Raji: An Ancient Epic Review – PC

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Raji: An Ancient Epic has finally arrived and I have to say I was blown away with this game from the opening and mid-mission cutscenes to the amazing level designs and thrilling combat mixed with a dash of platforming.  There were only a few issues that kept this game from getting a perfect score, and we’ll get to those shortly.

The game takes place in India where we are introduced to Golu and Raji, a brother and sister duo that make their living as street performers until one day demons invade the city and Golu is taken prisoner along with several other children to be taken back to a fortress for nefarious purposes.  Raji immediately sets out to rescue her brother and with the help of the gods embarks on a thrilling adventure full of classic platforming and intense combat.

At its core Raji: An Ancient Epic is an action-brawler that combines weapons and powers that slowly evolve as you play through the story.  At first you only have the Trishul staff then later the Sharanga bow and eventually other weapons are added that you can easily select using the D-pad.  This system allows you to quickly swap weapons in mid-battle so you can use the best weapon for each enemy type.  There are several ways to engage the enemy with light and heavy attacks as well as ranged abilities, and you can also use the environment to your advantage, swinging around pillars or jumping off walls for cool aerial attacks.  Some encounters take place around a special totem that will absorb the damage you inflict on the enemies and when full offers up a special ability attack for your current weapon.  Combat is always presented as an arena-style event with a white boundary that appears as demons materialize around you, and you’ll need to defeat them all to remove the border so you can move on.

When you aren’t fighting off the demon hordes you’ll engage in a bit of light exploration; mostly white orbs that can be used to feed your skill tree and improve your weapons and abilities, and pink orbs that replenish your health.  Since there aren’t a lot of pink orbs lying around, and the ones that do exist are often well hidden you’ll be glad to know you can also heal up during battle by using various finishing moves on staggered enemies.

There is also a bit of platforming; mostly climbing and jumping to ledges, but there are some action sequences that will have you dashing across crumbling architecture.  There are also some cool puzzles in the game; sadly nothing remotely challenging but fun distractions nonetheless.  The first is a ring puzzle where you rotate various concentric circles to align them and form a picture.  Another type of puzzle has you rotating various vertical segments of a totem to make the sculpture align properly.

The presentation for Raji: An Ancient Epic is stunning with huge levels usually presented from a distant camera that will zoom and pan around to capture the perfect angle as you play.  The sense of scale is epic and often Raji is just this tiny figure in a massive world design.  Speaking of design, the entire world is presented in the Pahari art style with gorgeous hand-painted textures and fluid animation for Raji in combat as well as level traversal.  Seeing her wall-run or slide down a tapestry for the first time was jaw-dropping and it never gets old.  But the real showstopper is the combat animation where Raji can tumble out of danger or climb and spin around pillars or run up and leap off vertical surfaces to modify her attacks.  I particularly enjoyed the lack of any UI, giving you a clear and unobstructed view of the gorgeous scenery and intense action.  The only information available is the health of you and your enemies, and this is presented as a segmented ring around each that slowly depletes as damage is inflicted.

Raji: An Ancient Epic scales nicely for a variety of PC’s and it will really shine on the more powerful rigs.  My RTX 2080ti was able to output 4K visuals at max settings with a flawlessly smooth framerate.  The lighting, shadows, reflections, and flashy special effects are some of the best I’ve seen this summer, especially in this genre.

My only nitpicks with the game were the moments where depth perception interfered with gameplay, usually caused by either a weird camera angle or perhaps colors that were too similar or a lack of a shadow that would cause me to miss a simple jump or climb a pillar.  The other issue was with some unclear instructions.  The tutorials show a ghost image of Raji performing a move with the various button presses, but there was one instance where I spent over 20 minutes trying to complete the lesson not realizing that I had to have the bow equipped.  At no time did the game tell me this, and once I switched I completed the lesson on my first attempt.

Expect 6-8 hours to finish the game, which is admittedly a bit short, but given the repetitive nature of both the combat and the puzzle-solving anything longer would have been detrimental to the overall enjoyment of this game.  You’ll have plenty of fun while it lasts.  I would have enjoyed some sort of collectible incentive to encourage more thorough exploration or replayability, but for only $25 you’ll get your money’s worth.  You might even want to consider the bundle with the soundtrack because the music in this game is outstanding with great composition using authentic Indian instruments.

Raji: An Ancient Epic is a definite must-have title for anyone who loves action-brawlers; especially ones with nuanced tactical combat and a gorgeous setting to fight in.  I was periodically reminded of games like Prince of Persia and God of War.  There is a rich and engaging story being told and plenty of classic platforming and puzzle-solving to balance the furious and frequent combat encounters and crazy boss fights.  Definitely check this out.

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