the Aragami Franchise started with the game of the same name that was released in 2016. Five years later Aragami 2 aims to expand on the supernatural stealth ninja formula that was introduced with the first game. The standalone game doesn’t require any knowledge of the predecessor, which is really a good thing considering it’s an almost entirely different experience. Unfortunately, a lack of challenges, a few mistakes, and repetitive missions prevent it from being a great thing.
The protagonist is not just any secret ninja; He is one of the last of the Aragami, an elite warrior to be plagued by a supernatural disease that is gradually affecting his mind and body. The positive part of this is that he can control and manipulate shadows through his shadow essence power. After finding himself in the village of Kakurega, he is recruited by the Kurotsuba clan to save them from the oppressive forces of the Akatsuchi clan. That way, he may even find a cure that will keep him and the rest of the village from going insane.
Aragami 2 Review – Shadows Are Man’s Best Friend
From the safe boundaries of the village, the village elder sends the ninja through a portal to a small number of locations to complete his missions. Each of them is a bit linear with some exploration elements used solely to find collectibles, such as blueprints to unlock new items. Mission objectives usually fall into three categories: kill targets, get things, or gather information. Between the limited number of locations and destinations and the fact that you are constantly faced with the same types of enemies until much later in the game, the missions feel repetitive and the game becomes unnecessarily bloated. Also, since some do little to advance the plot, they could easily be removed to streamline the experience.
The Aragami has many skills in his arsenal that help liven things up, and his skills have changed since the first game. He retains his normal stealth moves and the ability to double jump, but he can no longer hide himself by simply crouching in the shadows. This means that the Teleport-like Shadow Dash ability has been tweaked. Shadows are no longer needed to perform Shadow Dash, but the Aragami can only dash on roofs or ledges.
The first skill unlocked is Whisper. Instead of whistling, triggering the ability sounds like multiple ghost voices sighing to get the attention of all the guards nearby, something that is very useful in pulling guards out of their pattern. From then on, skills will be unlocked when players see fit to spend their earned skill points. There are passive skills like reduced endurance costs for movement or becoming invisible when leaning against a wall. Most interesting are the shadow powers like summoning a shadow beast to kill a nearby enemy or creating a mist around essence crystal lamps. Each skill can also be upgraded, and the Aragami’s abilities can be adapted to suit many different play styles.
Skill points are earned by leveling up. Each mission is scored with an aim to achieve an S rank and the most XP that you can earn. Getting an S rank isn’t much of a challenge as long as the aragami isn’t seen too often. Time is not a goal as players can plan their every move without having to hurry. The enemies are also not bright. They neither notice the flood of blood that gathers everywhere when an enemy is dispatched, nor do they notice missing comrades, even when they are supposed to talk to them. Instead, they will continue on their blocked patrol routes and even run to catch up if they are temporarily distracted and delayed. It makes things easier than they need to be.
Avoid fighting like the plague
If the Aragami is sighted there is now an option to go up against each other in combat if necessary, but this is easily the worst part of the game. All enemies seem to have more stamina than you and faster reactions. On the contrary, the Aragami’s actions sometimes felt clumsy and unresponsive, as parrying was more often absent than successful. Facing more than one enemy will almost certainly result in death if the player chooses not to rush to retreat. There are no checkpoints, so death means being sent back to the beginning of the level. After the first death, players are given a second chance to complete the mission, and enemies dispatched remain dead and hidden. After the second death, the mission must be restarted; there are no third chances.
The big problem is when some of these deaths are from the game’s bugs. Enemy soldiers will go through walls or even teleport through floors to attack. You can patrol the countryside. They have eyes in the back of their minds when they “see” a body falling past a window. Whisper does not consistently attract enemies. There is nothing more frustrating than losing a perfect run or even losing a life to enemies who are doing something they shouldn’t be doing. The good news is that the worst bugs have been fixed in a post-launch update and the ability to pause the game has now been added.
All missions can be played in co-op mode for up to three players and there is something satisfying about perfectly timed assassinations with your friends. With the exception of the tutorial prologue, all missions can be repeated as often as you like using the bulletin board in the village center of Kakurega. None of the collectibles can be missed, the score can always be improved and more gold can be harvested in each of the levels.
Aragami 2 had the potential to be a great sequel to an indie classic that was released five years ago. Unfortunately, it lacks real challenge and feels bloated with repetitive mission types and locations. The game starts to pass its welcome after a while, but there is definitely fun before you get to this stage when you endure the many bugs that have yet to be fixed.
Aragami 2 review code provided by the publisher. Please see our Review Guidelines for more information.