вторник, 1 ноември 2016 г.

Aragami - Lurking in the shadows is fun

Aragami is a stealth-action game by Lince Works which came out this year and quickly gained considerable fame and acceptance by the gaming community.  

The game takes place in feudal Japan-like world. The game starts misteriously with strange visions, flashes of the past, voice calling you...you awake only to find out that you are a vengeful spirit with no memory of his past. Now summoned by a mysterious, but beautiful girl you agree to avenge her slaughtered clan. You are an Aragami, spirit of shadows.

What attracted me to Aragami was that it reminded me of the old Thief games, where stealth was everything and you stood no chance in open fight. Things are not exactly like that, still the game has a lot to offer. But I am getting ahead of myself.

The game is separated in distinctive levels and on each you have an objective. The tutorial is clear and the first missions are no sweat with more than one way to complete them and rewards if you do not kill anyone or if you kill everyone, if you are not detected, do not rise an alarm etc. The real game starts when you have to rescue a magical bird which will help you in your mission to avenge the victims of the Light clan. As I mentioned Aragami is not like old Thief, but you are not a killing machine like in Assassin's Creed neither. You will be able to easily take out two or even three enemies if you are quick enough, use your skills correctly and manage to stay hidden between the kills. But you will be quickly slaughtered if the guards are alarmed and find you. Nice touch is that if you alarm the Guards once, even if they do not find you they will be more observant from now on. But let me explain how the game works so its clearer to you what I am talking about.

"Hello darkness, my old friend..."

You are an aragami, a vengeful spirit. As such you have low tolerance to light and quickly lose your powers when exposed to it for long. Not to mention the obvious - it is dead easy for the Guards to see you. Because of this you will need to dart from shadow to shadow, teleporting when distances are longer or ridden with guards. While in shadows, crouched and not moving the chance for the Guards to see you is smaller but still possible(This is one of the issues I had with the game. The range of the Guards is unclear, sometimes they see you and sometimes they do not while you are at the same place.). When seen you have around a second to jump at the Guard and eliminate him. A lone Guard will not rise the alarm when sees you but will alarm the others if he finds a dead body. When you jump at an enemy if you have been too slow or jump directly at him from the front he will probably block you and you will not have a second chance to attack for he will have drawn his sword and stricken you with ray of light which will dissolve you immediately. Yes, you die from only one hit in Aragami. If you do not want to get turned into shadow dust you will have to choose carefully your path and sneak behind Guards. The sneaking system if I even can called it that, is really simple. When you run you make a lot of noise, when you walk you make less and when you sneak you are absolutely silent, but you move slowly. Get behind a Guard and stab him and he is dead. You are not the only one who dies from a single strike.  
Your main power is the ability to manipulate shadows and interact with them. After the tutorial you will be able to teleport from shadow to shadow and create temporary shadow. Further in the game you will find skill scrolls which will give you skill point which you will be able then to invest in skills. Speaking about skills...

Fancy cape, what does it do?

The skill you will be able to learn include all kinds of powers over the shadows. From trowing shurikens to conjuring shadow serpent to eat your enemies. With time you will become strong enough to be able, as I mentioned in the beginning, to take out few Guards one after another. There is catch though..two actually. First you do not have unlimited amount of shadow essence(mana) and it decrease when you use your skills. The mana you have is shown by the lines on your cape(which is really cool idea), it also shows you how many times you can use certain skills. Yes, this is the second catch - for one level you can use your more powerful skill only certain amount of times. This is clean and elegant way to balance your otherwise quite powerful skills which gives the sense of progress, but at the same time does not turn you into killing machine. In other words your skills will lead to more than one badass moment for you, but only when used correctly. 

Something which I need to mention and which partially fits in the talk about skills and partially does not fit anywhere is that Aragami offers co-op mode where you together with a friend can sneak and kill Guards together. For me this was the first time I see a stealth game to offer co-op and after I tried it I can say that it is a lot of fun, but the game does not adapt adequately to the fact that there are two deadly shadows now and we were able to run around and kill Guards rather easily when together. Good coordination and teamwork led to more than few cool moments where we in perfect sync jumped at groups of Guards dispatching them before they manage to react. 


Aragami can not be compared to only one game. In it you can be both aggressive and stealthy and both bring you benefit. But it is not as aggressive as Dishonored at the same time you do not need to be as stealthy as in Thief from old times. Its a pretty good mix from both worlds. The biggest problem the game has is that in co-op it does not scale at all and can be too easy at times. Despite that it is great addition to the genre and its creators work hard to polish it even further. Give it a go.

Where to find:

"Hello Darkness, my old friend..." is a quote from Simon and Garfunkel's song "Sound of Silence"

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