and shield. Each of these weapons can be imbued with elemental powers—electricity, ice, and fire, which are discovered through gameplay. While Raji can use her divine weapons to kill demons easily enough, the elemental effects add a whole other devastating power to the battlefield.
Raji will have to do battle with waves of enemies as she makes her way through any number of beautiful locations. Raji is usually tracked by a barrier and forced to do battle with waves of demons before she can move on. At the end of each encounter, Raji’s health is restored—but there are also ways to get it back in combat, which is good, because some of these encounters are quite long, and sometimes difficult.
There are a good range of enemy types to fight: flying enemies that harass you at a distance, large brutes with slow but brutal attacks, enemies that spawn more enemies, and more. I generally enjoyed the combat, though it could occasionally be frustrating. I really enjoyed using the bow, but there was no way to reliably lock on to a target to aim, and I often had to maneuver just right to hit my intended target. After getting the sword and shield, the trident felt a little redundant and not nearly as useful.
Demons aren’t the only obstacles in Raji’s path to saving her brother. There are several different puzzle types found throughout Raji: An Ancient Epic. None of these puzzles are particularly difficult, but they did add a nice break between the combat. There is a decent diversity among the puzzles too, though they’re almost all a variation on the idea of lining up objects to fit.
Not only are there puzzle sections, but platforming is something Raji is forced to do to get to where she wants to go. These platforming sections are akin to something you might see in Uncharted but simpler. Thankfully simpler, because I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the jumping controls–especially if I had to ascend higher. There’s a sweet spot to hit the jump button again to get Raji to grab the ledge above, but more often than not I’d fling myself backwards off of the wall instead. Frustrating, especially if that lead to my death or otherwise having to redo a jumping section. Again thankfully, these are all pretty short, as these are by far the weakest part of the game, outside of the performance issue.
Raji: An Ancient Epic is story heavy, with a compelling narrative. It also showcases lots of Hindu references, mostly told through banter between the gods Vishnu and Durga. Cutscenes are depicted with silhouetted, articulated puppets, and they’re extremely charming. Raji’s story is indeed epic and even poignant, but it wouldn’t be as impressive if it wasn’t so beautiful.
The art style in Raji: An Ancient Epic is great. It’s a gorgeous game that takes place in a beautifully realized ancient India. Gorgeous architecture, colorful murals and impressive vistas are the norm. There’s hardly a scene that isn’t visually impressive in some way. Unfortunately, the performance on Nintendo Switch doesn’t quite match its beauty.
I played Raji: An Ancient Epic on the Nintendo Switch, as it has yet to be released on any other platform. The performance isn’t consistent, with frame drops and low framerates common. It’s not unplayable, but I would have loved to have the fast action of Raji be a little smoother. Not only that, but Raji herself is itsy bitsy on the screen. It’s still completely possible to see what’s happening in hand held mode, but barely.
Raji: An Ancient Epic was a pleasant surprise. It has an absolutely badass protagonist who revels in demon slaughter, and fun combat to back that up. Its platforming sections aren’t the best, and it has performance hiccups on the Nintendo Switch, but it’s a fun game that I recommend to anyone who might be curious.
Raji: An Ancient Epic is available now on Nintendo Switch, and coming later for Steam, Xbox One and PlayStation 4
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