The lack of complexity is especially regrettable when considering the abilities at the aragami's disposal. Six limited-use powers can be acquired on top of the three granted through the early stages of the campaign. Each of these nine powers can be "bought" or upgraded with scrolls hidden throughout each stage. In theory, the player is faced with a diverse array of techniques to aid them in dispatching or avoiding their foes. In actuality, though, the aforementioned non-difficulty in combat means that only a few of these are truly necessary for success. Since the scrolls can be easily tracked and obtained using a quickly-bought upgrade, I found myself in the latter stages of the campaign buying powers and upgrades without any sort of need (and subsequently, desire), but simply because I needed to spend points.
Let me mention two things Aragami does exceedingly well and pushes its own boundaries on: visual cues and stage design. Nearly everything you could possibly need to know about the aragami's status is cleverly displayed on his actual person. As he moves from light into darkness, or vice versa, his palette shifts from a full array of colors to the stark contrast of black and white, which naturally clues the player in on his chances of being seen. Thanks to the designs on the back of his cape, one can also easily surmise both his remaining resources and active power. Outside of the bizarre decision to make said cape obey the laws of physics and, thus, occasionally get caught on the aragami's sheath, it's a truly elegant way of displaying information to the player. The game’s stages feature similar elegance in their visuals - both in aesthetics and cues - but occasionally suffer from the same shallowness seen elsewhere. At its best, Aragami presents the player with a semi-open environment and allows them to decide the best method of approach. The freedom to decide which targets must be eliminated (or avoided) first, second, and so on offered my co-op partner and I the chance to feel like genuine badasses upon successfully completing a stage. Unfortunately, these locations are contracted and expanded throughout the experience, meaning that more than a few felt simple by comparison.
I should preface this next portion with a simple declaration: I know next to nothing about artificial intelligence. I know that it is an exceedingly complex subject, and I know that the prospect of designing and embedding it into a video game and then letting the general public poke around with it is horrifying to me. Nevertheless, a game whose primary activity centers around interacting with artificial intelligence - and subsequently gauging its logic and reactions - must be judged upon it. Unfortunately, Aragami offers little beyond the basic industry standard. Guards largely exist in one of three states: wholly unaware, curious, and alerted. Briefly pass through a guard's vision or create enough sound, and he'll become curious, which essentially means that he'll beeline for your last known location, peer around for a moment, and then return to his patrol route. Stay in his vision long enough, and he'll become alerted, which results in him immediately attacking you or retrieving a horn to alert his pals. As you might expect, the lack of complex awareness levels becomes easily exploitable at an early stage. Assuming you're at least partially careful, you can use a number of methods to single guards out, draw them in, dispose of them, and repeat ad nauseum. Add on the fact that, about midway through the campaign, your aragami is verging upon all-powerful killing machine, and the tension is quickly sapped from the experience.
Fortunately, Aragami allows the entire campaign to be played with an online partner, and it's all the better for it. While this effect lessened as the game went on, the scarcity of skill points available in the early stages of the game meant that my partner and I were forced to take on very distinct roles when tackling each area. Being forced to use our own unique abilities to both coordinate takedowns and protect each other when our plans went awry resulted in more than a few memorable hijinx. As you might expect, though, our powers eventually began to homogenize. Once our co-dependence lessened, we began inadvertently forging our own paths through each stage, relegating the late-game experience from cooperative to simply shared.
It's difficult to portray, especially when listing these flaws out on the page, but the act of playing Aragami moment-to-moment is genuinely pretty fun. The game has a number of ideas that, if fully realized, would have easily set new standards in the genre. It's wholly unfair to compare Aragami to its high-budget colleagues, such as Dishonored or Metal Gear Solid V, but the gulf in complexity between the titles leaves a disappointing taste in the mouth nonetheless. Aragami is begging for a sequel, one that expands on its combat, stage design, and AI. In its current state, though, it is a solid but fairly forgettable experience.
The Co-Op Experience: Two players can team up online to attack from the shadows and make your way through the city of Kyuryu
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.