Content warning: Hindsight 20/20: Wrath of the Rakshasa contains a scene involving suicide.
Hindsight 20/20: Wrath of the Rakshasa is an action role-playing game developed and published by Triple-I Games. On the day his hometown was destroyed, the young warrior Jehan wasn’t there. He had gone into self-imposed exile over the unjust slaying of his father at the hands of the town sheriff. Not being able to live with the fact that he wasn’t there when his home needed him the most, Jehan spends years imploring the gods to send him back so that he might make up for his mistake. The gods have finally answered his pleas.
When a game features player choice that truly impacts how the narrative of a game’s experience plays out, I’m instantly interested. Feeling like my choices help shape the views of others, as well as how the story will end, is always thrilling to me. It’s the biggest reason why the Mass Effect trilogy is my favorite gaming experience of all time. There is only one small hang-up that I’ve always had with these games. They talk about how players can play the game repeatedly to see different outcomes. But I have a hard time living with terrible choices I would never make for 20+ hours of gameplay. However, if it’s a five-hour run to complete a game, yeah, I can do that.
And that is the biggest selling point I walked away from Hindsight 20/20: Wrath of the Rakshasa with when I got to demo it back at PAX East. It features a narrative where your choices greatly determine the outcome. You can experience all the paths the story offers in a short enough playtime without devoting dozens of hours to the endeavor. Now that the game is finally here, it delivers on that promise. Though as it turns out, this path has some pitfalls all its own.
Standing at the center of the threat that will consume Jehan’s town is the Rakshasa. Born of a disease, those transformed into Rakshasa become monstrous in appearance and spend the rest of their days craving human blood. These effects have made those who contract this sickness the target of rage, often being driven out of the town, if not outrightly killed.
The first crisis players are faced with as they boot up the game is whether or not to save their best friend who has contracted the disease. Being held captive by the same sheriff who killed your father, the player must rush to face these challenges. The speed with which these choices come along highlight the narrative shortcoming some may have as they traverse the many decisions of Hindsight 20/20: Wrath of the Rakshasa.
One of the things that Triple-I Games’ narrative sacrifices to keep its playtime down is nuance. When the player confronts the sheriff, there is a brief dialogue where the sheriff explains his actions toward your father and even expresses remorse for them. The player is then given the option to fight the sheriff or spare him. While the game successfully made me feel the weight of my decision, I felt like I lacked the context to make it properly. Was this the only unjust incident the man had ever committed in uniform, thus making his explanation for his actions more likely, or is he a habitual abuser of his authority just trying to get out of a pickle? In a deeper RPG, the player would have the opportunity to have numerous discussions with the town’s denizens, giving the player a better understanding of the life they are passing judgment on.
This problem is repetend throughout Hindsight 20/20: Wrath of the Rakshasa, where the Rakshasa themselves are concerned. While most want to see the Rakshasa destroyed, some want to aid and treat them. But is treatment even possible? Do the Rakshasa require human blood to live, or do they just have a psychological addiction to it that can be overcome? Unfortunately, many of these details are either not given until late in the game or not at all. For players like me who get invested in the morality of a story, this lack of clarity can come as an unexpected hindrance to their enjoyment.
Between these moral choices, the player is given a mix of combat and puzzle-solving challenges to overcome. The puzzles take up significantly less playtime than the combat. The first couple of puzzles the player faces establishes the core of the puzzle mechanics and the rest of these encounters deliver small iterations on the core concepts. These puzzle moments serve more as breaks from the combat than any real challenge. And taken in that frame, I would say they succeed.
The combat that makes up the bulk of Hindsight 20/20: Wrath of the Rakshasa at its core is a fun, straightforward system designed to allow the player to get the experience of bouncing between enemies as they defeat groups single-handedly, without requiring the twitch reflexes and fast button combos of many action games. As someone who gets combos mixed up easily, this more paced, straightforward combat was welcome. By simply pressing the attack button and aiming my character with the thumbstick, I could bounce between enemies effortlessly. Adding to this is the standard dodge function and the presence of several different special abilities that can be charged and utilized to give the player the edge in particularly challenging situations. As a result, the game brings a solid combat experience most of the time.
The only time the combat falls short is later in the game when larger groups of more varied enemies begin to swarm the player. Several enemy types sport range attacks that can be tricky to work around, resulting in hits, and deaths, that can feel a little cheap. The other major flaw in the combat scenarios concerns new enemies entering battle.
As the player defeats enemies, new ones will spawn in. Due to the height of the overhead camera, these respawns often happen off-screen and with no clear warning. If the enemy in question is just a grunt with a sword, this poses little problem. If it’s a ranged opponent whose attacks leave pools of acid on the floor, not being aware of their entry can be a deadly problem. Hindsight 20/20: Wrath of the Rakshasa does sport a generous checkpoint system, so you never lose too much progress from these moments, but it still resulted in fights that I had to take on numerous times due to kills that felt a little cheap.
An aspect to Hindsight 20/20: Wrath of the Rakshasa’s combat I enjoyed, though, was the dual combat styles the game lets players utilize. With a ruthless option that grants the player access to a sword and deadly special abilities, or a merciful option that grants the player a stun baton and specials that render opponents incapacitated rather than killed, there are more options than one might expect. Furthermore, these styles can be switched between freely throughout the game, so the player can choose to spare some enemies while slaying others. Who you kill and who you spare even affects how characters view and talk to you, as well as some particular plot points are directly affected by these choices.
Lastly, let’s talk about the graphics in Hindsight 20/20: Wrath of the Rakshasa. The visual style the game presents its story in is an effective and characterful way. While there is an undeniable blockiness to the characters and world, the game nonetheless brings a lot of charm to its world that I enjoyed.
When all is said and done, Hindsight 20/20: Wrath of the Rakshasa sets out to deliver an engaging action story that forces the player to make important moral choices that will determine the shape of their world. And despite some moments where the combat struggles and some less than clear decisions the game presents players with, it largely succeeds. Given its short playtime and unique approach to both combat and choice-driven storytelling, I would say the game is certainly worth a look if what I have said about it intrigues you.
Hindsight 20/20: Wrath of the Rakshasa is available on PC, PlayStation 4/5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X.
Hindsight 20/20: Wrath of the Rakshasa
Hindsight 20/20: Wrath of the Rakshasa sets out to deliver an engaging action story that forces the player to make important moral choices that will determine the shape of their world. And despite some moments where the combat struggles and some less than clear decisions the game presents players with, it largely succeeds. Given its short playtime and unique approach to both combat and choice-driven storytelling, I would say the game is certainly worth a look if what I have said about it intrigues you.