Games made by myths and lore from India, that’s the goal from developer Nodding Head Games. Their first award-winning action-adventure game, Raji: An Ancient Epic finally releases on Xbox and is immediately one that can count. Gaming development has only recently become a promising career option for that region, as for a long time only so-so mobile games were being made. With Ubisoft’s Prince of Persia remastered from an Indian studio and Nodding Head Games Raji things seem to drastically improve. Let us be clear, that’s fantastic news. Not only does that mean more worthwhile games to play, but it also means more unique games that show light on new aspects of culture or game mechanics.
What we liked!
- A visually stunning journey in Indian culture: Without a doubt, the best part of Raji is the mythological presentation and regularly stunning vistas. Thanks to the cinematic camera that frequently zooms out you can easily imagine yourself in a fairy tale world. Scale especially is highly impressive, from ever-expanding deserts, a beautiful fort with storytelling carvings on massive walls, a huge indoor lake with huge koi fish, and an apartment high statue of the important deities of Hinduism Vishnu. Raji keeps on impressing with highly detailed visuals and big open spaces.
- The way the story is told with Indian culture: Narrated by Vishnu and Durga your playable character is chosen to battle demons and face Mahabalasura. I’m aware that all those names are unknown or vague for most of you but that’s one of the strong aspects of Raji. It takes time to learn the player about many Indian folklores, cultures, and religions. I clung to the voice actors to learn more about the fascinating history of all kinds of Gods, especially about the Hindu poem The Mahabharata. Such a rare thing that a videogame combines educating the player and a full-fledged traditional action-adventure gameplay. Storytelling is done in several ways, all of them in a pretty unique way. Murals that explain Mythological backstory, puzzle sections that explain Raji and Golu’s backstory, and a kind of shadow puppet cutscenes that show you what is currently happening with Raji and her quest to find her kidnapped brother Golu. I do have to mention that the ending is really disappointing.
- In general, everything about sound is how it should be. Strong voice-acting unwrapping the story, playable character Raji has a habit of overdelivering some lines but I could live with that. Environmental sounds make a special game even more special with a soundtrack that totally fits the world.
- Combat gameplay has hits and misses: Raji is one talented woman, she has some impressive athletic fighting skills. She can use the environment around her to stun enemies and has an arsenal of weapons gifted by the Gods to overcome demons. Just like Bayonetta or Devil May Cry the area blocks when demons show up. Variety is present but constantly fighting the same enemies hurts the pace of the game, I understand the need to challenge players but It was too predictable and it repeats itself constantly. Hurting the otherwise fun and challenging fighting gameplay that feels a little like Prince of Persia.
What we disliked
- Confusing menu for upgrading or changing weapon abilities: Basic controls in the game are excellent and clear but I still have absolutely no clue how the navigation works for customizing weapons. There is a confusing tree sub-menu for your four weapons and placing orb elements, but I just couldn’t really figure it out what the difference was if each weapon had something specific… it is a bit shameful to say after playing more than thousands of games but I just didn’t get it. I just pressed some buttons, while getting frustrated and hoped it did something. Such a weird design, making something that should be easy so complicated.
It is truly exceptional that a small team has been able to develop a game like Raji, Nodding Head Games can be very proud of what they accomplished. Learning more about the Indian culture while playing a gorgeous game is rare and time well spent.