Raji: An Ancient Epic is a puzzle and platformer game that has been inspired by Hindu and Balinese mythology which is something I’m not familiar with myself, so this game is a beautiful way to showcase Indian mythology. The story centres around a young girl named Raji, who works as a circus performer and ends up taking on the evil that comes in the likes of demons, her brother is grabbed away from her when an intrusion assumes control over her town by the devil Lord Mahabalsura. When Raji wakes up after the attack, she learns the gods chose her as the one who must take on the demons, she uses this as a chance to locate her missing brother. Both Raji and her brother are orphans who only have each other, it’s clear to see just how much she loves and cares for her brother and the lengths she will go to in order to find and save him.
Throughout my gameplay, I came to cherish Raji’s character, she is fast yet agile on her feet, her personality stands out the more we learn what she is capable of. Whilst taking on her journey, she solves puzzles and finds her way across vast broken bridges, the puzzles are pretty straightforward, and I solved them reasonably fast. I was under the impression they would be more troublesome; unfortunately, they’re not. The combat style is centred in one place and has a fixed camera which makes it awkward to see enemies up close whereas I like to be somewhat nearer to the action to gauge what move the enemy may do next and how best to attack or defend myself. I knew right away that I would have to use the dock for my Switch as soon as the game started, Raji is far too small to see in handheld mode. For those individuals who have any issues with their visual perception, this could be an issue, on top of this, the subtitles are tiny in handheld mode, there are no options to change the size.
You fight bosses 5x the size of Raji and won’t have the option to proceed onward to the following piece of the story until you do, you’re limited to a specific space that has been allotted for the fight. I found myself trying to give enemies a wide berth instead of running straight in and attacking. I saved a lot of time and frustration doing this, but I ran into several issues whilst fighting enemies, the screen often froze, and I experienced a lot of glitches/ frame rate issues that were frustrating and ruined parts of the game for me. At one point I was trapped inside of a pillar unable to move whilst enemies attacked me, I understand new games can have issues, and they do get ironed out in the end, but I encountered a great deal of glitches in the initial 2 hours of ongoing gameplay which slightly put me off. The cut scenes are told with 2D shadow puppets, you can skip them if need be, but I advise you not to as they’re a big part of the game, this type of storytelling has been around since 200 BC keeping in tune with the beautiful history of India.
The narrative for the game is engaging as you get to listen in on the god’s speaking to one another about Raji’s path and how brave and fierce she gives Raji more character, we already know she is a determined and vulnerable young lady, but her journey is showing her who she really is and what she is capable of. The only notable thing to collect and look out for are upgrade orbs which are usually hidden around a corner or down a path that leads nowhere, they’re found inside wooden crates and easy to spot. These orbs are used to upgrade your elemental powers for your weapons or replenish your health, it’s best to make sure that you have a good look around for them before moving on with the story so that you are given the best advantage against the varied enemies. I would have liked to have seen some sort of collectables in place to entice me back to the game, so I could make sure I collected everything I needed to, usually a second play through helps me spot anything I may have not noticed before.
As you progress further you discover the enemies get more complicated, there is an autosave feature, so you don’t need to worry too much about saving before fights. Thanks to the gods favouring you and making you into demigod each one will provide you with a power to use with your weapon which you can equip using the favour of the gods’ button on your controller. The weapon system is simple, as you progress through the story, you’re given more weapons to utilize. You can switch between 2 weapons using the arrows on the gamepad, and to make the most of them, you can add elemental powers to your weapons, such as chain lightning which channels through multiple enemies at once. It took me a good few times to get used to timing when it was best to attack, I died more times than I would like to admit because my reaction times aren’t the best in games. A significant upside for me is the use of parkour and elemental powers mixed together, you’re given tutorials on the best way to make the most of what’s close to you. Pillars can be swung around then with the click of a button they are struck down giving you the advantage.
There are no clear signs of which way you need to go, but that doesn’t matter when it provides an opportunity to look at just how much detail was added to the environment around you. At times it felt very similar to ICO from the story side of things, but it’s clear it has its own unique spin, from what I have heard about this game, ICO was one of the many influences for it. Although Raji: An Ancient Epic has many similarities to other games, it is very unique and aesthetically pleasing, the mythology and music set it apart and brings the game to life. The intricate detailing on the buildings and backdrops draw you in, this just goes to show you how much time and effort went into making everything stand out, all these factors are what helped showcase a traditional Indian game with a lot of depth and meaning.
Over the years there have been several video games released based around mythology from all around the world such as Okami, God of War and Skyrim to name a few, so there is a lot of room in the gaming world when it comes to a game like Raji: An Ancient Epic. The Indian Studio Nodding Heads Games have undertaken the task of making a game inspired by Hindu and Balinese mythology and cultures from their own country and have produced a beautifully crafted game, considering this is their first project, they have done remarkably well.
It took me around 6 hours to get past the game, I did feel deflated at times as it felt like the game was hurrying me towards the end, this doesn’t deter from the enjoyment playing it though as Raji’s character is the thing that keeps you wanting to play more. The developers took their time, the environmental and engineering detail included within your surroundings brings your focus on to the culture and story on offer. Yes, the game has issues, but these can hopefully be ironed out with an update at some point, it’s undoubtedly remarkable yet frustratingly irritating in parts, but it stands out amongst other games.