Welcome to This Is Not A Review. In these articles we discuss general impressions, ideas and thoughts on any given game, but as the title implies, it’s not a review. Instead, it’s an exercise in offering a quick recommendation (or dismissal) after spending enough time to grasp the ideas and gameplay of a thing without necessarily playing it from A to Z.
The subject of this installment: Raji: An Ancient Epic, developed by Nodding Heads Games and published by Super.Com.
Like many who watched Nintendo’s Indie World Showcase, I was immediately taken with Raji: An Ancient Epic, highlighted as one of the notable selections featured in the program.
Not only was it an actioner that seemed to offer thrills in the same vein as the older God of War and Prince of Persia titles thanks to flashy combat and acrobatic maneuvers, it was coming from an indie studio and from part of the world where Westerners don’t often get software — India. I jumped in immediately… and bounced off almost as quickly.
While Raji has some nice visuals and some strong environmental design, things were a little wobbly from the get-go. The cutscenes are told through shadow puppetry for a neat effect, but the initial tale was a bit confusing beyond the basic idea of “your brother is missing, rescue him!”. The story doesn’t get much better as the player encounters murals which (I assume) recount a historical fable that I’m not familiar with. It might land with players who know the story already, but it didn’t connect with me.
Raji also introduces some traversal elements like wall-running, climbing poles and grabbing ledges — all fine, but I didn’t see much of this during my time with it once the tutorials were over. The game quickly pivots towards combat, which is a shame since it’s terrible.
Combat occurs in closed-off arenas where the player sometimes has environmental features to pull moves off of — jump from a wall for a stronger strike, spin around a pole to stun enemies, etc. However, plenty don’t and then it’s just the titular Raji and some generic-looking monsters squaring off.
The hitboxes for fighting are question marks, and it’s easy to get stunlocked by a group of foes. Enemies that shoot projectiles don’t have sufficient pauses to let the player get hits in, and enemies have too much life. The starting weapon, a spear, has no defensive options beyond Raji simply rolling out of the way, and foes need to be finished off with a static animation that can be triggered from nearly anywhere. Enemies clip through environmental geometry and nothing feels tight or crisp — it’s a mushy kind of brawling, there’s no impact or weight to it.
Raji: An Ancient Epic might have been better off relying on its visuals, Indian themes and environmental traversal. Asking combat to carry so much of the experience when it’s this poor was a critical error in judgment, and it sours what could have otherwise been an interesting work from upcoming developers. I hope they try again.