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Raji: An Ancient Epic review

A treat for the eyes

Raji: An Ancient Epic
(Image: © Bodhisatwa Ray)

TechRadar Verdict

Raji: An Ancient Epic is an excellent first attempt from a fledgling developer like Nodding Head Games. It brings more than decent visuals along with some tough to crack situations and enemies. But it does feel monotonous at times and the story could begs a few more layers.

Pros

  • +

    Excellent visuals

  • +

    Challenging enemies and situations

  • +

    Is a mythic storybook

Cons

  • -

    Uninspired combat mechanics

  • -

    No variety in enemies

  • -

    Unimaginative plot

Raji: An Ancient Epic has been out for a while on the Nintendo Switch. But I happened to play the game on PC and get on with the review. Before we get on with dissecting the game for what it's worth, there are a few things to mention. 

The fact that Raji is the first game from developers Nodding Head Games, deserves due credit. This was apparently the project that brought their small team together. The development began back in 2017, and they faced challenges, both financial and operational due to an underperforming crowdfund initiative.

The project was finally rescued by a grant from Epic Games for using its Unreal Engine as a platform. Raji was part of the Indie Game Developer program from Nintendo. This resulted in Raji launching on Nintendo Switch first in August despite it being primarily developed for PC. 

The game follows the tale of a young girl names Raji who is a circus performer. Her younger brother Golu (meaning "rotund") is taken captive by demons who are underlings of Mahabalasura, the antagonist.  Raji travels far and wide, encountering and defeating a wide range of enemies to achieve her singular goal. 

Raji went live for Nintendo Switch in August and is now available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows. It is priced at Rs 599 for Standard Edition on Steam for PC. 

Check out Raji: An Ancient Epic on Steam (opens in new tab)

The Nodding Head Games-developed action-adventure paltformer is available on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows. We tested the PC version in this review, which is priced at Rs 599 for the Standard Edition on Steam.

A fresh landscape

(Image credit: Bodhisatwa Ray)
  • The terrain of the game is fresh and new for the global palate
  • Well crafted visuals that strike from the get go
  • A good representation of a traditional storytelling method

Let me start from the beginning! Raji: An Ancient Epic is a beautifully crafted game when it comes to visuals. Right from the beginning when Raji wakes up to find her brother missing, the visuals steal the show. 

We travel with Raji through picturesque plains, to red sandstone palaces to burning deserts and even the misty mountains. All these different locales have a flavour of their own and throw a whole different vibe. It is akin to taking a visual tour through the imagination of the person who designed all these. The visuals are typical to the game taking place in the northern states of India. 

One place in particular really captured my attention which was 'The Temple of Vishnu', a place bathed in blue and pink lotuses. Even the level design of this place seemed quite imaginative where players have to use lotus pods to create platforms that help them cross the lake. 

(Image credit: Bodhisatwa Ray)

While Raji's character design seems simple, the enemies are articulated in much more detail and so are their abilities. And the developers have used a traditional storytelling method from Andhra Pradesh called the 'Tholu Bommalaata' to tell the tale during the cut scenes. This is a unique adaptation of the shadow puppet theatre tradition form and shows how well researched and widely adapting the game is.

Of a familiar tale and unfamiliar myths

(Image credit: Bodhisatwa Ray)
  • The plot of Raji is nothing new and a little too linear
  • The devs use the game as a mode to tell mythic tales
  • At times the tales seem rather unrelated

One of the key elements of Raji: An Ancient Epic is the tale it tells and the myths it talks about. The plot is rather linear with Raji who battles through legions of demons to rescue her brother who has been kidnapped by them. 

The story is narrated by the goddess Durga and Vishnu, who seem to depend on Raji on saving the day. The story starts off by comparing the present predicament to that when the demon Mahishasura had taken over the heavens. Mahabalasura is equated to Mahishasura crating a mighty stature for him. 

The tale of Mahishasura the Buffalo Demon and Durga defeating him is typical to Eastern India and Bengal in particular, which again proves the scope of the whole game. Mahishasura's tale is narrated to the players through murals in the wall that can be interacted with.

Speaking of the different myths that are depicted through the murals, there are quite a few that are strewn throughout the game. But only a few of these seem pertinent to the narrative of the game. And others just seem to have been included for the sake of it. But what Raji does well is introduce the world to the Hindu pantheon of goddesses and gods.

The English voice acting seems to be lacking the passion for the dialogues which almost makes them seem mechanical. This is something that could have been worked on as well.

You've seen these action sequences before

(Image credit: Bodhisatwa Ray)
  • The combat and the character movement seem inspired from other games
  • There is little that is new about the game mechanics 
  • An unintuitive combat makes some situations rather difficult to handle

You have to admit with the sheer number of games that are already out, it may be difficult to think of fresh game mechanics and combat for every game. And that is exactly what plagues Raji. While conversely it can be assumed that the developers were inspired by popular games like Tomb Raider, Prince of Persia, and Devil May Cry. But it does not help the case for those playing the game. 

Raji seems to be able to run at a single pace, but when she jumps and vaults its as if she has a springboard under her feet. But besides this the action sequences hardly have anything fresh about them and just seems to imitate that of some of the popular games that came before. 

Players can improve the different weapons they have in the game which are done through the blessings of three different gods. And blessings from each of these gods have a particular natural element associated with it, like lightning from Durga. 

Players would comes across some situations when they would be hard pressed to tackle the consecutive waves of enemies. And I feel this could have been done better if the dodging mechanic wasn't as choppy as it is.

Verdict

(Image credit: Bodhisatwa Ray)

Raji: An Ancient Epic is a beautiful, short and sweet game. While it is not without its list of shortcomings, it really is a great game for the short time it will consume. As a platformer, this game really is among the better ones out there. 

Raji is the first attempt from Nodding Head Games, and the way the story left off in the end we are pretty certain that we can expect a sequel. That will be the real test for the developers to see if they listened to their players and critics. 

But considering all, the game is a recommended play for those in India and elsewhere, simply for its engaging style. 

Buy if...

You want a visually stunning game with an insight into Hindu mythology

Raji is a visually compelling game as platformer which sights to behold, and tells tells that introduces people to the canon of Hindu goddesses and gods.

Don't buy if...

Are put off by unintuitive combat and linear story

While Raji is a visually stunning game it's combat could have been better and the storyline is rather simple.

Bodhisatwa Ray
Bodhisatwa Ray

Hardcore gamer, gadget enthusiast & cinema buff | Gaming, tech correspondent & reviewer at TechRadar