According to Wikipedia, the video game sector in India is still underdeveloped compared to other Asian countries such as China and South Korea. Mobile apps seem to be the trend and it can be hard for developers to find the necessary funding to create PC and console games.
That partly explains why Raji: An Ancient Epic caught my eye while browsing through entries on Kickstarter recently. An action-adventure title that brings a cross between The Last Guardian and Bastion to mind, it’s being developed by Nodding Heads Games who are based in Pune in India. Co-Founder Ian Maude previously worked on Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture and the team have over four decades of experience at well-known studios including Rockstar, Ubisoft, EA and Zynga.
The title’s namesake is a young girl chosen by the gods to fight against the demonic invasion of the human realm. Her destiny is to rescue her younger brother Golu, and players will witness how Raji evolves through the atrocities of war and the loss of loved ones. The chaos will only end if she manages to break down the might of the evil Mahabalasura: the great lord of the demons, whom it’s said holds the soul of every demon he’s ever slain.
Very few video games are set in India and Nodding Heads wants to change that, creating a project inspired by Hindu and Balinese mythology. The team’s research included visits to Rajasthan and Bali and they’re using the knowledge gathered to create some interesting level locations, bosses and characters – all of which is evident in the demo which can be downloaded from Raji’s Steam page right now.
I installed this recently and shortly after starting it up, my other-half looked over my shoulder to see what I was playing. The first thing he said was ‘that’s really pretty’ (I’m assuming he was talking about the game rather than me) and he’s right. The Kickstarter information advises that ‘every environment is treated as an ancient Indian painting portraying a story with exquisite details’. During the short time I spent with the demo, I guided Raji through the walls of Jaidhar fort studded with overgrown plants and glittering butterflies, along with a beautiful royal room with colourful stained-glass windows.
Not everything is so tranquil though, as waves of enemies try to take your character down as you work your way through the environment. Leaping trolls who spit balls of green goo at you are particularly annoying as they don’t stay still for long and it doesn’t seem possible to block their ammunition if you get caught in its path. The developer confirms that combat is focused on ‘blending the fluidity of movement and attacks of the player character against the mystical and powerful enemies you encounter’; the controls still feel slightly stiff at the moment but this is obviously something which can be refined throughout the project’s lifecycle.
Later Levels (@LaterLevels) November 18, 2017
Raji has a magical staff at her disposal and depending on which god you pick, this may be imbued with the element of lightning, fire, ice, earth and rage. The feature is called the ‘favour of the gods’ and allows you to customise your abilities to craft your own style of gameplay. Only one element is available in the demo and I particularly liked the chain-lightning: going up against one monster would result in those around it getting a sharp electric shock also. Plus it’s pretty satisfying seeing the enemies shake around you as you slam down your weapon and call forth your special attack.
The Kickstarter page refers to ‘intriguing environmental puzzles’ and, although those shown in the demo were very simple, I can see how the location and level design would lend itself well to more difficult challenges later on. The top-down view could potentially be used to hide plenty of secrets and hidden paths, giving plenty of opportunities for Raji to make some amazing discoveries during her adventures.
Despite the limitations of the demo, there’s plenty of potential here – enough to make me put my money where my mouth is and become a backer. At the time of writing, almost 22% of a £120,000 target has been raised by 884 backers and there are still 21 days left on the clock. Head over to Kickstarter to support Raji: An Ancient Epic before 12 December 2017, and follow Nodding Heads Games on Twitter and Facebook to stay up-to-date on their progress.
Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.