Aragami is a stealth action game, and the first major release by Spanish developer Linceworks. The game is set in feudal Japan, with the player taking control of Aragami – a shadow-bound spirit / assassin brought into the world to save a mysterious girl called Yamiko, who’s being held against her will by the dastardly Kaiho – The Army Of Light.
The game begins with Aragami’s “birth” into the world, having been invoked by Yamiko performing an ancient ritual. Yamiko projects herself as an ethereal being, welcoming Aragami and setting him his quest. Aragami must make his way through the story’s twelve chapters, collecting powerful talismans that bind Yamiko whilst bringing down The Army Of Light.
The game’s beings with a tutorial, Yamiko firstly leads Aragami to a weapon – a short sword known as a Ninjato. Yamiko then explains to Aragami that as a shadow-bound spirit, he maintains power and anonymity in darker areas; with sources of light draining his abilities and giving away his position to enemies. Rather than a HUD, Aragami’s power “gauge” is represented by the scripture on his cape.
The gauge is completely white when full, gradually dissolving from the bottom of the cape to the top as Aragami uses his abilities, or by remaining in the light for too long. Knowing whether you’re concealed or not is simple: Aragami’s garb is a monochromic black and white when in cover, and a vivid blue and red in the light. Aragami is then shown how to use the environment to his advantage; with the abilities to leap unnoticed from shadow to shadow, as well as how to sneak up on and dispatch enemies silently.
Aragami’s abilities are able to be upgraded by finding ancient scrolls dotted around the areas. These increased abilities can then be used to confuse or remove the enemy. The abilities include the power to dissolve an enemy’s corpse, to summon a shadow decoy or to create shadows in order to cross great distances where there are none. Finding the scrolls is a case of hunting high and low, as they tend to be hidden off of the beaten track. Aragami has no map, although a raven freed early on in the game – that Yamiko names Kurosu – serves as a scout who can pin-point the distance to level goals, checkpoints and those elusive scrolls (should you decide to upgrade the relevant ability). At the end of each level, the game gives you a grading – based on how many points you accrued for kills, how often you were spotted and how many bodies were discovered.
Levels are cleverly interconnected through what can loosely be described as platforming segments. Aragami has no jumping ability per se, although he can shadow leap both horizontally and vertically. These sections are brief, but help the flow of the game no end; and in no way feel out of place or disjoined as opposed to the main stealth elements. The game relies heavily on stealth, with direct confrontation with the enemy leading to almost certain death – with Aragami nearly always being outnumbered.
Kaiho soldiers are armed with weapons imbued with light energy, and are able to cast a beam of light that destroys Aragami upon contact. The Army Of Light guard environments, patrolling or guarding access points; and have different levels of awareness to Aragami’s presence – unware, investigating and alert. Killing an enemy in view of one of their comrades, leaving a body in plain view or even moving too quickly will arouse their suspicions. Once alerted, a guard will blow a war horn – bringing others to actively search the area. Anonymity can be regained by breaking line of sight, but even then the enemy will remain cautious.
Graphically, Aragami looks like a living, breathing Japanese comic book; Linceworks have done a wonderful job of faithfully recreating feudal Japan. Environments are full of pagodas, lanterns and oriental arches; each are well laid out – with just the right amount of cover to make one think about how to tackle the enemy without being spotted. There are no graphical issues, with the PS4 keeping up with draw distances and frame rates. The only slight criticism I have is that the camera sometimes pans to an awkward position when slaying an enemy, leaving Aragami open to being spotted by another soldier off-camera.
Aragami’s soundtrack is written, composed and performed by Two Feathers; whose efforts perfectly compliment the feudal Japanese setting. There are plenty of serene string and woodwind instruments whilst Aragami is anonymous or exploring the area; whereas discovery of Aragami’s presence ushers the sound of dramatic, pounding drums – ramping up the tension as you run for cover, attempting to break your pursuer’s line of sight.
Keeping up the authenticity, all dialogue in game is Japanese which – as with the vast majority of martial arts movies – are accompanied by subtitles so that you know what everyone’s saying to one another. Aragami and Yamiko’s voices are slightly distorted, as you’d expect from spirit beings. The Army Of Light’s soldiers are gruff, convincingly growling their lines at each other.
Regular visitors to the site will know that I’d been looking forward to Aragami’s release for months – I’m a massive geek for all things ninja and had my fingers firmly crossed that the game would give what I’d been waiting for – a ninja game that put stealth at the forefront of its gameplay. I’m happy to confirm that Aragami most definitely delivers. Even if you take ninjas out of the equation, Aragami is still a solid stealth action game; easily giving bigger names in the genre a run for their money. Not bad when you consider that the game that started life as nothing more than a college project.