Game review: Raji: An Ancient Epic
Plucky orphans, Indian mythology and a breathtaking soundtrack make Raji an epic game for the ages.
By Pratheeksha R. Naik, Contributor
Raji: An ancient epic is a custom-curated story revolving around a girl chosen by the gods to fight demons. Inspired by Indian mythology and real locations, it was first announced at the India Game Developer Conference (IGDC) in November 2019. Influenced by notable games including Ico, God of War and other action-adventure role-playing games, Raji stands out from a crowded field with its focus on Indian mythology. The game was released on August 18, 2020 on Nintendo Switch and is scheduled to release on Windows via Steam, PlayStation and Xbox very soon.
In the medieval age, in what is known as today’s Rajasthan province in India, there live two orphaned siblings: Raji and Golu. They provide for themselves by organizing rope-tricks and puppet shows at various village fairs. Golu narrates a story about how the leader of the Gadasura demons – Mahabalasura – once waged war, enraging the three supreme Gods of Hinduism – Durga, Vishnu and Shiva. As he is telling this story on the auspicious occasion of Raksha Bandhan, where sisters of all ages tie a talisman called rakhi around the wrists of their brothers, symbolically protecting them, the demons invade the village fair and abduct Golu and other children.
Raji fails to save her brother, fainting in the process. But when she regains consciousness, she prays to goddess Durga, who bestows her with one of her most powerful weapons – the Trishul (Trident). But using it is no child’s play. Raji must gain the confidence to fight the demons if she will be successful in finding Golu and defeating the demon Mahabalasura. And what is Mahabalasura’s motive for abducting the children from the fair? As the story progresses, Raji will learn whether the gods were right to place their trust in her.
Game play and graphics:
While Raji: An Ancient Epic has plenty of action-adventure elements, it is very much a role-playing game (RPG). The game features a third-person perspective-shifting mechanism like we have seen in several hit titles like Crash Bandicoot, Prince of Persia, Diablo, and more. The game level design has a lot of WOW! factors and breathtaking elements. The forts are designed in a way that resembles the Rajputana building Architecture, which is directly inspired from the forts present in Rajasthan, specifically from the city of Jaipur known as ‘Pink City’ (within the game, there is a level of the same name).
Likewise, other levels are named after popular places in the city. For instance, the backgrounds of certain levels include “the Hawa mahal” and “the amber fort”. These game sets serve a dual purpose of making the local gamers proud and inviting people from all over the world to soak in the culture and architecture the country has to offer. On the other hand, several inspirations are drawn from Bali (island in Indonesia) such as the cities, vegetation, caves, sculptures and statues of the Indian gods. And the developer and design team were committed to portraying these locations accurately – in fact, they went to Bali in person so they would be able to emulate a real, believable world as much as possible.
As the game progresses, Raji is being constantly watched by Vishnu and Durga. At times, they step in to help by giving her new weapons and powers as the opponents become more in tense. In between these challenges, a background of the almighty’s stories are narrated as well, giving the user a more complete understanding of their situation. One especially challenging factor involves unlocking certain powerups in situations where a new mantra or a devotional hymn is required, especially in temples. Apart from the action-packed gameplay, there are several puzzles that, when solved, unlock the character’s memories memories of past and other story points.
To round out the game’s world, the soundtrack is entirely composed with the classical Indian musical instruments and has a touch of ancient Indian music style with some Marwari songs.
Reception & awards:
The game opened to highly positive reviews during its demo. It has won numerous awards including “Best Game of Show”, “Unreal Underdog” and bagged the third place out of 5 in Indie’s upcoming games in 2017. Still, certain players wanted to see more of Raji’s perspective over the comments of Vishnu and Durga. The gameplay is about 4 hours but it can feel like it finished too soon as we now have to wait for Part 2. Popular game enthusiast Alan Wen rated it 4/5, lauding its “Brief but mesmerizing action-adventure, familiar platforming and combat infused with the mysticism of Hindu and Balinese mythology.”
In my opinion, Raji: An Ancient Epic is a must-try game, as it showcases an Indian story revolving around Hindu mythology along with bosses inspired from Balian stories. Such a combination is rarely the base of any video game, and it’s exciting to see. The gameplay is action-packed and full of cool power ups. While there are certain points in the game that feel a little too far removed from the moment, on the whole, it’s great. For now, it is only available on the Nintendo Switch, but since the company has announced that it will soon be coming out on PlayStation 4, Xbox and Steam, non-Switch owners will just have to be a little patient before enjoying this title. Overall, I will give it a big thumbs up and a rating of 4.3/5.