You are the silent shadow on the prowl. Kill the lights, distract the guards, kill one and terrorize the other. A simple approach found in other stealth genre games, however it surely is not the only one. What Mark of the Ninja does that most games have not, is provide an excellent example of choice. A choice made not to choose between ostentatious murder or silent execution, but a choice between a variety of unseen approaches. Klei entertainment has done a near perfect job at placing players into the shoes of history's most shrouded and seemingly mystical warriors by giving them enough options to deal with each encounter in a satisfying and meaningful way by compromising what it takes for a game to be a part of the stealth genre. Kills can be quick and concise, or they can be a slow and patient waiting game, in reality it is mostly up to the player in terms of how they want to complete the mission.

Klei however does try and provide incentive to remain undetected to those who tend to have patience issues by introducing a scoring element. Points can be awarded depending on how clean a kill was, how it was done, sneaking past enemies without raising awareness, or even by completing a level without killing anyone. While garnering a certain amount of points can be used to unlock skill upgrades (along with uncovering scrolls or completing side objectives) they are in no means used to try and restrict the player in how they wish to perform.

The art style is ravishing and is similar to games that Klei has done in the past (Shank 1 and 2) and does a great job at creating a sense of place with each new location. While certain visages are used more than once, the game hardly feels like a repetitive experience as each level is constructed with an amazing amount of detail both in its visual and technical design. The animation of both the controlled avatar as well as the enemies is fluid and satisfying. Your character in particular moves in an extremely exact manner as the controls are tight (even if they might be a tad difficult to get used too). While the mechanical execution is arguably the most exciting and valid reason to play the game, the story of MotN was a surprising tale that had a very interesting conclusion. While it was not the selling point for the game, the use of story paints an interesting lore and creates quite a few questions that the player must deal with near the final moments of the game. 

While the game is reasonable in length (about six to eight hours), the real reason to return to each level is because of the skill unlockables. By collecting a high enough score, collecting scrolls, or completing the side objectives as mentioned above, points are accumulated and are allowed to be spent on skills and tools. This can be a range of added stealth kills that make enemy engagement much easier and quieter, or a man devouring beetle that, while loud, will terrorize nearby foes. Aside from this a variety of costumes can also be unlocked that each come with their own specific enhancements and detractions that really mix up combat.

It is easy to overlook this game because it is an indie downloadable title, and while I do have some complaints of the game such as the binary character model when entering or exiting lighting and one specific area where controls are difficult, my overall impression is a resounding triumph. 2012 has been a great year for the stealth genre as well as choice in player decision, Mark of the Ninja comes in at what I think is a very decisive lead in terms of gameplay precision and satisfaction. It takes a ninja to show what ninjas do best, and stealth gameplay has reaped the rewards.