What more could a Stealth fanatic ask for?
Cards on the table, I played and absolutely loved the original so I got into this one with a lot of excitement but with a lot of scepticism on whether it would do its predecessor justice. Lince Works have made improvements to the original title but there are early signs of this stealth classic becoming just another hack and slash Fromsoft-esque game. Other than that, Aragami 2 is exactly what was advertised, and its predecessor should be proud.
The plot for Aragami 2 does not pick up from where the first game left of – that ending was perfect and needs no further expanding – instead, you’re pit as one of the last elite warriors of your kin, the Aragami. You have supernatural powers but the source of those powers is also slowly devouring your mind, body, and soul. Your main Quest is to remove this unfortunate side effect and regain your humanity before time runs out. As far as premises go, it’s pretty straight forward, the main campaign maintains this straightforward feel all the way to the end. I’m not saying that it’s a boring campaign that’s not worth your time, it just seems a bit shallow compared to what was presented by its predecessor. Instead of a consistently dark and lonely tone – similar to Aragami – Aragami 2 from its crescendo to its conclusion screamed “Classic Anime”. Nothing wrong with anime, it’s just not what the series represents to me.
Aragami 2 is a Third Person Adventure/Stealth game, but clearly the developers wanted to add more action to the adventure enjoyed in Aragami, this is evidenced with the inclusion of such clichés as parries and critical attacks in sword fights. You will traverse 10 semi-open world areas; these are separated by interconnecting portals to your base. Combat is clunky with the parry function being a 50/50 toss-up at times. The best thing to do when faced with a one on one fight is to use a support item to gain the upper hand and end the fight quickly – Or restart if you’re going for an S rating – because if you take your time with a fight you will get overwhelmed by other guards, and in this stealth focused game it only takes 3 hits to die.
Added features like being able to automatically lean on a wall and peak around the corner is much appreciated and removes a glaring weakness of its predecessor. The Blacksmith/Forge is an interesting feature, a little underused because although you can buy different armours and swords, none of them have any buffs or de-buffs in terms of protection versus flexibility for the armours and nothing changes in terms of damage versus swing speed versus reach for the swords. The cosmetic changes are nice, but this looks like a missed opportunity. In terms of removed abilities from Aragami, the ability to teleport onto any shadow in the game was removed, this was unfortunate.
The upgrade system is similar to what was seen in Aragami except for the slower progression speed. Cliché upgrades like increased range, higher damage for melee attacks, higher damage for ranged attacks etc were thankfully avoided. This left space for more interesting upgrades like MESMERIZE, which blinds and deafens unaware targets for a while or until they receive damage, or BLOODSMOKE which performs a special assassination that spreads a dark fog capable of hiding you, furthermore, if you upgrade this ability, hiding in the fog will regenerate your vitality. Maxing out these abilities without doing 2nd and 3rd runs of already completed stages is sadly impossible, even if you achieve an S rank in all the stages leading up to the final fight. Luckily maxing out all your abilities is not necessary to dominate in Aragami 2, what is needed is clever planning so you can maximise your strengths and minimize your weaknesses in terms of your playing style.
Both Boss fights – there are only 2 in the entire game – are exactly what you would expect from an Aragami game. They both boiled down to thinning the heard before one-hit-killing the boss; this is the type of commitment to assassination in an assassination game that has long since been abandoned by franchises like Assassins Creed. Patience is your best friend in Aragami 2. Not just because you have to analyse guard routes before attacking, you also have to make sure you’ve got your exit strategy well thought out because some objectives force you to be discovered by the enemy and if your camera angle is not lined up and you haven’t selected the right support item? You’re pretty much screwed.
The art style in Aragami 2 remains stylised like its predecessor. With all the recent talk of sequels looking similar I think it’s especially apropos to point out that Aragami 2 looks visually similar to Aragami and that is not a bad thing. Character movement is also similar but executions, teleportation and wall leaning animations are different and a little more refined. Like many games released in 2021, Aragami 2 is not without its glitches, but these are very rare, one such glitch allows for you to almost float through the air if you jump off the ledge of a window while carrying a body.
The music in Aragami 2 is fitting of the style. This is both a good and bad thing. Good because it adds to the immersion factor with the drums, flutes and shamisen’s sounding authentic and natural. Bad because it seems like Two Feathers – the composers of said OST – were either not given a bigger scope to be creative or they intentionally limited themselves. This is evidenced in the lack of diversity among the tracks. Apart from Endless, I believe there are no other tracks that will wow anyone’s eardrums for years to come.
In summary, Aragami 2 is a good game. Well worth it’s price tag of £40 – It’s on Xbox Game Pass as of the publishing of this article – with a meaty campaign and loads of replay value plus beautiful stages filled with challenging stealth puzzles, what more could a stealth fanatic ask for?
Reviewed on Xbox Series X, also available now on Xbox One, PS4, PS5 and Steam.