Stealth games are sorely missed. While developers like Ubisoft have taken their series to a heavy RPG route which ditches the classic stealth formula and other series haven’t had releases in a long while, Aragami snuck onto the scene to fair reception. The sequel aims to expand on the ideas of its foundation. While it does stumble in some areas, this stealth adventure has a lot to offer for those looking for a satisfying stealth experience alone or with friends
Right out the gate, Aragami 2 knows what it wants to be in terms of its gameplay to enhance the positives of what the genre is known for. A stealth game lives or dies by the quality of the gameplay systems and thankfully, this is done right. Something I always find very important in stealth games is the UI, and what the player is allowed to see. Enemy awareness markers are always visible when they suspect you and are either above their heads or on the end of the screen when off camera. Holding the left trigger activates a limited sight that allows you to see through walls and mark enemies as well as get a general idea of where the objective of the mission is. Another important element of the interface is linked to one of the first traversal tools to learn that is the bread and butter of movement. Teleporting by pressing the right trigger allows you to teleport from ledge to ledge, but only if you’re close enough to that ledge or platform. The circle is small, but will turn blue which allows a jump. From there, enemies can be killed or knocked out from ledges as well, adding just a bit more depth to how to interact with the environment.
"Aragami 2 knows what it wants to be in terms of its gameplay to enhance the positives of what the genre is known for."
Traversal is vastly improved from the first Aragami. Teleportation and dashing are done with ease, and hanging from ledges or fences is a very simple but welcome addition. All of this comes together to make this stealth game a breeze to control, albeit within the limitations of a stamina bar. There is never enough stamina to repeatedly teleport over and over but the regeneration is very fair so you’re never out for too long.
The overall art aesthetic is very clean. The palette is very muted and appealing to the eye. Even though the artwork has a very smooth look, there is a good balance in texture detail to where it doesn’t seem bland like Lince Works’ previous venture. Your own Aragami avatar can be customized with cosmetic armor that provides a needed splash to create a unique flair. One of my favorite aspects of Aragami’s visual language is how the game shows if you are detectible or not. Crouching in a shadow, on a high ledge or in the stereotypical tall grass, you are undetectable. This is indicated by the character model turning black with white outlines. It’s a nice visual cue in case shadows aren’t clear; especially in nighttime settings like what’s commonly seen in Aragami. The PC version runs very well and has a good amount of graphical customizability. Lighting and shadows can be tweaked as well as resolution scaling and a reasonable amount of anti-aliasing customization.
Early on when starting to learn the game, one of the most aggravating ways I got surrounded was when whispering to lure enemies. The range is so large to where I often lure two or more enemies at once which prompted me to leave the scene. Singling out enemies is very difficult in most stealth titles and having a button to lure enemies is a great basic tool. It just feels like it’s use is very discouraged here. This issue aside, there is an ability that is able to be learned very early into the game that allows enemy search patterns to be seen. Even still, in a game that stations multiple enemies with their own overlapping patrol paths and sight lines, I just wish dividing enemies was easier.
"The overall art aesthetic is very clean. The palette is very muted and appealing to the eye. Even though the artwork has a very smooth look, there is a good balance in texture detail to where it doesn’t seem bland like Lince Works’ previous venture."
Unfortunately, the melee combat falls short. This is really hard to nail due to the fact that giving the player more tools for combat means that fighting becomes more comfortable and encouraged. This is something really hard to work around but the sequel is still an improvement over the first title since the tutorials make it clear that combat should not be a focus; but only as a last resort. The health bar isn’t very high and doesn’t refill automatically to enforce this statement. In the previous game, one hit meant death so here there is a chance to escape and come back, or narrowly achieve victory. Attacking and dodging is fluid and the camera does well to track the target being locked on to, but I had trouble adjusting to the timing for blocking and especially parrying.
Aragami 2 like its predecessor isn’t really meant to be played for the story, especially since the missions are “go here and collect the thing or kill the target” as you’d expect. As a newly introduced member of the Aragami. Taking place one hundred years after the first game, the goal is to protect a village and fight alongside the remaining members of the clan. So while the light narrative and motivations end up being a cut above set dressing, multiplayer, or at least the prospect of multiplayer is. Each mission is selectable from a board, and each mission requires all players to ready up before departure akin to other mission based multiplayer titles. We were not able to test this for review, so server stability or ease of use cannot be commented on. There is no server selection from what can be seen, but you may join or create public and private lobbies. For now, whether or not the netcode is worthwhile is up in the air.
Something to note is while the map size in missions compliments a co-op mentality nicely this time around, I never felt like I absolutely needed someone else with me to complete objectives, but the help would’ve been nice since the level layouts incentivize cooperative play. Having more players makes the missions more manageable since the maps are designed with multiple pathways to an objective, but the design of each sometimes felt too daunting of a task for one person. However, after some trial and error in the earlier hours, it’s easy to understand how to navigate each mission with enough patience.
"The PC version runs very well and has a good amount of graphical customizability."
At the end of a mission, XP and Gold are rewarded. Performance is graded with metrics like time, and how the hostiles were or were not dealt with, and collectibles gathered. Replaying missions is optional and it’s good to go back in to find secrets, equipment blueprints and grab some extra coin, but rewards for finishing a level more than once are drastically reduced. One other benefit to multiplayer is that since there is gold scattered around, it takes less time to sweep the area with multiple players. Gold and skill points gained from leveling up are spent in a village hub. There, you can acquire passive and active skills and equipment like Kunai. Blueprints are also available to collect, allowing for more equipment.
Aragami 2 has some satisfying stealth challenges available to take on solo or with other players. The visuals are a major step above the original. Enemy placement and AI make it hard to separate them, but the suite of visual cues help to better understand how many foes there are, and what their path is to plan a route. Movement is very brisk and with a skill tree that has a lot of variety, there’s no denying there is a feeling of gratification clearing a mission where you escape by the skin of your teeth.
This game was reviewed on PC.
Resourceful user interface; Branching level variety; Player customization; Briskly paced traversal; Steady upgrade tree; Well performing PC version.
Hard to separate groups of enemies; Melee combat is inconsistent and unreliable; Passable narrative; Multiplayer almost feels essential.
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