Despite the name, this stealth action game involves no paper folding whatsoever.It’s an easy mistake to make. Turns out Aragami is the name of the game’s protagonist, a shadow spirit conjured up to subvert an occupying army of light adepts. Employing a range of offensive and evasive abilities, Aragami must traverse more than a dozen hostile 3D environments to rescue the imprisoned Shadow Empress.
The game first came out in late 2016 for PC and PlayStation 4, though this is its first release on the Xbox platform. Its arrival coincides with DLC for existing platforms (included in this Shadow Edition) which features new levels and a 2-player co-op mode. I can’t say I was aware of it first time around, but then it is a stealth game. Ha!
First impressions suggest this is a reasonably pretty and competent B-tier development, with attractive cel-shaded visuals and an intuitive set of controls. This is pretty standard third-person adventuring, with a couple of interesting twists. Aragami can make use of ‘Shadow Essence’ to teleport between, or even create, shadows. Once depleted, he must recharge this essence in areas of darkness. An indication of this is displayed in the embroidery of his cloak (a similar treatment to that of Journey’s scarf).
Using these abilities will ultimately find you a route to the end of the mostly linear missions, avoiding guards along the way for a greater stealth rating in the post-level grading system. Alternatively, you might choose to dispatch the guards with Aragami’s sword, should you be confident tin avoiding a level-wide manhunt. If you’re spotted, guards will search for you, and ranged attacks can take you out in a single hit. Full frontal attacks are possible (and also single hit affairs if you can fit them in), but it’s not advised.
Later levels require a slightly more sophisticated engagement with the environment than simply passing through. Light in various forms impedes your path and must be removed, typically by destroying light orbs before you can create a path, lower a bridge, and so on. That said, environments are sparse, reminding me almost of the bleak functionality of Metal Gear Solid’s VR missions.
Whereas Metal Gear packed in this kind of experience as a companion piece to its full campaign, Aragami feels comparatively lightweight. It is initially pretty, but its limited visual variety and detail means there’s little sense of exploration here. I found myself wanting to boot up Dishonored instead, which offers similar stealth action ideas but in a world that is more interesting to explore.
Of course, there are collectibles along the way to give the world some sense of discovery. Collected scrolls translate to skill points with which you can buy new abilities, though if you don’t find them first time around you probably wouldn’t feel the desire to go back for them.
That’s what’s so odd about the co-op mode: it’s a repeat of the regular campaign missions without any modification, save for the fact that you have quite the unfair advantage. Those guards are unprepared for a two-pronged attack and can be cut through with some ease. You can even share shadows created by the other player, saving your Shadow Essence. Great if you just want to get through the game but, compared to the solo experience, there’s less reward in playing with friends.
I can’t say that Aragami does much that’s particularly wrong. It just isn’t all that interesting, despite some neat, cleverly borrowed design ideas. For a game that requires unhurried and intimate proximity to its environment, it needs a richer world to motivate engagement with its underlying systems. In the end the experience feels paper thin, folding under the expectation of something deeper.
Aragami: Shadow Edition was provided to us by Xbox/Lince Works for Xbox One. It was reviewed on an Xbox One S and X.