Aragami surprised me in many ways as I wasn’t expecting a stealth game to have such depth. I’m more or less three playthroughs in and still going back to it so I can complete the game one hundred percent. The gameplay, the story, the visuals, and the sound are so nicely wrapped up in charm that I scold myself for not being more excited about this title. Plus, it’s developed by an indie studio (Lince Works) which makes this even more impressive. If you aren’t sold yet, continue reading on for the full review.
The story starts off with you controlling a summoned and revived spirit, or an Aragami. You’ve been called upon to rescue a lady from her captors named Yamiko, who is the one responsible for your resurrection. She can essentially project herself so she’s by your side and teaches you the mechanics of the game, adds exposition to the story, delivers commentary about the world around you, and basically acts as a non-corporeal companion. In order to free her you have to travel the Japanese inspired world and collect artifacts that will unlock her prison.
In addition, some enemies will provide even more backstory as your skulking about. They’ll be stories about a great battle, victories and defeats, and other details that gradually build up the lore. All of which is handled superbly. The plot itself is clear and concise but it didn’t reveal everything about the world. It left you to think about things in just the right places. Although it must be noted I saw a certain plot point coming from a literal mile away. Seriously, it must have been the first three chapters that I realized it. Speaking of which, Aragami has thirteen chapters and my first time through took about twelve hours. My second playthrough took about three because I knew exactly where to go, where the enemies were, I ignored collectibles, and I had all the power-ups in the game.
The ending was satisfying as well to the point where I played the game again completely different, hoping that it would affect the end result. Sadly, my actions did not. Not even the dialogue boxes were changed. You’ll understand what I mean when you get there. I have no intention of spoiling it here. Still, one sentence in one dialogue box doesn’t change how well Aragami plays out.
The core gameplay is stealth and minimalistic action done right. It felt very similar to Metal Gear Solid and Deus Ex. The goal in each level is to infiltrate a medium or large, open world area with the objective of retrieving objects or destroying barriers. Then you continue on to the next part of the level and rinse and repeat. Of course there are people on patrol or guard duty who will try to stop you. You’ll see normal warriors, archers, and warriors with a light guide around them. Don’t be afraid that Aragami will get stale though. The amount of ground to explore, the varied and tiered level designs, collectibles to pick up, and powers you obtain from said collectibles offer an incredible array of things to do.
Each chapter mostly takes place in a different venue from the one before it. There’s wooded areas, grassy campsites, cemeteries, a temple, cities, a shrine, caves, and a bunch of other places to infiltrate and explore. Not only that but the majority of levels will have many different ways to get to where you need to be. It could be by simply taking another path, finding hidden routes, scaling buildings or watchtowers, or using your powers. There are an endless amount of ways you can approach any given situation and there’s even medals for three of those different ways. You can kill everyone in sight, leave everyone alive, or sneak by everyone undetected.
Your Aragami’s powers themselves are also pretty damn cool. The main one is the shadow leap. This acts like Dishonored’s blink ability. Wherever there is shadow or darkness within range, you can teleport there. Even though it’s the most basic power, I still love teleporting everywhere. Other cool powers consist of creating your own shadows, hiding bodies, being temporarily invisible, summoning decoys, revealing enemy locations, placing mystical traps, blinding others with shadows, throwing projectiles, and summoning a hell beast to drag a poor unfortunate soul away from the physical realm.
The amount of times you can use these awesome abilities is dependent on your cape’s meter level and if you’re in the shadows or not. Using your shadow essence drains certain markers on the cape you wear. If you use it too much you’ll run out until you retreat back into darkness. Then your powers will recharge and your cape meter will signify that. However, until you make your way to a small shrine, which is usually at checkpoints, you will only be able to use certain techniques twice. Or you drag some sob away into that hell dimension I mentioned. The last thing about the cape is how dynamic it is. At times it may get crumpled on your sword’s sheath like cloth would in real life. It’s a small touch for sure but a much appreciated one.
The graphics, art style, and soundtrack to Aragami are amazing. Everything just looks beautiful. I don’t know what exactly this rendition of art is called but I would love to see it in more games. It has its own sense of charm that is hard to put into words but enjoyable all the same. Likewise with the tunes. There were a few times where I stopped what I was doing and relaxed for a bit. The soundtrack was very blissful in its presentation except of course when you were spotted and had to hightail it out of there.
In an effort to be transparent, there was a patch released that improved the game last Sunday. I received my review copy before that. So I will still detail the problems I encountered pre-patch but to the understanding that they might be fixed now as I haven’t run into them since. As helpful as your shadow leap ability is, it may not always be reliable if you’re rushing. You might be looking to teleport as far as you can, away from your current position, or trying to get higher but may not succeed. The marker that indicates where you’ll teleport may not show up or allow you to climb a ledge because of your fumbling and Aragami’s registering of positioning.
On to problems that are more of the title’s fault entirely. There were times where I had to stab an enemy from the front. It’s not the wisest decision but it works if you’re waiting around a corner or just looking to get them out of the way. There were a very few instances where I died from that enemy’s attack, which they didn’t perform, as they were dying. Equally as few, there were issues with certain A.I. seeing through walls or ceilings. This was hampering if I didn’t have time to hide the body and had to get the hell out of there hoping I wouldn’t die. An ever rarer problem I encountered were enemies stuck walking in place. Whether I came across them like that or attempted to lure them away. It wasn’t a game breaking issue, when it happened, but annoying all the same.
Lastly, there’s online co-op! It doesn’t change the story any and your partner is just another Aragami with a palette swap. Only one will appear in cut scenes but the two of you can wreak havoc together in gameplay. If one of you dies then the other has a chance to complete the objective and make their way to a checkpoint. At which time the dead player will come back to life. Expect some slow startup times at the beginning of each level as it loads both players in. Besides that there were no technical problems or limitations to this mode.
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