Also available on PlayStation 4, Switch, and Windows
Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 01/22/2022 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
A lot of games these days incorporate mythology into their stories and worlds, but it’s almost always Greek, Norse, Egyptian, or Abrahamic. Despite being the world’s third-largest religion and the world’s oldest religion, Hindu mythology usually seems to get overlooked. Not only does this neglect a huge source of narrative inspiration, but it also limits the representation for people from the world’s second-most populous nation. Raji, on the other hand, is a game that looks gorgeous, plays wonderfully, and has some fantastic storytelling, but it takes place in India and is steeped in Hindu mythology.
The titular character in Raji sees demons massacre her village and kidnap the village children including her little brother, Golu, on the day of Raksha Bandhan. She then sets out on a quest to save her brother from the demons, but unbeknownst to her, is being supported by the goddess Durga and the god Vishnu. While they cannot directly interact with her, they help her by granting her divine abilities as well as holy weapons to use in her crusade against the demons that plague her home.
Visually, the game is an absolute treat to the eyes. It varies between a limited overhead 3D perspective and a 2.5D perspective, but the characters, environments, and backdrops are absolutely stunning. This is one of those games that by itself disproves the notion that video games aren’t art. The combat feels a little imprecise and takes some getting used to, but the platforming is simply sublime. Very few indie games in my experience have nailed 2.5D platforming this perfectly. There were a few frame rate stutters during my playthrough, but these were exclusively in the cinematics and had absolutely no impact whatsoever on gameplay.
The music, as well, is superb. I’m generally a fan of traditional Indian music, and while the music is varied depending on the environment and what’s going on in the game, the music does a great job of capturing the setting. The benefit of having an actual Indian developer make this game rather than Americans or Japanese trying to make an Indian game is on full display in every aspect here. While some parts of the game do assume a basic knowledge of Hinduism – what Raksha Bandhan is, who Vishnu is, etc – so Westerners will want to keep Google handy to fill in the cultural caps, the game does encourage players to listen to the optional segments of Hindu lore. In each level, you’ll find a series of interactable places where Vishnu tells the player about a Hindu myth via voiceover, and listening to each of these in a level awards the player with a high-point achievement. It’s totally optional and has nothing to do with the game’s story, but it provides an incentive to take the time to immerse yourself in a little bit of Hindu mythology.
Raji: An Ancient Epic definitely feels like an indie game, but it’s one of the best that the indie scene has to offer as far as artistic design and cultural representation goes. I hope that this is a sign of things to come from the Indian game development scene as there’s a distinct lack of Hindu and Buddhist-inspired games. Raji has everything you need in a solid game – tight platforming, gorgeous artwork, good character designs, a well-told story, and excellent music. It’s available on every major platform, and it’s only seven or eight hours long on average, so give it a play.