Shadow Tactics: Aiko’s Choice is a standalone expansion to Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun. Aiko’s Choice is a pretty satisfying stealth action game.
The game takes place after the happenings of Blades of the Shogun. The five blades have assembled once more to defeat Kage sama only to be thwarted by Aiko’s former sensei, Lady Chiyo. Now with Takuma san shipped off on a mysterious ship, and Yuki imprisoned, Aiko, Hayato, and Mugen must regroup and rescue their comrades in arms and put an end to Kage sama once and for all.
The game is pretty darn fun to play. You take control of each of the blades. You start out with just three at the beginning, each with their own unique abilities. Hayato can throw a shuriken to kill enemies at a short distance. He only has one and you have to go pick it up again once thrown to rethrow it. You would think Hayato would bring more than one but I guess he’s being very conscious about creating trash.
Aiko has a handy powder bomb that temporarily blinds enemies once thrown. The duration is pretty short so you have to time it correctly. She also has the ability to pick up and don disguises. She can then talk to guards to redirect their attention and their vision cones to let your allies pass through or even take out guards undetected. This ability is incredibly powerful.
Mugen is the powerhouse of the group and can take out all enemies in a small area with his sword. He can also throw a bottle of sake to lure guards out of position. The stationary guards don’t drink though, props to them. Due to his high attack power, Mugen has the handicap of not being able to use grappling hooks and jumping down from rooftops, he must use a ladder to travel up and down.
Although some of these abilities sound very powerful, the game is incredibly balanced and fair. Each action takes a little bit of time to perform and people move very slowly in this game so careful positioning and coordination is key to successfully taking out enemies.
The game felt incredibly satisfying to play. Stealth games like this are essentially puzzle games. You need to figure out the key guards to take out first. Each guard usually has overlapping vision cones with another and other guards keeping an eye onthem. Finding the one guard that is vulnerable helps to break their formation apart.
Once their formation is weakened, sometimes you need to use all the abilities of your team simultaneously to take out all the enemies undetected. I had moments when I would take out multiple guards at once, use an ability to distract another while moving all the bodies out of sight. When you pull it off successfully, it feels incredibly satisfying. Although the game is pretty challenging, the game lets you save at any point so you can always reload if you fail.
The game does feel very fluid for the most part. I did run into some frustrating situations where the game couldn’t tell where I was clicking, especially if a roof tile was near the ground. You can alleviate this by rotating the camera around.
Overall, Shadow Tactics: Aiko’s Choice is a really satisfying stealth action game. The levels are well designed and provide a challenge. It is probably one of the best stealth games I’ve managed to play so far this year.