Demo Review: Raji: An Ancient Epic

 An interesting look at Indian culture through the lens of an action game.

Console: Nintendo Switch

While I wanted to start the Demo Watch series, a series all about the demo's that are floating around the Nintendo Eshop with a look at the Balan Wonderworld Demo I think the time for that has passed. Everybody knows the game blows. Everybody has been hammering on its flaws and it's pretty clear that the game is not worth a purchase. The demo isn’t even downloadable anymore so you can’t even play that anymore. Then I saw that a game that has been on my watchlist is currently 50% off due to a sale. Raji: an Ancient Epic. The perfect candidate to start this series out with. 

So without further ado, let’s dive in!

Raji: An Ancient Epic is an Indie title by Nodding Heads Games, an Indian development studio. It’s a game that puts Indian culture and mythology at the forefront, which is what drew me to it. The game incorporates many elements of Hindu and Balinese mythology and takes inspiration from tales such as the Mahabharata and Ramayana. Graphically, the game is designed in the style of Pahari paintings while the architecture of the world is modelled after that of medieval Rajasthan. Even the music has those immediately recognizable middle-eastern tones to it.

One of the ways Raji tells you its story if through the use of these paintings incorporated in the world itself. A very neat way of going about it.

The Demo of Raji is one of those ‘it’s the first chapter types of deals’. The impression it gave me is that the contents of the Demo is the tutorial section of the full game. The upside to this is that you don’t feel lost. You’re introduced to the story as well as the gameplay more organically this way and if you decide to buy the game, you can continue where you left off. The entire demo is short, not even an hour-long but gives you just enough to get a taste of the entire experience. Which, from what I’ve played, is promising.

The story seems pretty basic. It’s the player, like Raji, going up against a bunch of Demons that have razed a festival and taken many people captive including your little brother. With the help of two Indian gods and the weapon, they give you, Raji sets of the free her brother. In terms of gameplay, the demo is pretty interesting. The way Raji moves about the word is, essentially, parkour. You jump from one large pillar to the next and run across walls to get across gaps. That sort of thing. It’s fun and not something I personally experience before, though a bit clunky. You almost have to be hugging a wall to start climbing on it. Otherwise, you’ll do the standard roll that’s assigned to the B-button which killed Raji on more than one occasion.

The combat is also something I’m a bit iffy at. The basic principle is simple, you have both light and heavy attacks as well as a ranged attack. The game gives you plenty of options for cool combat moves by incorporating parkour into the combat. It nonetheless feels shallow. I spend most of my time in combat doing a combination of dodging and button-mashing, which worked out just fine. More finesse wasn’t required. Not a bad combat system, but again, one that does feel shallow.

Lastly, the game holds up graphically even on the less powerful Switch hardware. It’s a bit blurry, especially the further away everything is, but that’s nothing out of the ordinary for the hardware. The general look of the game is 3D with a fixed camera perspective. The view is quite zoomed out though, which does make the characters a bit difficult to see at times but does wonders in making the world itself visible and stand out. It works well, makes the game stand out visually and the cutscenes are a joy to watch. They’re made to look like those puppet shows where the characters function as stick figures and the only thing you see their shadow. They’re well done and one of this demo’s stand out elements.

A look at the game's perspective as well as the game's beautiful architecture.

Verdict

Would I buy this game based on this demo? Yes, yes I think I would. I do want to run through the demo a second time to get a better feel for the controls but what I played here is promising. I can see where some of the criticism that the full game received came from, like the combat, but those don’t appear to be really significant. It puts a lot of focus on Indian culture and if that sounds interesting to you, I would definitely recommend you download the demo and experience it for yourself.

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