Name: Raji: An Ancient Epic
Platform: Nintendo Switch (Timed Exclusive)
Developer: Nodding Heads Games
I have to confess I’m a bit of a mythology buff, and since Indian mythology is rarely explored in games, Raji An Ancient Epic piqued my interest with its setting. The game puts you in the shoes (though I don’t think she’s wearing any) of a young Indian orphan girl whose younger brother gets kidnapped by demons. Armed with a spear (and later other weapons), she’s set on a quest by the gods to stop their plans and rescue her little brother.
If I were to describe Raji’s gameplay, it’s a basic hack and slash system with platforming elements. You attack your enemies with your equipped weapon while dodging their attacks. As you progress, you unlock new weapons and can set abilities to your weapons to give them the ability to, for example, use chain lightning or stun attacks. Further depth is added by changing your attacks if you happen to jump off a wall, and, of course, you have a super attack that charges up as you fight enemies.
Raji’s most vital points are its art direction with exotic backdrops accompanied by a fitting soundtrack and its relatively new setting of Indian mythology. There are several moments in the game where you can explore murals that tell you stories of Indian mythology, and for someone who loves mythology, this is undoubtedly a treat. The art style of the cutscenes is also rather impressive, presenting it as a puppet show complete with puppet strings. Graphically the game isn’t awe-inspiring, though, and unfortunately, Raji doesn’t quite hold up to be a truly engaging and memorable experience, however.
One of my biggest gripes is the camera position; it’s so far zoomed out that you can hardly make out what you’re doing even in docked mode. While this may be fine for specific genres, it’s a fatal flaw for a hack and slash game that requires precision dodging. Despite the developers’ attempt to add some depth to the gameplay by giving you different weapons and abilities, you will end up mostly sticking to a particular playstyle. I ended up entirely ditching the spear as soon as I got the bow and never looked back. Switching abilities is also somewhat cumbersome as you need to go into a separate menu, cycle through the menu until you hit the commands setting menu, unequip an ability with one button press and then equip it with another button. All of this could’ve been designed to work with a simple button press instead, but instead, you will often find yourself to be too bothered to switch to abilities better fitting the situation. The environmental specific techniques were a nice touch, but I found myself hardly ever in the opportunity to use them.
The platforming perhaps suffers even more from the camera position because it often requires you to jump from a particular angle, which is hard to make out from that distance. It can get pretty frustrating at times because of how finicky the jumps can be, not at the least helped by the dodge controls. And did I mention the bugs? The game is filled with annoying bugs that suddenly make buttons no longer work (I even encountered a bug that stopped me from attacking) or have you floating in midair.
The story of Raji is relatively straightforward “rescue your loved one and save the world while you’re at it” mission. And there’s nothing wrong with that if they hadn’t chosen to have your every action be narrated by some backseat driving gods. Not only does this way of storytelling wear out its welcome quickly, but it’s also not like any of the voice actings is incredibly impactful (especially the MC is rather lackluster).
Conclusion and Score:
Despite having some things going for it, mainly it’s setting and art direction, Raji suffers from poor design choices, loose controls, and lots of bugs. Unless the setting really intrigues you, I can’t really recommend it.