Despite some technical issues and a story that ends too quickly, Raji: An Ancient Epic is a great narrative-driven game that’s worth playing.
Of all the video games released each year, not many of them delve into Indian mythology and society. During the most recent Indie World Showcase from Nintendo, one of the standout titles from the presentation was Raji: An Ancient Epic, developed by Nodding Heads and published by Super.com. It was first announced in 2017 with a Square Enix Collective campaign, but we haven’t heard much about the game since. Despite being a short experience and several technical issues, Raji: An Ancient Epic is a great debut from Nodding Heads and an epic worth experiencing.
The game follows Raji, a young Indian girl chosen by the gods to end a demonic invasion. Her other mission is to save her younger brother Golu from the evil demon Mahabalasura. Though brief, the story is the strongest aspect of the game. During her three and a half hour journey, Raji explores ancient ruins, temples, and deserts in her quest to save Golu and fight off demons. As you go from one area to the next, Durga, the goddess of death, and Lord Vishnu narrates the journey Raji is going on while also helping her along the way. One aspect which makes this game feel refreshing is its Indian setting. It’s not every day we see games depict Indian society and culture, but the India-based developer does a great job of showing and teaching players about Indian mythology.
All of this is presented through a zoomed out camera, which adds a cinematic feel to the game. While it’s cool to experience the story this way and take everything in, it would’ve been nice to move the camera around during certain parts. There would be times where I’d have to jump to another platform but I’d die because I couldn’t see where I was specifically landing. Regardless, having the zoomed out camera makes the game feel grander in scale and helps immerse you in the scenery.
In addition to its great story, Raji mixes in environmental storytelling in a way that further educates players on Indian culture. Throughout the different locations, you’ll come across several rotating puzzles that explore Raji’s past with her family. Once you rotate the circular pieces correctly, the image turns into moments like Raji and Golu sitting together, or Raji holding her father’s hand. During these sequences, Vishnu and Durga give the backstory on the image from the puzzle. Alongside these, you’ll come across visually striking murals that give the player even more backstory in Indian mythology. Vishnu and Durga also narrate whenever you come across the murals, which adds context to what you’re seeing. As a whole, the narrative is strong, well-developed, and offers a refreshing Indian setting to explore.
The gameplay also compliments the story well. Throughout the game, you earn several weapons to help you in combat such as a spear, bow and arrow, or sword and shield. You can switch between each weapon easily during combat so you can mix up your fighting style. Additionally, each weapon has a skill tree that lets you add elemental abilities such as fire, ice, and lightning. You obtain these abilities thanks to orbs scattered throughout the environments, and you can swap out which effects you’re using. Having several weapon types and elemental effects add variety to each battle and mixes things up.
Variety also plays into the enemies you’ll be fighting. Whenever you enter a combat encounter, you’re blocked off from leaving the area until you defeat everyone. Some enemies are slower but inflict a lot of damage, while others keep their distance. One particular enemy type is super fast and occasionally drops explosives that go off when you get near them. With so many enemy types, combat requires a mix between looking for openings to attack and switching between weapons. Sure, you can go all in and blindly attack enemies, but that may lead to dying quickly. As you get your enemies’ health low, you can hit the A button on the Switch to deal a finishing move which also gives you some health back.
To help make things easier, certain areas will have a meter that fills up as you defeat enemies. Once that meter fills up, you can unleash an especially powerful attack that deals damage to everyone around you. This plays into the elemental abilities you can equip, and the big attack also depends on the weapons being used. Where combat can get tricky are the few boss battles you’ll encounter, since it can be easy to die in two or three hits. Completing the boss battles require a bit more patience and watching how they attack. Defeating them can be tough, but it feels rewarding at the same time as you continue through Raji’s story.
You can’t really talk about Raji: An Ancient Epic without mentioning its gorgeous graphics. Environments like the desert or ancient temples are amazing and have great details in them. Having that zoomed out camera helps capture each location and all their glory. The cutscenes throughout the game are also stunning to look at as Vishnu and Durga narrate what is happening around the player. The music is also amazing and immerses you in the world. However, one consistent issue with the game are its technical problems. Throughout the story, the framerate will drop and music can cut out. In particular, the framerate often can take a hit whenever you’re in a combat encounter with a lot of enemies.
Raji: An Ancient Epic is a unique starting point from Nodding Heads; it features a great story about sibling love and saving everyone from demons. Environmental storytelling complements the strong narrative with murals and rotating puzzles that flesh the world out and gives us more backstory on Raji’s past. The gameplay offers a ton of variety thanks to several weapon choices and elemental effects you can add. Despite some technical issues and a story that ends too soon, Raji: An Ancient Epic is an tale worth playing and a game worth your time, especially for its interesting setting rooted in Indian culture.