The upcoming PS4 and PC title Aragami has had the eyes of stealth action fans since it was revealed last April. Take one look at the game and it’s clear why; with roots in the under-represented pure stealth genre, a dark, intriguing narrative and a stunning fantasy setting deeply inspired by ancient Japan, it looks like nothing short of a delicious surge of freshness to the all-but-forgotten pure stealth genre.
But Aragami is not a pure stealth game; not really. Players will have the choice between operating carefully and quietly in traditional stealth fashion as a “Ghost” or in a more obstructive, action oriented manner as a “Demon”. We got to discuss both of these styles of play as well as Aragami’s influences, design choices, main campaign length and more in our recent Q&A session with developer Lince Works’ Michal Napora.
Kenneth Richardson: You mentioned Aragami will feature two main play styles, “Demon” and “Ghost.” Are there any unique rewards associated with playing in one style? Will players miss out or experience the game differently if they choose to play through the entire game with one style or the other?
Michal Napora: No, not at all. We definitely do not want to punish players for choosing one style over the other – it’s not your fault that you like to be a Demon or a Ghost! Players will have the full freedom to play the game however they wish, or mix it up depending on what the occasion calls. You can express your inner Assassin in whatever way you want to!
KR: How will players determine their character build in the Demon and Ghost styles? Will this be based on using specific sets of skills and becoming more proficient in them, or through a progression/unlock system?
MN: Players will be able to unlock new skills by finding scrolls scattered around the levels. Depending on how many scrolls you have, you will be able to unlock new powers with it. You will be able to choose from skills that make you a better Ghost or a better Demon. It’s up to you to determine how you want your character to be developed.
KR: You indicated that players in Aragami would have a relatively limited arsenal compared to other stealth games. What inspired this design choice?
MN: To be honest, it was the classic stealth games like Tenchu. These days, stealth games give you combat mechanics that, invertibly, encourage the player to engage in combat, losing that appeal and magic of stealth. There are plenty of ‘stealth’ games that you can complete by going into full combat, which is something that we don’t believe in. The magic of stealth is feeling the tension, that one wrong move could be the end – you have to think like an assassin.
KR: In your announcement on the PlayStation Blog, you had mentioned that stealth in games recently has been “diluted and doesn’t pose a real challenge.” Is challenge a crucial component of Aragami? Would you say you were trying to design a “difficult” game?
MN: I wouldn’t say that we designed a difficult game per se. I would say that we’ve designed an intelligent and thought out game that encourages people to think and plan out their actions. There is no point in designing super-hard games [where] players feel discouraged and throw the pad away. It’s about learning what your character is capable of, and get into a specific mind-frame of how to beat a game, to feel vulnerable and therefore calculate every move. That’s what we are trying to achieve with Aragami.
KR: You had mentioned games such as Metal Gear Solid, Tenchu, and others being influences on Aragami. In those games, you could be spotted by an enemy, but hide out and within moments the enemy has forgotten you ever existed. Will Aragami implement more sophisticated/challenging enemy AI?
MN: We definitely don’t want the AI to feel dumb, and we’ve made sure our enemies do have intelligence. If they catch a glimpse of you, a split second, they will take notice. They will investigate the surroundings. However, keep in mind that with shadows you can play tricks on people’s minds. Guards will come to the spot they last saw you, giving you a nice window of opportunity for your next move. However, if they spot you (or a dead body) and you give them enough time to raise the alarm, all the enemies within the surroundings will be on alert – making it that more difficult for you to do your job. Our advice is: don’t let the guards to suspicious. Do whatever it takes so that the alarm will not be raised.
KR: Some games with stealth elements have supported multiple play styles but often guide most players toward the stealth route. What will Aragami implement to make sure players that play in either style (Ghost or Demon) can get an equally satisfying experience?
MN: Most definitely. Even within our team, we have different style of players. We’ve beaten many stealth games, and we listened to a LOT of our complaints about them. We don’t [want] players to feel like they are missing out, or are being forced to adapt their behavior. If you want to kill every one that’s in the area, then by all means go for it (if you can!). However, if you prefer to sneak around, then please do so as well. You get pleasures from both types of experiences and it’s up to you to decide which one you like more. And you won’t be penalized for choosing which way you go.
KR: Aragami takes place in a gorgeous, mystical Japanese setting; was it especially influenced by any particular places or regions within the country?
MN: Yes it was! For example, the 3rd level in our game is heavily inspired by Mount Koya’s graveyard. That place has a really beautiful vibe and it really painted some great images in our mind. We wanted to take that feeling and bring it into our game. Another example is the 5th chapter of our game, which was directly inspired by the Great Torii of Miyajima. It’s this beautiful shrine with an amazing floating torii gate. It’s a beautiful place that really works on the imagination.
We’re big buffs of Japanese mythology, and if you are as well, you will definitely find other nods to it in Aragami.
Okunoin Cemetery, which resides in Japan’s Mt. Koya and inspired one of the early locations in Aragami (video courtesy of “hushhushvideo,” YouTube.)
KR: Will the game potentially see a physical release, or will it be only available digitally?
MN: Aragami will be available as a physical game all thanks to Merge Games Ltd. They are awesome people to work with, and we’re very happy to see Aragami on the store shelves. It will be awesome to see!
KR: Currently, can you say what the projected length of the campaign is?
MN: Depending on your style of play and how much of a collector you are, you can expect on average of 8-10 hours of play. More if you need to have every collectible and achievement that’s out there!
KR: What do you hope is the defining factor/experience that players will take away from Aragami?
MN: That pure stealth games are fun, and the feeling that they’ll get will make them look for more games of that genre. That’s what we would love for players to feel.
Aragami will be available for the PS4 and PC this fall.