Unfortunately for many stealth fans, games made for the genre in the last few years have felt too action-oriented. Though Dishonored and Assassin's Creed have good stealth mechanics, a lot of the time it's just easier to fight foes head on. However, Aragami punishes you for this behavior strongly. You aren't a soldier; you're an assassin.
Because of this, it's one of the rare "true" stealth games of this generation, and after over a year of being on PC and PlayStation 4, it has finally made its way to Xbox. Packaged together with the brand new downloadable content (DLC), it's an experience you won't want to miss.
Story: Fight the clutches of evil
Taking place in Japan, the game has you take control of a shadow spirit called an aragami. You have been summoned by a girl called Yamiko, who has been imprisoned by a violent faction that can control light magic. Yamiko projects herself as an apparition to you and helps guide you to where she is. Along the way, you either sneak past or assassinate a plethora of soldiers.
The story itself is simple, but there's plenty of juicy lore to find as you play that brings the world to life and helps characterize both Yamiko and the aragami. The fact that the "light side" faction are the antagonists is also interesting. Usually, the shadowy "dark side" is considered to be evil. This time, though, people who wield the light are the ones who need to be brought to justice.
The narrative of the DLC is short, but sweet: you play and uncover the fates of the last two shadow assassins, Hyo and Shinobu, as they battle soldiers during the war between the dark and light. This all occurs prior to the events of the original game, and it helps to add context to the main plot.
Gameplay: Manipulate the shadows
The meat of Aragami lies within its incredibly polished mechanics. As an aragami, you can both create shadows and teleport between them, but doing either requires Shadow Essence, a resource that is replenished by standing in dark places. Standing in moderate light stops your Shadow Essence from recharging, while being next to bright lights causes it to drain. When not in the dark, enemies can see you easily, but if you remain hidden you can assassinate them with your trusty blade.
At its core, Aragami emphasizes stealth. It is impossible to fight enemies head on, as any attacks soldiers use kill you in one hit. Therefore, the game requires you to patiently scout out the play space, find routes to take, and either silently kill enemies or avoid them entirely. Enemies are intelligent and lethal, but you can exploit their patrol patterns with careful strategy. This is ultimately what a stealth game should be.
Additionally, the player can find scrolls around levels that give skill points for unlocking new abilities, such as making the corpse of a target vanish or giving the player kunai projectiles. Each of these are useful, but never overpowered, meaning that the game doesn't become trivially easy down the line.
Presentation: A true work of art
Aragami is a visual and musical masterpiece. The vibrant art style perfectly suits the aesthetic of classical Japan, yet the use of darker shades of color gives the game a somber feeling, which is perfect for the story. The score is also top-notch, and the balance between the intense, panicked music that plays when you get caught in-game and the mellow tracks that accompany your sneaky movements is perfect.
Aragami Shadow Edition Xbox One review final thoughts
Between the perfect gameplay, great story, and flawless presentation, Aragami is a stealth masterpiece. It's that simple.
- Well-written story.
- Incredible gameplay.
- Excellent presentation.
- Slight frame rate drops.
Aragami Shadow Edition is available now on Xbox One for $24.99.