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Aragami

Aragami

Barcelona-based Lince Works hopes to follow in the footsteps of Tenchu.

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Aragami is not your average indie project, in that it's not a small and experimental concept nor an ambitious open-world game either. Instead it tries to realise the full potential of the developers' student project, Path of Shadows, the result being a stealth game that clearly takes inspiration from beloved classics such as Tenchu, Dishonored and Mark of the Ninja.

Aragami is the main protagonist, a spirit from the shadows who must obey whoever has summoned him. Yamiko, a princess, plays a big part in this as she invokes the player after being captured by the Army of the Light, responsible for the devastation of her realm and people. The premise is pretty simple: you have to collect the six talismans holding her prisoner while a narrative centred around vengeance unfolds.

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Yamiko isn't just a narrative device, however, as she can turn into a spirit to show you the path ahead. The way this works is reminiscent to some degree of Navi in The Legend of Zelda, though fortunately for us this princess will only interfere when the narrative demands it. Both characters must make their way through different areas in 13 chapters, all in all making for a playtime of somewhere between 8 and 14 hours, depending how thorough and patient you are.

The story itself doesn't feature any remarkable twists or surprises as it's a pretty standard tale for the genre, but this isn't a bad thing. The narrative is designed so that all the weight is put on the gameplay mechanics without too many distractions or secondary objectives to distract you, something that we found is to the game's advantage rather than its detriment.

You move slowly, and everything shown on screen is designed for you to take in every detail, including clues on the enemies, moves and gestures, and thus offers up an experience where you need to react and observe in order to avoid mistakes. The modus operandi is going from point A to B without being detected, and you decide how you'll try to get there. As a Ghost, there's some emphasis on hiding and keeping out of the way, whereas if you choose to play as a Demon instead, you can stealthily kill everyone standing in your path.

Such different and compelling playstyles add some replayability to a title that's pretty much based on trial and error, but no matter how you approach each level, consequences won't vary in terms of narrative. The only impact this has is on the final score screen, which takes into account both the number of defeated enemies, ninja techniques employed, and times the alarm was raised.

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That said, direct confrontation is never an option. The skill tree has many offensive and defensive abilities, such as temporary invisibility or tagging enemies. Just as it was in Dishonored, the use and application of some powers is more obvious than others, and teleporting between shadows is a must. Using items is also important too, such as the rattle that helps you distract NPCs.

Everything revolves around the light/shadow contrast concept. As a summoned spirit, shadows allow you to hide from enemies and refill the ability bar, here represented on screen by the different motifs shining on Aragami's cape. At the same time, when you walk near oil lamps and other prominent sources of light, you will be completely exposed and won't be able to use any powers, so it's vital to survey the environment looking for dark places you can recharge. Apart from this, Aragami adds nothing new to the genre. It's more an attempt to perfect what's already been established and thus it doesn't make any leaps in terms of the stealth genre, nor does it really innovate in any of its many features. At least it delivers on its promise though.

The AI won't always respond as expected as well, and sometimes guards behave in strange ways (not spotting you when you're close by, or vice versa). The detection system is akin to that of the recent Far Cry games, with a yellow bar showing you they've noticed something, which then turns red the moment your presence becomes obvious. That's when the alarm is raised, something that you want to avoid at all costs. The difficulty curve is well measured and the game never frustrates, this thanks to the possibilities presented by the environments and their many different paths.

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In any case, this is no successor to Tenchu. Stealth is important and the game takes care to reward you when you use it accordingly, but the powers are one of the fundamental pillars of the gameplay, and without them Aragami would be really different. These abilities turn what in the beginning plays like a cat and mouse game into an assassination sim in which you're tempted to kill everyone so that you don't take any risks.

Aragami's art style shines with its own identity, opting for a Japanese setting with cel-shading that really pops. Throughout the several chapters you visit pagodas, temples and other recurrent features that, even though they might impress with their level of detail in the beginning, later on they tend to be recycled a bit too much. Fortunately enough, stages are spacious and level design is deep enough for you to follow different paths. This degree of freedom is not limited to just simple forks in the road, but also different levels and higher ground from which you can examine the environment.

All of this comes with a clean interface, which is elegantly focused on Aragami's cape, and a single point centred on the screen as a reference for marking enemies and performing certain actions. The music, however, goes almost unnoticed, and even if it just pretends to be some subtle addition via ethereal melodies, it simply doesn't stand out.

Lince Works' first effort is an enjoyable challenge for fans of the genre. It doesn't take any risks as a stealth game and that's a bit limiting, but what's there is more than enough thanks to the entertaining gameplay, helped by the fact that online co-op is available too. There are several ways to tackle every section, the level design is great, and at the end of the day Aragami is something as rare these days as a mid-sized action-adventure with depth and replayability.

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07 Gamereactor UK
7 / 10
+
Shadow abilities are fun, Level design lets you freely approach missions, Good artistic values.
-
Storyline is nothing special, Adds nothing new to the genre, Uninspired soundtrack.
overall score
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Aragami

REVIEW. Written by Sergio Tur

"It doesn't take any risks as a stealth game and that's a bit limiting, but what's there is more than enough thanks to the entertaining gameplay."



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