As an avid gamer I have come across many stories of epic fantasies and daring rescues that resemble the cultures of familiar western gods. Sure, there are many instances of games like Civilization having characters like Gandhi or Shiva as playable characters, but never once has there been a game that properly displays Indian culture, until now. Raji: An Ancient Epic is an Indian action-adventure video game that displays the Indian culture in such fine detail that it is a delight to play and learn about the culture both at the same time. Developed by Nodding Heads Games based in Pune, Maharashtra, India, Raji is a wonderful experience for any gamer interested in learning about Indian mythology and enjoying an action based storyline.
An interesting note, before the game was developed Raji started with the Kickstarter campaign in 2017. The entire team originally consisted of 6 men and later added on to make 13, all based in Pune, Maharashtra, India. They had many difficulties when first launching their Kickstarter and unfortunately they did not meet their intended donation amount. Luckily, once a partnership with game publisher Super.com in 2019 was announced the game was able to make its way to being available as a demo on Steam in March of 2020 and eventually released fully in July 2020.
With stunning puppet-like animation and graphics we are flung into the world of the ancient Indian gods where the demon king Mahabalasura challenges the great goddess Durga and ends up defeating her causing the world to fall into chaos. Here we meet Raji and her younger brother Golu who is taken from Raji by evil demons under the command of Mahabalasura to parts unknown. Under the guidance of Vishnu and Durga, Raji is given a powerful weapon of the gods and is tasked to find her little brother and defeat Mahabalasura to save the world.
Initially while looking at the game, I thought the artwork and graphics were stunning! Not the average free-roaming worlds that I am used to, but a delightful colorful realm of different puzzles and challenges that any gamer would enjoy. Raji’s art style is reminiscent of ancient Indian art and has the unique benefit of describing the mythology the art depicts. Sometimes while playing I would slow down to enjoy the artwork depicting the ancient stories of Garuda, Shiva, and Durga herself in which the narrator would speak as you walk past them.
Photo Credit: https://www.gamerspack.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/raji_an_ancient_epic_review_naga.jpg
Being that the game is a story about an Indian culture and was developed in India itself, I would say the game is completely on point with all the things necessary to do a foreign game for a world audience. The art style alone sets an excellent tone for the game and the voice talent Nodding Head Games has recruited makes it a perfect match to help express the Indian culture the best they can. The attention to detail even on the villains is exquisite for each is a demon in Indian culture famous for their different behaviors. From the ogre like Gadasura and the imp like Tezabsura the game shows excellent detail on each character’s style and cultural representation.
What amazes me most about the cultural representation in the game is how well entwined it is with the story itself. As Raji progresses on her mission to save Golu she is given weapons and abilities from the gods. In order to obtain these great powers you must progress through the individual backstories of artwork displayed and puzzles to unlock them. The introduction of special power ups through prayer of sculptures to finding ancient temples to find mysterious artifacts make the story that more interesting and entwines it with the culture perfectly.
Tips and Tricks
As an active gamer, I’d like to say the game is both challenging and fun at the same time. Some issues I have are when trying to remember all the different commands the game has to offer. As you progress through the game and gain different abilities it becomes difficult to remember how to perform different attack actions or dodge abilities to help you battle in the game. I paused playing for a week and now I find myself going back to remember what unique abilities I had learned either by finding guides, or “mashing” different buttons.
Overall, the game can be very straight forward. The map is not as free roam as one would think and usually lights will guide you on your way to progressing through levels. Enemies can vary from long range to close range and, I cannot stress this enough, dodge as much as you can. Many boss enemies have a plethora of different abilities that make thinking on your feet a trait you must have. For Raji, herself, there are different abilities she obtains that can range from close range single hits to long range abilities that hit multiple enemies. Upgrades in RPG fashion let you change how certain attacks do damage and lets you customize your play on the type of damage you want to deal. I recommend when playing to always execute your enemies for that will give you a moment of peace in the chaos to think where to dodge next and it will heal you. Puzzles and any non-fighting challenge you face will have elements of Raji’s past with her brother and family as well as depict ancient epics from Indian mythology. These puzzles are relatively easy to answer and are meant as a story device to help progress the campaign further.
After spending several hours playing the game, I would say overall I think the game is a must have for fantasy adventure fanatics. The mythology in the game makes it both informational and amazing to look at and the story is definitely unique with the different enemies and challenges you will face. My only complaint is with the lack of head-up display (HUD) that can be quickly accessed to see different abilities or move-set Raji possesses. For the Brown Geeks, I would give it 4.5 out 5 Brown Thumbs Up and recommend it to anyone wanting a fun informational action packed game for any age.