Repetitive puzzles, choppy framerate, and dull combat leave no reason to play Raji: An Ancient Epic – not even to learn more about Hindu mythology.
Raji: An Ancient Epic is a game that, at first glance, tries to do to Hindu mythology what the original God of War games did to Greek mythology. I don’t know much about Hindu mythology, so I was excited to play it.
Does the game succeed in making an action-adventure title with tight platforming, responsive combat, and an epic story that takes you through ancient India’s legends? Not in the slightest.
Brother, Where Art Thou?
First of all, let’s address that God of War comparison. No, Raji: An Ancient Epic isn’t God of War, and doesn’t try to be, although the inspiration is obvious.
This game is less about violence and more about bringing peace to the land. Instead of a perpetually angry Spartan seeking revenge, you play a young woman on a rescue mission. After demons kidnap her younger brother, Raji is chosen by the gods to stand against the demon lord Mahabalasura and save the human realm.
The story serves to drive the game forward, but not beyond that. I’m sure I won’t remember anything about it in a few days. But the villain, Mahabalasura, is actually intriguing, and I wish I got to learn more about this character throughout the game.
But instead of letting me interact with Mahabalasura and other Hindu deities, Raji: An Ancient Epic settles for just talking about them. You can listen to a narrator telling you stories about gods and devas you never get to meet or even understand how they tie into the story (if at all). You do face two mythical creatures – one during a terrible stealth section, and one in a tedious boss fight.
The combat, in general, is maybe the worst thing in Raji: An Ancient Epic. It’s repetitive, unresponsive, and lacks any skill. Though that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Enemies can interrupt your combo with one hit, and a group of them can easily stun-lock you back to your last checkpoint. The opposite is, of course, not true. The game can’t keep up with your input, and Raji is almost always a few steps behind you. So while combat isn’t particularly difficult or easy – it is frustrating.
Developer Nodding Head Games tried to add some variety to the combat by including multiple weapons – a spear, a bow, a sword, and another one I won’t spoil. While it’s clear that you’re supposed to switch between them depending on the situation, you don’t really have to. The sword comes with a shield that lets you block attacks, and once you get it, any semblance of challenge evaporates.
The same goes for the magical elemental powers you unlock and upgrade. You can infuse each weapon with either electricity, fire, or ice. But once Shiva grants you his ice powers that can freeze enemies and shatter them with one hit, you’ll never use any of the other ones.
Spin That Wheel
Besides combat, Raji: An Ancient Epic offers some light puzzles and platforming. Platforming is actually pretty good. You roll, jump, climb, and wall-run all with the same button. I expected it to go horribly wrong, but it’s all surprisingly smooth.
Well, except for a dream sequence later in the game that almost made me break a Joycon in frustration. The shifting camera makes it almost impossible to align your jumps properly.
The puzzles are also fine, except for how there are just two of them you do over and over. You either spin painted rings to form a picture on the floor or spin the rings of a corrupted tree to cleanse the area of demonic influence.
They are incredibly easy, so naturally, solving them more than once gets incredibly boring.
Raji: An Ancient Epic isn’t a good-looking game, and I honestly don’t know if it’s the game’s or the Switch’s fault.
While the art is lovely, the textures are of low quality and look terrible in both 720p and 1080p. And still, you can see noticeable frame drops whenever the screen gets slightly busy.
I do like the game’s cutscenes, however. They are all done in the style of a shadow puppet show and are visually pleasing. It’s especially nice how the game transitions from a place you see in a cutscene to the same one in-engine.
The voice acting of both narrators, Vishnu and Durga, is particularly good, and the music is one of the game’s very few highlights. It helps create a mythical atmosphere and makes the ridiculously long boss fights more tolerable.
Ancient, but Not Epic
Raji: An Ancient Epic isn’t a good game. I struggled to see it through to the end, and it couldn’t have taken me more than 4 hours to finish. I encountered bugs that forced me to close the game and boot it back up (because if you try to load a previous checkpoint, the game freezes).
As it stands, I couldn’t find any redeeming quality that makes Raji: An Ancient Epic worth playing. Right now, the game is only available on the Nintendo Switch. Maybe, by the time it reaches the PC, PS4, and Xbox One, we’ll get a more polished version. Maybe.
Developer: Nodding Heads
Release Date: Aug. 18, 2020
Our Raji: An Ancient Epic review copy was provided by the publisher.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.