Lince Works’ 2016 stealth title Aragami flew under the radar somewhat when it first came out, but fans of the genre will tell you that it’s perhaps one of the most interesting stealth games to have come out over the last few years. There was room for improvement, of course, and with the upcoming Aragami 2, it looks like the developers are making those improvements in spades, as they look to take the solid foundations of the first game and build an even more compelling game on top of them. Recently, we reached out to the game’s developers in hopes of learning more about it and what improvements it’s making over its predecessors, and learned quite a lot in the process. You can read our conversation with Lince Works founder and game designer David León below.
"In Aragami 2, your character can perform all sorts of acrobatic feats, which opens up the level tremendously."
While the first game had a much more linear, focused structure, Aragami 2 looks to be approaching levels in a much more open-ended fashion. How does this new approach impact the game in terms of things such as progression or level design?
In the original game, player movement was extremely limited since you could only teleport to areas in darkness. In Aragami 2, your character can perform all sorts of acrobatic feats, which opens up the level tremendously. To support this freedom of movement we have designed large and open scenarios with a lot of thought put into verticality and multiple paths to traverse the environment. Since scenarios in Aragami 2 are so large, missions usually focus just on a portion of the level, which means each time you revisit a location you will discover new areas, secret paths and other details.
What can players expect from the semi-open world areas of Aragami 2 in terms of size and their variety?
All chapters in Aragami 1 happened at night, mostly outdoors. In Aragami 2, each location has a distinct mood to it, from the warm light of a mountain temple at dawn, to the dim moonlight shining on the city rooftops. These different moods also change the way you move through these environments, as the darkness of a mining complex will offer more opportunities to stay hidden than being exposed to the sun on some rice fields. Enemy patrols will also take advantage from scenario elements, since guards can now climb buildings and chase after you through different obstacles.
What can you tell us about the hub area, and what it will bring to the table?
Kakurega Village is the soul of Aragami 2’s story. It’s the home to a broken nation, cursed by strange affliction – a group of people clinging to what’s left of their humanity. Your job as one of the remaining village warriors will be to help its citizens reclaim their memories and rebuild the village. Kakurega Village acts as a resting place for players, and a way to meet and talk with the varied and strange characters inhabiting the world of Aragami 2.
Aragami 2 seems to be putting a greater focus on combat than the first game. Can you tell us about how that’s being done in context of it being a stealth experience, and what are the biggest improvements being made to the combat?
In Aragami 1 if you got spotted by an enemy guard it usually meant game over and restart, which took you out of the game and frustrated a lot of players. It also felt unrealistic for a shadow assassin skilled with the sword to just be unable to fight back.
For Aragami 2, we took inspiration from games like Tenchu, Dishonored or Metal Gear Solid. These are games which focus on stealth gameplay, but give the player an option to fight and defend yourself in order to get away from a bad situation or just to make the final push towards your objective. Like in those game, in Aragami 2 you’ve got the option to fight in melee, but you are usually outnumbered and overpowered, so our intention is for the player to use combat as a last resort, or in specific situations where a quick fight would be more effective than the alternatives.
"Kakurega Village is the soul of Aragami 2’s story. It’s the home to a broken nation, cursed by strange affliction – a group of people clinging to what’s left of their humanity. Your job as one of the remaining village warriors will be to help its citizens reclaim their memories and rebuild the village."
Aragami drew a lot of praise from players for its stealth gameplay and movement mechanics. What kinds of improvements can players expect from Aragami 2 in that area?
In Aragami 2 the player has a wide array of options to traverse the environment and feel like a shadow assassin. The ‘Shadow Leap’ is back, but improved. You can now instantly teleport to any ledge around you, doesn’t matter if it’s in darkness or not. You can now jump – and teleport while jumping – climb walls, move along ledges, rope walk, hide in tall grass, cling to walls, sprint, dash, roll… Let’s just say that your character feels extremely agile.
With crafting, upgrading, and skill trees, Aragami 2 looks to be moving deeper into RPG territory. What can you tell us about how extensive these options are, and what sort of an impact they have on progression and gameplay?
Customization is very important for us and this sequel will significantly expand on that aspect. When it comes to RPG elements in Aragami 2, players will be able to customize their own assassin, and we are now giving options to modify all sorts of visual aspects like the different armor and cloth pieces your character wears. Players can also customize their playstyles, craft and upgrade their equipment. That’s all I can say for now.
What does the ability to play the entire campaign in co-op with other players bring to the table? Was it a challenge to develop the entire game while ensuring that it was optimized well for both solo and co-op play?
While working on Aragami 1 we added the ability to play the full game on co-op, and felt that online coop in a stealth game works extremely well even with very few changes to gameplay. When playing with another player you need to communicate a lot to establish a strategy when moving through the level. Just one mistake can alert any hostile in the area, and complicate the progress of your partners, so teams that don’t work together make the game more difficult than if you were playing by yourself, but teams with good coordination can be really effective, and it’s extremely satisfying to pull off a cooperative mission without making mistakes.
Do you have any plans to bring Aragami 2 to the Switch?
At the moment we are focusing on the announced platforms. We would love to bring Aragami 2 to as many players as possible, so we will announce new platforms as soon as they are confirmed.
What frame rates and resolution will Aragami 2 be targeting on the PS5 and Xbox Series X?
We are targeting stable 60 FPS and 4K.
What about the current-gen consoles? What frame-rates and resolutions is the game targeting on the PS4 and Xbox One, as well as the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X?
Like in Aragami 1, we are targeting at least stable 30 FPS at 1080p, with an option for 4k on PS4 Pro and Xbox One X.
"In Aragami 2 the player has a wide array of options to traverse the environment and feel like a shadow assassin."
Since the reveal of the PS5 and Xbox Series X’s specs, a lot of comparisons have been made between the GPU speeds of the two consoles’ GPUs, with the PS5 at 10.28 TFLOPS and the Xbox Series X at 12 TFLOPS- but how much of an impact on development do you think that difference will have?
The specs of both consoles are so much better compared to the current console generation that even minor differences between Series X and PS5 won’t matter that much. We are mainly excited to have such raw power on both consoles, which provides us with better flexibility to add various improvements and graphical enhancements to the game without having to think about the console’s limitations.
The PS5 features an incredibly fast SSD with 5.5GB/s raw bandwidth. This is faster than anything that is available out there. How can developers take advantage of this and what will it result to, and how does this compare to Series X’s 2.4GB/s raw bandwidth?
Again, the takeaway here is the contrast with current gen. You can expect almost instant loading screens in both devices, which will make the process of moving through different in-game locations much smoother.
There is a difference in the Zen 2 CPUs of both consoles. The Xbox series X features 8x Zen 2 Cores at 3.8GHz, whereas the PS5 features 8x Zen 2 Cores at 3.5GHz. Your thoughts on this difference?
Usually games – and developers – can take better advantage of a system if the tools are up to it. Since these systems are still extremely new, tools have to catch up, and that means we won’t see the limitations of those specs until a few months from now when development tools are robust enough to take advantage of those specs.