Stealth has always been one of those genres that people just get or they don’t. There are times where I can successfully make it through a mission, or even an entire game, without killing a single person (if allowed) or only taking out those necessary to advance the story. And then there are times where I just can’t for the life of me stealth at all, say screw it, and go in guns blazing. I’ve been keeping a close eye on Aragami since it was announced, and thankfully, it does stealth really well and in a somewhat unique manner. Read on for our full Aragami review.
Publisher: Lince Works (digital), Merge Games (physical)
Developer: Lince Works
Available On: PlayStation 4, PC
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
Release Date: October 4, 2016
Copy Provided by Developer
The story is as straight forward as you would expect from a third person stealth game starring a ninja set in Japan. You’re introduced to an Aragami, which is a vengeful spirit that has been brought to this plane of existence thanks to Yamiko. She is currently locked away in a dungeon, held against her will, and her clan taken out by an evil group. It’s up to the Aragami to ensure her safety any way he sees fit. The two characters interact with each other throughout the course of the story, with a majority of it being told in between chapters through small cutscenes.
Taking inspiration from greats in the genre such as Tenchu and Metal Gear Solid, there’s a few different ways each chapter can be completed. The first, pure stealth. It’s entirely possible to make it through the game without killing a single guard. You have a handful of abilities that can and will make this easier. The Aragami is able to teleport between various instances of shadow, allowing for movement through locked gates, up on to ledges and rooftops, around walls, etc. It makes evading the enemy a bit easier. The other way, take everyone out, or a combination of stealth and kills. You can sneak up behind an enemy and execute them before they even know you exist. If you’re spotted, the guards will rush over to you, and let me just say, the Aragami is no match for them. They will take you out in a single blow, and it’s insanely difficult to avoid or dodge them once you’ve been seen. You’ll know if an enemy can see you, because a little gauge pops up and begins to fill. If it fills entirely, you’re in trouble. Keep in mind though that even when they see you, they’ll come over to investigate the area, so you’ll have to be quick with getting out if combat hasn’t been engaged yet.
The difficulty of the different levels is completely balanced, allowing for choice on how you want to go about them. There are trophies and achievements for completing levels without killing a single guard, for killing all of the guards, and for remaining undetected throughout. There’s also ones for doing every stage in the game using those methods as well. So every level can be completed however you want. Some of them are definitely more challenging than others, but with patience, quick thinking, and correct usage of your skills, anything is possible. Stealth is definitely more powerful than running in and attempting to take out every guard you see. Since the guards can dispose of the Aragami in one hit, it’s better to be safe than sorry and employ as much stealth as possible.
Luckily, Lince Works has crafted a rather compelling gameplay mechanic dealing with light and darkness. As the Aragami is shrouded by shadows, he is virtually undetectable. It’s also these shadows that will allow him to perform his abilities. The cloak that he wears is your life line to know whether you can do an action or not. If it’s completely filled up and glowing, you’re good to go. However, as the Aragami moves about in the light and completes actions, the glow of the cloak will slowly deplete. It can be recharged by simple shifting back in to the shadows and remaining hidden briefly. Throughout my time with Aragami, I never really had to worry about recharging the cloak much, as I stuck to the shadows as often as physically possible.
Hidden throughout the various stages of the game are scrolls, which will allow the Aragami to unlock new skills and abilities, such as creating shadows out of thin air to allow for better movement and stealth. Some of the later abilities you get access to, like being able to fire an energy arrow at the guards to take them out, or throw shadow into their eyes in order to stun them, greatly improve the ease of completing the various levels. There are a number of abilities which will allow players to continue crafting their play style how they see fit. If you want to remain undetected throughout the game, there’s skills that will help you out. If you want to be able to take down guards with more ease and move through the levels as a stealth killing machine, there are skills that can assist with that. The freedom is there for you to explore and do whatever you want in order to advance the story.
The visuals Lince Works have managed are a nice thing to behold. The way the Aragami’s cape moves in the wind as he maneuvers about the areas, the light flickering from lanterns, the water movement, it’s all really well done. The design of the Aragami is also rather interesting, especially the cape. The female character, Yamiko, is pretty standard though, as are the guards, of which you’ll be seeing a lot of throughout the thirteen chapters of the game. The soundtrack, done by Two Feathers, is a high point for sure. They’ve done a grand job composing scores that make you feel as if you’re right there standing next to the Aragami. You’ll certainly want to pay attention to the accompanying music whilst playing through.
Unfortunately, Aragami suffers quite a bit from performance issues. It’s noticeable immediately upon starting it up, as the Lince Works logo will get stuck for a second when loading on to the screen. This caught my attention the very first time I booted it up, and even after updating all the way through 1.02, it’s still there. It also set a precedent moving in to the actual gameplay, as I noticed a handful of areas where the frame rate would just drop. I also managed to get the Aragami stuck in an animation a few times when exploring areas looking for scrolls. There were several times it would look like the Aragami was constantly slipping on a wet surface when near the wall or corners. This can easily be rectified by pressing a button to cancel the animation, but you won’t be able to move the character around at all until doing that.
Overall, Aragami is a nice third person stealth action game from developer Lince Works. Offering multiple ways to complete each level, the game has quite a bit of replayability for fans to keep coming back to. It also can be completed in around nine hours, but with the replayability and multiple ways to do things, more hours can easily be squeezed out of Aragami. Lince Works is aware of the performance issues currently plaguing the game, and are working on updates and fixes in order to keep it running smoothly. Aragami is definitely recommended to anyone looking for a game that has a sense of style and stealth to it that are hard to come by these days.