Published on October 17th, 2016 | by Suros_Six0
Review – Aragami
Stealth games tend to fly under the radar for me. While this saves me from experiencing some pretty bad ones, it also causes me to miss out on some good ones. However, I am beyond glad that I did not miss out on Aragami. Developed by indie studio Lince Works, Aragami is a third-person stealth game which changes up the typical formula by giving the player control over the shadows. This mechanic leads to some really fun moments that complement the game’s top-tier level design and leave the player wanting more.
The bread and butter of Aragami is the two main abilities: “Shadow Leap” and “Shadow Creation”. Shadow Leap allows players to leap from shadow to shadow, effectively working as a teleportation ability. This is an ability that you’ll find yourself using A LOT, but it doesn’t get tedious or monotonous. In fact, after using it a bit, it begins to feel like second nature. There are times you use these abilities simply because you can but sometimes it’s absolutely necessary. Shadow Creation is pretty self-explanatory, you create a small patch of shadows wherever you want to as long as there isn’t any direct light on the spot you choose. Shadow Creation complements Shadow Leap by letting you utilize both abilities in unison; you create a shadow in a place that is devoid of one and then you can jump to that location. I mainly found myself using this combo to jump directly behind enemies before taking their lives.
While Shadow Leap and Shadow Creation take most of the spotlight, it should be known that there are other abilities that are just as useful as those two. All the abilities you can unlock throughout the game feel useful in one way or another. I didn’t see a single one that I felt was useless or a waste of the skill points I gathered. For example, there is an ability that gives you the option to hide bodies. This is super useful because the last thing you want in a stealth game is for the enemy to find your victims. While most stealth games would give this ability to the player automatically, I really don’t mind that Aragami makes you earn it, especially given it only takes 2 skill points to unlock. Skill points are earned by finding scrolls hidden around each level. Sometimes they give you freebies while other times scrolls are hidden well. For those who don’t wish to spend a lot of time looking for more skill points there is an ability which will mark the location of all of them. Another nice thing about the abilities is the fact that you only need Shadow Leap and Shadow Creation to get through the whole game. If you don’t want to get any other abilities, you don’t have to. I would recommend it though because some are really cool. I know I sounded like a broken record with the amount of times I said, “That was awesome,” after using a new ability for the first time or after I pulled off crazy maneuvers that lead to life-saving stealth kills. Every ability is useful but not necessary, and that opens the door to a lot of different playstyles.
Abilities and skills aside, Aragami as a whole lends itself to a few different playstyles. Want to be a ghost that is never seen or heard? Go for it. Want to be a monster of the night that slays all enemies in its wake? That’s an option too! If you’re like me and want to be a mix of both, have at it! Just be careful because the fantastic level design won’t allow you to wreak havoc unchallenged. Aragami was adamant about reteaching me the lesson of patience many times. There will be lots of trial and error if you attempt to rush through, but if you take your time before making your moves you’ll be rewarded with success. This isn’t to say that you can’t rush through the game as you please, it’s just a lot harder if you do so.
The reason it’s difficult to speed through Aragami is because one hit means death. This mechanic will definitely punish you for not sticking to the shadows, but it isn’t brutal. Quick reactions can lead to a combat victory despite being spotted, and this is where I had my most tense moments. One-hit defeat creates a tense atmosphere that can keep even the most audacious player in line, especially if they have made great progress without hitting a checkpoint. Shadow Leaping through projectiles to turn the tide is difficult, but when pulled off, victory tastes so much sweeter.
I’d be doing a disservice to Aragami if I left out the boss battles when talking about tense moments and great design. The boss battles were something I was not expecting, and the innovative mechanics implemented for them made them such a pleasant surprise. These fights were both intense and riveting as the music kicked into high gear and I dashed around trying to figure out how bosses worked and what the best way to approach them was. Those challenges were honestly the most fun I’ve had with a single-player game in a while, despite meeting defeat time and time again.
These experiences would not be the same without the amazing soundtrack done by Two Feathers, and the beautiful art-style showcased in Aragami. Visuals are very important, since players need to be able to distinguish where the shadows begin and end. The developers even threw in little visual hurdles, such as throwing in lightning that lights up areas that are otherwise in shadow, making them unable to be leapt to for a short time. It’s not done in an obnoxious way either, it’s just another little mechanic to look out for and it’s great to see them pay attention to detail. The story wraps Aragami into a really nice package. I enjoyed the writing quite a bit, despite it seeming plain and obvious at the beginning. It really picks up throughout the game and it had me invested enough that I would actually sit around guards that were sharing a conversation, just to hear what they had to say, before I killed them. I especially loved doing this to guards who didn’t believe in the main character’s existence. I’m evil that way.
It really pains me to say anything negative about Aragami, but I have to admit that I did have some issues with it. There were quite a few dips away from the 60 frames I had it capped at, which shouldn’t be happening on a GTX 960. There were also a few times where the control in-game felt a bit off, like my commands just went unnoticed or an enemy wasn’t selected despite my cursor being directly over them. Very rarely, some guards broke and didn’t walk properly, and there were times where my Shadow Leap took some patience to get it to the place I wanted to jump to. It really should be noted that this didn’t happen often, and it didn’t affect my gameplay experience too much as a whole.
Aragami is a fantastic third-person stealth game with an emphasis on controlling shadows, which opens it up to some really fun and interesting mechanics. Its great level design is only matched by its colorful visuals and exhilarating soundtrack. The story holds the game together well, giving it all a very strong sense of purpose. It shows that it is very much about not only the journey, but the destination as well.
UPDATE: It should be noted that the devs have been patching Aragami to smooth out performance issues since the initial writing of this article. It is possible that the issues I encountered in terms of performance are no longer there. However, this news has not affected my rating.
Summary: A third-person stealth game that calls back to older titles that did stealth correctly while keeping the experience fresh. Despite having some minor performance issues, it is still a game that I would recommend to anyone looking for a solid single-player experience.