An Aragami is a concept that comes from Japanese folklore, it derives from the words "Ara" meaning Heinous or monstrous, and "Kami" meaning god or deity. It's a broad term for a monster or spirit that's used in many games like God Eater, as well as other forms of media. In the game Aragami, you play as a vengeful spirit that's been summoned to take revenge on a clan that worships the light. Aragami is a stealth game where you mystical powers that incorporate the shadows to maneuver around the map, assassinate guards and targets while remaining hidden, and find talismans that will aid you in your quest.
The story for Aragami isn't very enthralling. You are summoned by a young woman who wishes you to seek vengeance on the people who killed her clan. It's fairly clear early on where the story is going and how you're going to get there. However, it's not the story that stands out in Aragami, it's the story-telling. You're shown short animations of past events through visions, some from the perspective of the woman you're helping, some from the perspective of others. The only part of this that really bothered me was the character interactions. The Aragami is presented as this vengeful spirit but just talks and acts like a regular person, which is off putting to say the least. I fully believe this was intentional given the context of the story, but I personally feel it would have been better to have gone in another direction.
Aragami is a true stealth game. If you get caught by the enemy guards, you're dead and you have to restart at the last checkpoint. In addition to the primary objective of every level, each stage can be completed with additional challenges such as including not being detected, killing every enemy, or not killing any enemies (naturally you can't get all three in a single run). Going for even two of these is a challenge, but the fact that every level is designed with the idea that you can play either way or by your own rules is frankly impressive. However, what makes these extra challenges much more entertaining, are your powers.
Your basic abilities include the power to become nearly invisible in the shadows, jump to different shadows, and to create temporary shadows which you can jump to. As you progress, you can find hidden scrolls which grant you points to spend on new abilities. Later abilities are divided into two categories, offensive and defensive. Offensive skills are designed to eliminate enemies, like a Kunai Knife that you can throw at a distance or a trap that kills and absorbs several enemies at once. Defensive abilities are designed to keep you hidden and to keep the enemies from finding you at all. These abilities can include temporary invisibility, and making a clone of yourself in order to distract guards.
Your shadow powers are what makes Aragami stand out from other stealth games. The use of shadows in the environment is very well done, you have to constantly keep in mind where you can go and how you can progress. As you progress, new types of light sources are introduced which change how you approach different situations. Regarding the gameplay, my only complaint was that the developers could have taken the use of shadows even further than they did. I would have loved to see more creative uses, rather than just progressively harder levels. I did take issue with how new powers are gained. You have to find scrolls which are hidden quite well, and if you don't actively look for them, you could miss nearly all of them. It takes several points just to get the ability that reveals all the scrolls to you, and even then it's a challenge to find all of them. It doesn't feel cohesive to the game design to have the things that make the game fun as a collectible.
The later levels are where I felt Aragami started to fall flat. The first two-thirds of the game were fine, each level felt like it's own and I enjoyed progressing through it. However, the last five to six levels lacked the subtleties that the rest of the game had. They were challenging, but not because they were intellectually stimulating, just because they were hard. I didn't feel clever when I eventually did solve them. There wasn't a moment where I realized there was something I could be doing differently, it just felt like I was repeatedly throwing myself into the same situation over and over again until I succeeded. The final boss fight was both challenging and stimulating to its credit, as there were aspects of the environment I realized I wasn't using which was rather clever.
While Aragami has a very interesting style choice with a pho-Japanese aesthetic, the game itself is rather glitchy. It's not so bad that it's unplayable, but it's noticeable with clothing constantly moving out of place, and the controls for shadow jumping being unreliable at times. There were even a few times when the environment broke and I fell through the floor. The clothing wouldn't be as much of an issue if it wasn't a part of the gameplay, but it is. The cloth on your back indicates how many uses you have left for each ability, and too many times I couldn't see because it was glitching out of place.
Aragami is an entertaining game, The use of shadows is fantastic, and the ability to choose how you play is very endearing. The game itself is around ten hours long, but if you're a completionist it can easily last longer. However, it lacks polish in many departments. The breaking of the environments and the visuals and the lack of creativity in later levels keep the game from being really strong. There is a multiplayer mode, where you play through the campaign with a partner, which sounds really interesting but I didn't get a chance to try out before release. If you enjoy the stealth genre or you generally like Aragami's aesthetic, give it a shot. It's not a bad game by any means, it could just be better.
Aragami was reviewed on PC (Affiliate) via Steam with a code provided by the developer. It's also available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
- Creative Use of Shadows
- Interesting Stealth Abilities
- Various Ways To Complete Levels
- Obvious Storytelling
- Challenging Later Levels