REVIEW : Raji: An Ancient Epic (PC)
Almost all the big video game companies have some relationship with the game development industry in India, either because they outsource the testing of their blockbusters there, or because they have studios developing mobile games. Based on this background, the components of Nodding Heads Games -which have gone through studios such as Rockstar, Ubisoft or EA- have wanted to hit the table by launching an original video game produced as an independent studio : Raji: An Ancient Epic, an adventure by 3D action now available on PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch.
It was first released on Switch, in fact, and has recently been published on the other platforms as well. His proposal guides us to a mystical India that is attacked overnight by troops of demons. Raji, the protagonist of this adventure, is the one chosen by the gods to put an end to this invasion while trying to rescue Golu, her brother, who has been kidnapped by the demonic beasts along with all the children of his city. Together with her, we will travel scenarios that are connecting fantasy and reality, inspired by Indian mythology and by the medieval structure of Rajasthan, a state in the north of the country.
Knowing Indian mythology
It is precisely in this desire to closely tell the Indian and Balinese myths that Raji: An Ancient Epic seeks to stand out from all the action platforms in three dimensions: throughout our adventure, we will discover the legends that make up the country’s religiosity, stories fantastic of wars between deities and demons that adapt more or less well to the structure of the genre of this video game.
There are sacred weapons, battles between gods and demonic creatures, curses and powers … India is a culture that we know very obliviously, usually stereotyped by creators who are far away from the country, that is why the work of Nodding Heads Games works to less as a point of internal peek into popular beliefs. Raji: An Ancient Epic supports its plot mainly in two mythological texts, Mahabharata and Ramayana, adapted here to some playable structures that, as we will see now, are quite classic.
Throughout the tour, we will see Pahari style murals that tell these sacred stories, always before and after facing hordes of demons wielding the weapons given by the gods, such as the Trishul trident or the Sharanga bow. Two deities will also be the ones who will narrate Raji’s adventure since he has decided to choose this human to face the divine mission of ending the demons. There will also be cinematics, a good amount that will feature some key moments from the game in shadow puppet style.
With that broth of influences, you could well imagine that Raji: An Ancient Epic has it all done on a graphical level, but when it comes down to it, the game can’t make a creative adaptation of everything it wants to capture. Its final form, that of the game that we control, does not deviate so much from the rest of the 3D action platforms the scenarios, the enemies, the projectiles that are thrown at us, everything is reminiscent of other games of the genre, leaving its originality relegated to points very specific and not very showy of the game.
The only thing that is solved here with more ease than inertia is music, an aspect in which Indian instruments such as sitar, duduk, kaval or kalimba are used. We are strictly talking about the themes that sound during the game, from the soundtrack of Raji: An Ancient Epic, because the sound design of the game effects also has a common finish.
There are some moments, yes, in which its visual power does stand out. Most of the scenarios are quite generic, but from time to time it surprises with some shocking creative decision and with landscapes that are especially groundbreaking with the general tone of the game. The same thing happens with enemies: while most have a more or less common design, a couple of final bosses take advantage of the mythological setting to create colossal combats that remain in memory.
Action and platforms to use
That cast in which the bland beats the original is common in all aspects of Raji: An Ancient Epic, also permeating the playable field: despite some good ideas, both the combat and the platforming sections lack a great execution that makes the game stand out in a genre as prolific as it is framed in.
The platforms aren’t much better either, given that Raji’s control system is imprecise. Throughout the game, we will explore various moments in which we will fall into the void having executed a jump well or, on the contrary, we will jump to a direction that we did not want due to the imprecision of the controls, especially if we play with keyboard and mouse. The design of the levels does not help to solve these problems either, presenting very basic and not very stimulating sections.
In the end, the three or four hours it can take us to complete the story of Raji: An Ancient Epic becomes uphill because of these decisions. With the clumsy rhythm of the little challenging combat and the shallow depth of its frustrating platform, it masks a game that could have given more of itself.