Raji: An Indian Bastion (Spoiler-Free Game Review)

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Brought to you from the depths of India, we have a review for Raji: An Ancient Epic. It’s spoiler-free to boot.

Raji really hates sand.
Raji: “I hate sand.”

A Brief Background

Pretty accurate trailer, all things considered.

Raji: An Ancient Epic is an action-adventure game developed by Nodding Heads Games and published by Super.com that was released on the Nintendo Switch back in August 18, 2020. It will also be available on Steam in October 15 of the same year. On the Nintendo eShop, the game costs $25 at full price. Is it worth it? Well, let’s find out below.

Gameplay

At its heart, Raji is a platformer. You mainly traverse your way through platforms and over fall traps.

Raji is a lot smarter than most players.
Not quite as easy to fall as I’d have thought.

In some ways, Raji is like Bastion: a similar game by an entirely different developer. Both games have very forgiving fall mechanics. Raji herself stops at the edge of platforms and refuses to move any further if you try to just make her walk off. You have to actually press the jump button and not quite make it to the next platform to make her fall. There’s also a forgiving autosave feature that ensures that when you fall, you don’t lose much progress. This is a big plus, in my opinion, considering how crap I normally am at platformers.

My only complaint is that you can’t control the camera. To be fair, Raji is normally pretty good about pointing the camera in the right direction. However, when you’re trying to make a particularly tricky jump and you fall because your perspective is a bit skewed, you start wishing for that camera control.

And this is just a pet peeve from me, but as a Legend of Zelda veteran, I’m perturbed by the unbreakable vases. There are so many vases placed throughout the game that I cannot break, no matter how many attacks I launch against them. Raji, why you do this?

Thus, Raji gets a 8 out of 10 for me in terms of gameplay. Great platformer, but I just wish I could move the camera around myself instead of having the game move it for me. Also, unbreakable vases irk me.

Combat

The combat in Raji is…okay. Not bad, but it needs a bit of work.

Raji's lightning powers at work.
Not quite as fun as this makes it out to be.

Combat takes place in arenas that spontaneously appear when you enter them, trapping you inside until you kill all the enemies. After a while though, this formula can feel a bit, well, formulaic. You quickly learn to spot likely arena spaces, and anticipate combat accordingly.

Raji has a skill tree based on powers bestowed upon you by various deities. You can upgrade these skills by collecting powerups you find hidden away in odd corners of the game. It’s fairly solid, save for a few things. You can add and remove points from your skills at will, so that’s a plus. However, you can only use one set of powers at a time, and you can find far more orbs than what can be used for each deity’s skill tree. The consequence is that once you find a certain number of powerups, you can have a fully upgraded set of powers to use at any time.

This means that with a bit of exploration, combat becomes a walk in the park, no matter how many enemies you face in each arena. The bosses are fun to fight though, and quite varied in terms of how you defeat them.

And this is just a pet peeve from me, but as a Legend of Zelda veteran, I’m perturbed by the unbreakable vases. There are so many vases placed throughout the game that I cannot break, no matter how many attacks I launch against them. Raji, why you do this?

Overall, I’d rate Raji‘s combat system at 7 out of 10. It’s decent, but the mechanics leaves a bit to be desired.

Story

The story is one of the ways Raji shines, although it’s not without its faults.

Those demons don't know what they've unleashed.
It’s Tiffany Aching time!

The plot is relatively straightforward: Raji’s brother gets kidnapped by demons, and Raji decides to get him back herself. It’s here though that the story gets a bit complicated for Raji, what with the gods getting involved. As a certain Discworld witch would say, it’s all gone mythological for her.

That said, Raji isn’t going to let a little thing like gods and demons stop her from getting her little bro back. Her attitude can best be described as: “I’m rescuing my little brother, and you motherf*ers won’t stop me!” Tiffany Aching would be proud of this one.

The in-game lore is provided by little stories of the gods and goddesses who’re basically cheering you on. These stories are taken straight out of Indian mythology, so that’s a nice touch. They’re also entirely skippable if you don’t care, or if you’ve heard them already, so that’s another nice touch.

I’d give Raji‘s story a 10 out of 10 for that alone.

Music

The music is another place where Raji shines.

Raji: An Indian Boogaloo.

The music of Raji really sets it apart. With much use of traditional Indian instruments and strategically placed tracks, the music really sets the tone for the game and draws you into it. I don’t really need to say much else here, and in fact, I can’t. You’ll just have to listen to it yourself to hear the beat.

Raji definitely gets a 10 out of 10 for me on the music.

Art

Raji’s art looks pretty from a distance. Up close though…

Raji: the game that looks good from afar.
Pretty from a distance perfectly describes the art.

From a distance, Raji looks pretty good. In fact, the background can look downright gorgeous. However, the lack of camera control prevents me from being able to fully appreciate the view. I feel like if I could just pan the camera around a bit, I would better be able to enjoy the backgrounds, but I can’t. So there it is.

It’s when the camera chooses to get closeups that the graphics fall apart. The surfaces and objects look a bit on the low resolution side. Also, Raji herself looks okay from a distance, but when the camera gets close enough that you can clearly see her face…good Lord. Her eyes are these solid black circles that feel like they’re draining your soul. I think they’re supposed to be very dark brown irises, but the animators ended up making Raji look like a demon. Raji, are you actually fighting your own kind?

Thus, I have to give Raji a 5 out of 10 for artwork. Good looking backgrounds that I can’t fully appreciate combined with low-res closeups and a frankly disturbing-looking main character? No thank you.

Replayability

Long story short: you likely won’t want to play Raji more than once. The levels are too linear for you to enjoy exploring more than once, and the story has no branching paths that would entice you into multiple playthroughs.

Thus, I’d give Raji a 2 out of 10 in terms of replayability. To be fair though, most games I’ve played fail me in that aspect.

Bug Report

A tree that looks suspiciously like a bug, but isn't.
Not actually a bug, but it’s a good look for one.

Raji has been a mostly bug-free experience for me. Mostly doesn’t mean completely though.

I encountered a major bug when playing through the city level. Early on, when I first faced flying demons, one of the demons flew offscreen and vanished without a trace. The game didn’t count the demon as being defeated though. Thus, I was trapped in the arena permanently, without any way of freeing myself. In the end, I had to restart the game to continue. To be fair, the constant autosaving meant that I didn’t lose much progress, and the bug didn’t happen again.

So yeah, Raji gets a 8 out of 10 for me in the bug department. One game-breaking bug encountered, but was easily fixed through a restart. It’s not a bad record, really.

Final Score

Overall, I give Raji: An Ancient Epic a 7.1 out of 10. It’s a pretty solid game steeped in Indian mythology that could nevertheless use some improvement. Perhaps Nodding Heads could release a patch in the future that would address some of these issues?

You might be asking yourself: is Raji worth it at the full price? My answer is unfortunately no. This is not a game you want to get for $25. My advice is to wait for a decent discount. If the game’s price drops to $20 or lower, then I’d recommend it.

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