India is awesome. From spicy curries so hot that it’ll make you spew fire from both ends; give Khaleesi’s dragons a complex and win you the Iron Throne to Icecream snatching boss monkeys, dope-smoking-ashen-faced tantric ‘Aghori‘, thug cows chilling in middle of the road flipping off traffic and bollywood with physics-defying heroes that’ll give Chuck Norris a run for his money. It’s a dopamine inducing sensory redbull for your emotions.
Okay so Iam an Indian and a proud one and I can tell you that we are misunderstood, we are so misunderstoo.. wait brb gotta worship my cow. Alright yea so for starters Its true that we love bollywood but we are not obsessed with it. Okay I confess that my good friend Esha often breaks out in a bollywood song with backup dancers going ‘dhum-tana-naa-naa’ on mountaintops every once an hour or so but that’s about it. Actually at this point I’ve basically stopped fighting it. My friend Megan from UK still thinks Iam a part-time snake charmer and I arrive to the office on an elephant.. Yep, I just jump off the back.. in through the window & onto my desk. Productive as f*ck you know.
Jokes apart, there is however but one underappreciated and overlooked gem of the Hindu culture that goes largely unrecognized, slowly fading away under our increasing obsession with the west and japanese anime by our generation of beanbag-loving-yolo-hipster Indian millennials. The Indian Mythology. What if I told you that our actual Indian Mythology has enough mysticism fueled backstory, lore, wars & celestial weapons donning star-cast of heroes and demons that it’ll put your Harry potter, Narnia & Lord of the rings combined, to shame.
Like who you got? Star-striped-serum-junkie Captain America? Meet Bheem, Master of Mace. Born to Vayu, the god of wind, Bheem packed the strength of 10,000 elephants, undefeated by Indra, the god of thunder and lighting; Bheem single handedly killed over 1 million enemy soldiers including the 100 brothers of Kauravyas in the great battle of Kurukshetra in Mahabharata. Basically he’ll slap around Hulk like Hulk smashed Loki around in Avengers 1. Don’t get wrong I am huge fan of Marvel & DC superheros.. I mean like Tony stark, true heir to the iron throne right? but essentially son, what you all got your comics for, has been in ancient scriptures for centuries. So yea, burn unit is to your right. Thanks.
Now whilst we are tapdancing around the Marvel universe serving savage bants lets talk about the mighty Thor, the Norse god of lightning with his spark-plug.. sorry, i mean hammer, Mjolnir. True test of worthiness? Pick up Mjolnir; If you can, *high five!* here’s your hand stamp, welcome to the worthy club. Actually hold that thought and allow me to introduce you to ‘Yudhishthira’, whose feet and chariot literally hovered 2 feet above the ground as a symbol of his purity because of his unflinching adherence to Satya (truth) and Dharma (righteousness to fulfill one’s moral duty). Now that’s a proof of worthiness if i ever saw one! Forget Mjolnir, Let’s see Thor try to lift back his mug of beer after this one. Oh can’t find your mug can you now? No shit, THE BAR HAS JUST BEEN RAISED! *thug life song plays in background* Get it? Because “bar” – raised. C’mon it’s not that bad. Wait, why are you picking up the knife? *runs away*
Forget hollywood, our current triple-A videogame industry is obsessed with Norse mythology. If you were to close your eyes and throw a stone in a videogame library and hopefully no one is lying on the floor unconscious (except for my ex.. feel free to squint an eye and knock her the f*ck out) it’ll most probably land on a videogame that is either based or references Norse mythology. Like I loved the God of War games. Kratos, a victim of male baldness with anger management issues who redirects his frustration over his receding hairline on the innocent families of demons. What a dick! Point being we have seen enough iterations of zombies and post-apocalypses, Norse gods and orcs. I say we move on and explore something new and different. I say it’s about time that the indian game devs rise up and take over; give India the representation it deserves and hog the damn limelight.
Well say no more! Look, It’s a plane.. it’s a bird.. f*ck off, it’s a subtle topic change! Meet ‘Asura‘ by Ogre Head Studios, an Indian Indie Hack & Slash, Rogue-like Role Playing Game inspired by Hindu Mythology. So I’ve been playing Asura (translates to Demon) for months now, and I love how Asura superbly combines the Bloodbourne-esque feel of slicing past the enemies and the satisfaction of defeating death-less bosses with the speed of rogue-like dungeon crawler like Nuclear throne or Binding of Isaac. Being a rogue-like means that no two playthroughs of the game are ever exactly the same; Thanks to procedurally generated maps and random enemy spawns, you’re always going to have a different experience but it also means that every time you die, you get bitchslapped and thrown back to the very beginning and trust me you’re gonna die quite often in this game. Complete with all RPG elements, a skill tree, huge arsenal of weapons & magic spells, Asura is notoriously addictive, more difficult than all my breakups combined.
The game starts off with a really well narrated and put-together animated cinematic cut scene with the most badass hindi voice-over i’ve ever heard. The story of Asura (video above) is quite honestly a dark and twisted one. Read on for my alabeit giggle-friendly spoof-ish version.
