Aragami: Shadow Edition review
Stealth action-adventure at its finest.
Back in 2016, Barcelona-based developer Lince Works released Aragami, a third person stealth game where you take on the form of a vengeful shadow spirit, summoned to seek revenge on the army of light. In 2018, the much-anticipated expansion Nightfall has finally been released, which has given me the perfect chance to find out exactly what I’d missed the first time around. Turns out, Aragami: Shadow Edition is one of the most enjoyable action-adventure stealth experiences available.
Set over 13 chapters taking place over one dark night, the gameplay of Aragami is fluid and fun from the outset. You’re a shadow adept spirit, which means you can use any shadow to your stealthy advantage by leaping to it with a click of the right mouse button. This is basically the blink ability from Dishonored, and it works exceptionally well here. It’s a fantastic stalking tool and one that lets you explore the densely designed levels with cunning.
You can also paint shadows on any unlit surface, for even more options to aid both traversal and murder. As a shadow spirit, your abilities only refill while you’re sheltered under dark, and will drain rapidly in the light. As you get familiar with movement and where you can and cannot teleport to, you settle into a satisfying rhythm that never lets up. There are many more abilities – which you unlock by finding scrolls – but even with just these two you can feel like a fully fledged stealth assassin.
Which is handy, because finding scrolls can be tricky, requiring extensive exploration. I hadn’t unlocked more than half of the abilities by the time I’d finished the campaign. You’ve got plenty of options to make it through each level though, so while having fewer abilities might make it tougher, the game isn’t particularly difficult as is.
That is unless you’re going for a full ghost playthrough or something like that. In fact, this game is built for completionists, encouraging multiple run-throughs of each level to be the best possible shadow ninja you can be.
Counter to this, the story is completely forgettable – although it does have a good ending – and the dialogue is actively bad. Tacky dating sim bad, in places; totally atonal to the feudal Japan setting. But it’s one of those rare instances where the gameplay is so fun that it really doesn’t matter. Use the story for context, don’t take it too seriously and just revel in the shadow-hopping stab-fest.
I did have one let down throughout: the objectives. While the levels are cleverly designed and a blast to play through, objectives are rote and repetitive. You’ll be breaking many light barriers and infiltrating many pagodas before the night is over, but again, this would only be a major issue if the game played poorly. It very much doesn’t. This does, however, dent the overall enjoyment a little. Entering a huge new level to realise that, ‘oh, I have to break a light barrier, then reach the next area… again’ is disappointing.
Fortunately, the objectives issue is directly resolved in Nightfall. Acting as a prequel narrative, in this short expansion you play as one of two shadow-adept soldiers seeking to stop your empress from being trapped by the enemy – the light-wielding ‘Kaiho’. While only four chapters long, Nightfall offers plenty of content, with some of the most expansive levels in the game and opening up all abilities to you from the start.
Goals are less repetitive and are built more around exploration – often without providing an objective marker. This is a good decision that makes the campaign feel fresher and often more challenging.
Again, the story fails to do much at all. As a prequel, it does give greater insight into some characters and a bit of context about the overall conflict raging on around you, but this gets muddy and hard to follow. The dialogue is thankfully less atrocious, but that might just be because there isn’t as much of it in the first place.
Either way, the same applies for Nightfall – gameplay is everything here. Finding an effective sneaking route through levels, taking down pesky groups of light-archers with your new explosive kunai, leaping from enemy to rooftop to enemy – then back to safety in the shadows – It’s the moment-to-moment gameplay and improvisation that always stands out.
The artwork is also gorgeous – and Nightfall definitely kicks things up a notch with some eye-watering lighting effects, landscapes and skyboxes. Character models look a bit wooden, but everything else bleeds into one strong aesthetic which makes engaging with the world even more of a pleasure.
While I played through the entire thing on my own in about nine hours – without focussing on collectibles or perfecting my end-level ranks – there’s a co-op option and even Steam Workshop support for custom levels and missions. You could easily put 20-plus hours into this package and still want to come back for more, and I’m definitely looking forward to whatever Lince Works comes up with next.