Raji: An Ancient Epic follows the story of a young girl, Raji, in search of her brother Golu, who was kidnapped. We begin with the backstory of Raji and Golu working at a carnival; Raji would walk the tightrope while Golu would tell ancient stories involving their religion of Hinduism with his puppets. During one of his stories where demons disappeared, they suddenly reappear at the carnival and take Golu. This is where our adventure begins, as we take control of Raji who was knocked out in the scuffle.
The gameplay of Raji is simple. There are basic puzzles as you progress through a level and forced battle sequences that enclose you in an area. The only way to progress is to kill all the remaining enemies in the enclosure. The battle sequences are actually really fun as Raji progresses and becomes stronger. They are treated as real time strategy, meaning they are moving about and have variations. The different demons Raji encounters vary in size and battle patterns. The larger demons that move slow and carry large clubs deal a lot of damage but are easy to dodge. Then there are small demons that look like monkeys, these are much faster but don’t deal a lot of damage.
Later in the levels we are introduced to mechanical enemies that fire lasers at our character. And the last type of enemy we encountered was a warrior type demon who was capable of attacking from a range and can take many hits. There are other enemies such as demons that spit green and also purple acid at Raji. Any one enemy Raji is facing at a given point can be defeated easily, but when combining these different types of enemies in a small area, it provides a challenge to overcome quickly. I found that the combat welcomed alteration to my character build which I’ll explain after I explain the combat.
As we beat the first level, we discover that Raji has been blessed by the goddess Durga with her weapon the Trishul, which is granted as our first weapon. The combat is introduced and we begin by learning the controls for the game.
We use A to roll out of harms way, and also as our jump button for when we need to platform. The combat training provides scarecrow dummies before we are given a real enemy. X is used for our basic attack and Y is more of a heavy ranged attack. We can also pair X or Y while rolling to lunge towards an enemy. We can also throw our weapon using LT + X which is the move I have used the least throughout the game. When pillars are in the battlefield, Raji can use B to swing around a pillar and shock her enemies for a brief stun. The game encourages the player to use a combination of attacks rather than just spamming one attack.
If Raji takes too much damage, she’ll be put right back at the beginning of a fight. I found that focusing on certain enemies first helped me gain control of the battlefield, plus you have the knowledge of where they spawn now if you die. There are also combos for running up against walls and jumping backwards, with a combo for each A and X when wall running. All the other weapons we come across in Raji’s journey are a bow, sword and shield, and lastly a blade that hoovers and zooms directly at enemies. By the end of the game, the blade was the only weapon I used because of just how powerful it was.
If you happen to miss a jump platforming and not in battle, the game is extremely forgiving as you will spawn just before the jump you died on. Death in the game has no major penalty other than resetting the battle sequence you have failed. As the player progresses, we acquire the other weapons to use as well as new powers to add to our currently equipped weapon of choice.
The powers are interchangeable and are levelled up by the use of Favor Orbs. These orbs act like collectables throughout the game and there are only three levels that have them available, even though there are more levels than just those that have the orbs. When we acquire our first Favor Orb, it is a part of the story progression. There are 5 Favor orbs in levels Fortress of Jaidhar (the first orb handed to Raji) and Hiranya Nagari leaving 6 in the level The Land of Mystics. When we acquire an orb, we can deposit them in Raji’s power menu using the Select button.
The most forgiving part of the game is allowing players to add and remove the orbs we have placed at any time. This is most likely because we are given better powers as you progress in the story. Raji soon learns after receiving the Trishul that it can be enchanted with lighting, fire, or ice. Our orbs strengthen just these enchantments making it easier to shock enemies or deal damage over time using fire. The Ice is the most powerful though, leaving enemies frozen if we can hit them consecutively quick enough and can also be chained to multiple enemies leaving entire battlefields frozen. Each element is suited with a god and has 3 perks with 3 slots per perk for an Orb.
There are other orbs we come across that are colored differently. White is for power ups and yellow is our special attack that has an Area of Effect of damage, which also changes with our weapons and powers. We learn our special attack when we come across a Shrine to the deity Kali. The shrine can refuel our special and we can hold up to three charges. (I noticed that the shrines only replenished with combat sequences and not over time). Fuchsia orbs are for our health and are called Amrit Boond. Raji adds an explanation that Amrit Boond is the blood of the fallen demons we have vanquished.
As we enter a battle, Raji’s health is displayed around her character as fuchsia flower petals. There is no health regeneration within battles except that given by defeating enemies. Enemies’ health bars are also displayed around their characters and change in color the more damage they take. When an enemy has critical health, the player can choose to do an execution by pressing B when prompted to above the enemy’s head. Performing this execution puts the battlefield on pause for a brief moment and most of the time returns health to Raji. Any enemy in low health can be executed and will be dazed for a brief amount of time. If you choose not to immediately execute the critical health demon, then they will regain consciousness and continue to battle, but still can be executed later. Using executions when swarmed by enemies can help regain control of a chaotic situation. Especially since Raji does not get harmed during an execution.
The audio quality of the game is beautiful for the most part, with the only disappointment being Raji’s line delivery. Some of her dialogue either sounds cheesy or low quality. The music though is a treat to listen to. None of the music ever becomes repetitive and is a bonus to the combat sequences as well as the platforming sections. Nodding Heads Games really did a fantastic job on the sound for everything in the game. Even just Raji simply running, you can hear her jewellery clinking around.
The last thing I’ll touch on are the achievements. Raji: An Ancient Epic has 21 achievements total for the 1,000 gamerscore available. All of the achievements are obtainable within one playthrough if using a guide for all of the Favor Orbs. When playing the game, I had missed one Favor Orb in each of the three levels that have them. There is an achievement for collecting all which must be done in a single playthrough as there is no level select. There is also an achievement for each of the three levels for collecting all of the Favor Orbs. The last group of miss-able achievements are easier as you need to either listen or learn about a certain story or deity you come across on your journey. This is easier than it sounds, as you play certain stories will be shared by interacting with X at highlighted spots on the floor to hear some dialogue from the narrators. Almost all of these are directly in Raji’s path so hard to miss. All you have to ensure is you hear all the lines of dialogue and you’ll see an autosave icon in the bottom right and there only a few per an achievement. The other achievements are story related and will be obtained through natural progression. I completed the game after two playthroughs which took roughly 8-10 hours, but can be done faster than that with a guide for all of the Favor Orbs.
Raji: An Ancient Epic is a unique game that reminds me of the great Prince of Persia, her journey following a similar arc of learning God-given powers to help her people. Platforming can be a bit off a times, the forced perspective camera not helping here, though across the board Raji is more forgiving than most, letting us pick back up where we left off quickly. It’s a shame that we can’t level select to mop up collectibles/achievements as otherwise replaying can be a bit of a drag. Some great audio visual work eases this pain, but as it is I’d suggest that waiting for a sale down the line might make the journey feel more worth your while.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.