Story kickstarts with the super-king ‘Hasirama’, emperor of the ‘Daeva’ empire chilling on his sofa one fine day sipping chocolate milk in his Pajamas, solving crossword, when he goes like “What’s another word for garbage truck” and his seemingly frustrated and unpaid commander is about to go like “Your mothe..” when a high-on-voodoo dude wearing a ‘Tickle Me Timbers’ t-shirt kicks in through the front door and furiously locks eyes with Hasirama. After 10 minutes of awkwardly intense ‘Who-blinks-first’, Hasirama’s commander lets out a high-pitched fart to break the sexual tension in the room. The Aghori then breaks out in a bollywood dance and prophesizes about the downfall of the Daeva empire lest a blood sacrifice be made. Hasirama accepts the challenge. Furious and also calcium-deficient, Hasirama cracks his knuckles and breaks his fingers. Nevertheless, the army, on king’s orders goes ape-shit on the people when one of the soldier’s spots and catches upto a kid running for his life. The kid then challenges the soldier to a dance battle and tries to moonwalk away from the army dudes but eventually get nabbed and well, lit on fire. This is where it goes unrescue-ably dark. The child cried in pain as flames engulfed him all whilst Hasirama watched on. An innocent soul burnt to ashes. Daeva empire rejoiced as they had escaped their doom or atleast they thought they did. Fueled with fire and fury the child respawned in hell as a vengeful demon, an ‘asura’ who then storms & breaches past the gates of Daeva empire to avenge his death.
So how did the the idea of a barbeque-kid-turned-buff-demon come into existence? “Before ogre head studios, I was working in other companies where I used be an art outsourcing artist and everywhere I would go I would ask people that why aren’t we making our own game. They either used to say that we are not capable or we are not talented enough and i didn’t believe in any of those and most of the people were lazy as far i know and i was like nope that’s not gonna happen, we’re gonna do this one way or the other and I asked Neeraj and I asked some more people and they were all pretty excited and we just started it one fine day..” explained Zain, co-founder of Ogre Head Studios all the while smiling & braiding his moustache reminiscing the good times.
Going head to head with armored titans of the videogame industry, backed by the Scrooge McDucks of silicon valley with hundreds of ‘guns-for-hire’ on payroll is no less than a boss-fight for indie game developers with team as small as two, working out of their basement backed by sheer will and the Iron bank of “freelance” however rest assured with the leverage of the internet and the rise of skynet.. i mean digital distribution platforms like Steam and XBLA everyone starts at the same start-line no matter how privileged or colossal. So how did it work out for Ogre head team? Asura has won over 8 awards including the International Game Award at BitSummit 2017 in Japan, Official Indie Mega-Booth Selection at PAX East’ 17, My mom’s ‘Sanskari Game of the Year’ award & many more.
“Ogre Head Studio is us basically saying if you’re not going to give us opportunity we are going to create it ourselves.” adds Zain while juggling babies and quite rightly so since Indian game industry has still not breached past its comfort zone of Bollywood adaptations & cricket mobile games which creates both an opportunity and responsibility of Indie developers to push the envelope. Zain further adds “Three years back like there were not many game developers in india making PC games and there were not much opportunities around except for art outsourcing and stuff like that. So I had a goal that if there was no opportunity in the industry, rather make the opportunity for ourselves so thats why we started ogre head studios in hopes to bring a change in the industry hopefully by saying that we can create our own IPs for PC for a game like Asura and hopefuly inspire to join the cult or whatever *both laugh maniacally*”
The devil or should I say ‘Asura’.. is in the details.. “Ah that pun gave me diarrhea” interrupted Gary, the moustacheous evil potato. Shut up Gary, my puns are great! “Your puns are responsible for global warming” defended Gary. That doesn’t even make sense anyhow moving on. Music in the intro screen and gameplay feels apt and helps in establishing the ancient india vibe and ambience. The gameplay has a learning curve to it and that’s awesome. You don’t have unlimited stamina so can’t keep dodging around enemies like you do in Dark souls. You gotta time your attacks and spells and switch between your ranged and melee weapon accordingly because each enemy has a different vulnerability. For example some enemies just had a breakup so you throw them a nudie-mag and they drop their guard.. ok I am kidding it doesn’t work like that but you have an arsenal of weapons and skills to keep you hooked for hours. I however had a love-hate relationship with the UI though. The red paragraphs of the loading screen feel static however once in the gameplay I loved was how the traditional element tied in to all aspects of the game for example shop being called as ‘Dukaan’ and Gold as ‘Sona’.
Also the new DLC, Asura: The Vengeance Expansion is now out and Its is free for anyone who owns the base game. Packs in a lot of new of new stuff like new gear, abilities & RPG elements and ofcourse vengeance mode which is essentially survival mode where you’ll encounter waves of enemies, you fight them, you climb up the leaderboards, show it to your dad, dad says you’re adopted. So bottom line, for a game built by team of two over a span of over 3 years, Asura is bang for the buck. Right from the music, story to gameplay Asura is more fun and polished than most of the triple A titles on the market right now (looking at you Ubisoft) and hence definite thumbs up from us!
Meet The Developers
Ogre Head Studios is an Indie game studio based in Hyderabad, India comprising of Zain, the Art, Design and Business guy & Naresh, the Tech guy. Asura is Ogre Head’s first game in market currently available in India, China & Japan. Check out ogrehead.com for more info. You can contact follow Asura’s progress via Twitter, Facebook and Youtube.