The shadows are alive. Be the embodiment of vengeance. Beware the light.
These brief statements summarize the core experience of Aragami, a new 3rd person stealth game for PC and PS4, developed by Spanish studio Lince Works. Aragami is their first release and was developed with the Unity game engine. Let’s take a closer look at just what they’ve built.
As the player, you take control of Aragami, a “shade” assassin with supernatural abilities. Summoned by a kidnapped princess, it is your duty to deliver revenge to those that have wronged her people and family. As you make your way toward your final goal, you will unlock memories of past events that slowly piece together the history of this princess; but possibly of you as well.
I really enjoyed the atmosphere and impressions that this game portrays. Stepping into the feudal era inspired Japanese environment doesn’t happen very often. To me, it feels quite refreshing. The brief countryside you experience, as well as the architecture, looks great. The game really benefits from the cell shaded style the art direction takes and helps emphasize the “dark versus light” theme of the game. While the princess and enemies have a very generic look to them, the model of Aragami is at least a little more original. His look gives me a Mumm-Ra vibe from Thundercats, and I’m totally OK with that! I have to add that the original musical score by Two Feathers is fantastic. It really fits the mood and action taking place.
Much like Isaac in the Dead Space series, your spirit meter is displayed using Aragami’s cloak. I really applaud this decision as it further draws your eye to the art design. It lets the game’s experience be the player’s focus and makes for a simplified viewing experience. Putting the gameplay at the forefront. That is really the core focus of Aragami.
During the game, the player has several ways to tackle each mission. Will you be a walking shadow and sneak by every possible enemy? Will you take the route of blood and slaughter all enemies who get in your way? While both options are viable, it is completely up to the player which to choose. Being a creature of shadow, you draw your power from among them. Standing in the light will not only get you spotted, but you will also not be able to recharge your skills. Mastering your shadow jump is key to progressing, especially in the later missions. For the explorers out there, tucked away in each mission are various scrolls the player can collect to earn skill points. By using these points, additional skills can be unlocked at any point during the game. I’m particularly fond of summoning a shadow dragon to deliver my enemies into the pits of darkness. Not only does it remove the body from being discovered by passing guards, it recharges your limited abilities as well. I call that a double win.
However, Aragami is not without its drawbacks. The gameplay, while fun, can also be extremely frustrating and repetitive. It felt like the enemy AI was locked into “aimbot” mode and could kill me regardless of when they started their attack animation. I would regularly think I could dodge out of the way, only to see them rotate on the spot and kill me. While this does deter the player from any “Rambo” tendencies, it still leads to some cheap deaths. This feeling only multiplied during boss encounters. I don’t feel this makes the game harder in difficulty. It just lessens the overall experience. The more time I spent with the game, especially in the later levels, this feeling was only compounded. The same can be said about the “alert” system the enemies use. Once you are discovered, it quickly becomes apparent that you are better off letting yourself be killed and just starting over rather than trying to run and hide.
Combat while rewarding at first, falls into a rinse and repeat cycle. I never felt compelled to purchase additional skills as the few I had in my arsenal easily got the job done. I’d also like to see a little more variety in the enemy selection. You are dealing with the same sort of grunts over and over. Some have bows while some have orbs of light that follow them. That’s it. Either way, they behave in the same general fashion. The controls can also be a bit clunky feeling. Playing on PC I’ve only tried using a gamepad but I wasn’t quite able to get my thumbstick sensitivity to feel just right. My last major issue is the shadow jumping. Based on the UI, I should be able to make the jump, only to teleport into the obstacle I was attempting to clear and then falling to my death. Disappointing.
Stealth games are usually not my forte. I much prefer the guns blazing, in this case, sword chopping approach. Repeated deaths, cursing, and failure, transformed me into a shadow-hopping death dealer in the end. I felt that the game allowed me to learn the mechanics and become a better player because of it. When I did finally see the end credits I wasn’t reveling in triumph, but simply relieved that it was finally over. I would still recommend this game to fans of the stealth genre, especially“Tenchu” enthusiasts. There are some great ideas and moments to be had in Aragami, it just gets a bit redundant and cluttered along the way.
Aragami is available now on Steam and PS4.