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Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Merge Games
Developer: Lince Works
Release Date: Oct. 4, 2016


PS4 Review - 'Aragami: Shadow Edition'

by Fran Soto on July 12, 2018 @ 1:45 a.m. PDT

Aragami is a 3D stealth game in which you control a warrior with the power of Shadow Control.

Buy Aragami: Shadow Edition

Aragami: Shadow Edition brings a complete, thoughtful story to fans of the stealth genre, with additional DLC not seen in the standard edition. Brought to life by Spanish developer Lince Works, Aragami blends supernatural elements with creative stealth tactics in this Japanese-inspired, indie third-person, action-adventure.

Taking place in what appears to be feudal-era Japan, the game uses cel-shaded graphics and a colorful palette to give an almost painted quality to the game. A gorgeous, fully orchestrated soundtrack by Twin Feathers truly adds more depth to the world and sets the tone for the story. The rise and fall of a string quartet, accented with flutes and the gentle sounds of bells pay homage to Japanese music. Full voice acting and cut scenes help drive the story forward and keep players interested in the plot.

Stalking targets, blending into the shadows and freeing an imprisoned empress are all in a night's work for the vengeful spirit known as Aragami. Both the Empress and her retainer, Yamiko, have been locked away by the enemy, Kaiho, after their kingdom was defeated during a brutal war. With the war devastating the land and claiming countless lives, the Empress invokes Aragami as an instrument of revenge, and Aragami promises to make the enemy pay.

It is said that in war, it's not about who is right, but about who is left. We learn from the story that not everything is just Light and Dark. While many different media use the "dark side" as a scapegoat, or as the villain, Aragami shows players that there are two sides to every story. Having suffered heavy losses at the hands of Kaiho, we see that the forces of Light are capable of brutality. Yamiko's presence creates the driving force for Aragami to complete his mission; she explains that her own family had been slaughtered because they were people born from the Shadows. With the two sides constantly juxtaposed in other works, I appreciated the political nuance in the game. There is definitely a gray area that forces players to confront their own biases in regards to who is "good" and who is "bad." Even Aragami himself learns this as the game progresses, creating opportunities for character development.

Players take control of Aragami as he sneaks (or assassinates) his way to freeing Yamiko and the Empress. Fans of the Assassin's Creed or Dishonored franchises will find a home in Aragami as they utilize the shadows and ninja abilities to clear each area. Crouching, hiding and running all have their place within the game and even affect whether players are detected. Immediately, the game offers players a choice in how they wish to complete each area. At the end of each chapter, players are given a score on how they completed each area, with medals awarded to those who go undetected, take the pacifist route by not killing, or taking the way of the demon by killing all who stand in the way.

I wanted to take the pacifist route, which can be challenging since numerous enemies patrol each area, and the number and difficulty increase as you progress. Aragami's movement ability, Shadow Step, allows him to warp from one shaded area to another in true stealth form. Becoming one with the shadows is necessary to truly go undetected, as bright lights drain Aragami's powers and make him much easier to spot. I was forced to take some lives at the risk of being detected, however, which gave me opportunity to delve into Aragami's arsenal. Players start out with basic skills until they find collectible scrolls around the map to allot skill points. These points can be used to upgrade Aragami's skill trees to fit the desired play style. Doppelgangers, Invisibility and Shadow Kunais are just a few possible skills that players can equip throughout the game, and they provide opportunities for players to get creative.

A personal favorite skill was the ability to use shadows to cover the bodies of guards I had dispatched. Any roaming guards that notice a body immediately alert nearby enemies, so players need to be cautious of what they leave behind. The abilities provide players with a creative way to interact with foes, but they also allow players to utilize the space around them in various ways. Being able to set traps and lure enemies gives new purpose to the map. While the game is not an open world, each area has almost limitless possibilities about how to clear the chapter. Being able to Shadow Step on top of buildings and through gates creates more depth to the ninja experience.

Aragami creates an immersive stealth experience while providing a touching, compelling story with twists and turns. While the game did get a little repetitive at times with the same kinds of objectives needing to be cleared, the DLC that comes with the Shadow Edition adds even more background to the story. It's recommended that players finish the main story before moving on to the Nightfall expansion, as it does contain prequel spoilers. It can be said that this extra content is necessary for understanding the full plot, as questions I had in the base game were answered within the expansion.

With additional playable characters and new collectibles to find, Nightfall does a good job of continuing the Shadow-Stepping experience with new kinds of objectives to complete that were definitely needed in the base game. Adding only a few more chapters to the story, Nightfall made me wish there was similar variety in the main story, since the main game is literally just moving from Point A to Point B, and there aren't any real objectives beyond that. The Shadow Edition also brings additional features to the game, like two-player online co-op that is cross-platform with PC players, so players can share the experience with friends.

Aragami: Shadow Edition is very much an indie love letter to the stealth genre. It's obvious that Lince Works crafted the game with much attention to detail, so it's a shame that the game is plagued by technical issues. During my playthrough, it was frustrating to see so many frame rate drops and latency issues, especially since the game utilizes the Unity engine. Not being able to experience the game with smooth frame rates did unfortunately affect the gameplay quality, even though I was playing on a PlayStation 4 Pro. However, these issues do not detract from the overall game.

With so many highlights like collectibles, skills, skins and additional story chapters, Aragami: Shadow Edition has much to be enjoyed. At its core, Aragami is a game about redemption and choice that is reflected throughout. Those qualities make it a worthwhile experience for any players in search of a compelling story and attention to detail.

Score: 8.5/10

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