Aragami Shadow Edition released during summer of 2018 and later arrived as a part of the Games With Gold program in late 2020 on Xbox. This was a wonderful addition to the program considering how fun the original is. Here we are three years after launch with a sequel to the game; Aragami 2 made by the same developers and also published by Lince Works. I was highly anticipating this title considering how much I loved the feel for first game. Lince Works developed and published both of their games and their passion shows throughout these projects. Both are stealth titles with third person perspective, but a lot has changed since the original game. Small adjustments have been made that changes gameplay significantly and I will describe these changes as thoroughly as possible for those who’ve played the original title.
The Gameplay for Aragami 2 follows suit from the first game in the series and is a true stealth game at heart. The biggest change to the series was the removal of casting shadows. The premise of the original story followed Aragami ninja warriors who had powers that worked while in the darkness. The first title focused more on light vs darkness between two factions. In the second story we experience a loss of our humanity and must find it while we are trapped within a realm in Roshomon Valley. This is the main setting for the game and each mission is started by interacting with the mission board. The mission board is new and spices up gameplay, the original Aragami focused on unique levels that were perfected. There was something around 15-20 missions in the original since it included dlc levels. The new mission board has spaced out the missions between a dozen different areas and reuses them in future missions. This change along with maps being oversized after around 15 missions makes the game feel lacking as a single player experience. Checkpoints are no longer in the game unlike the first title, and the general gameplay design has been tailored towards cooperative play. Lobbies can now fit an extra player compared to the first game and the levels are massive. Playing the game entirely solo takes a lot longer since the number of enemies never change based on the number of players in the lobby. Single player sessions are only allowed if you create a private lobby and the player still can’t pause. I understand checkpoints being removed, but removing a single player option and checkpoints takes away from the enjoyable experience the game should provide to the fans of the series.
The abilities and leveling system were restructured requiring XP to unlock new skills in our new fancy skill tree. The skill tree really does improve gameplay and empowers the player. When starting the game, this will be the hardest part to get through, starting out super weak with no items or skills unlocked leaves the player to sneak through levels entirely by jumping around. Moving around has become a little more simplistic; when close enough, the player can choose to shadow leap (teleport) to a ledge. The icon for leaping turns blue when close enough and drains some of our shadow essence (Mana). Shadow Essence recharges when not in use but health does not. A shop has been introduced which includes health elixirs and other lethal items. There are even items unlocked later in late game that are multiplayer focused that help boost your squad. Items and clothing also unlock with blueprints that are hidden in levels now. The original Aragami had multiple checkpoints throughout a level and had healing stations rather than elixirs. This new addition of potions is most likely due to the massive change of the combat system. Aragami was flawed when not being able to kill alerted enemies without items or skills and was vastly improved upon in this new title that utilizes sword combat with a parrying system. This form of combat is quite a massive change and allows the player a chance to defend now rather than dying as easily as it was in the first game. I wasn’t a fan of the sword mechanics and opted to use my unlocked runes which empowered my character to better my stealth skills over the fighting. The parrying system many will come to perfect with practice. It works, but has small nuances. When leaping and performing an aerial assassination, the game can get confused if done too quickly and the character will swing their sword rather than staying stealth with an aerial kill. This can alert not only the enemy who can block your hits, but also alerts all surrounding enemies in the visible range.
Enemies have been dumbed down a little and no longer blow horns to alert every enemy on the map. This feature was helpful to clear out entire maps of enemies aiming for one of the rare medals that can be earned for playing an entire level stealth, hidden, or killing all enemies. It’s a shame in my opinion that the new Aragami was made entirely with multiplayer coop in mind. It feels rushed at times with floating assets like rocks or crystal essence stands. This can remove from the general feeling of the atmosphere being tailored towards a unique area to hide through. It changed general pacing of the game and encouraged clearing out as many enemies as possible until more items were unlocked. The addition of a shop and in game currency to purchase health potions or smoke bombs increase in value with each unlock. These items are incredibly helpful and will take time to be able to save up and purchase. You can only carry 4 different items into a level and can resell items at the same price as purchasing. This encourages changing playstyles and exploring with item usage. Not all of the runes the player starts with are beneficial to purchase and equip to the new armor. Certain runes will negate other benefits you may have and don’t make sense to equip. I’m currently halfway through the 10 chapters of the game and have been slowly unlocking runes for new armor I’m unlocking.
There are different types of enemies to hide from as you progress which behave differently from each other. More are introduced slowly as you progress through the story, but there are, for example, Magic casters who throw firebombs, and warriors who command the soldiers. The most common enemy is the patrolling soldiers. These are the enemies that will give the player more of a hassle since they are agile and follow commands. Harder enemies are introduced later where they are connected to all enemies in an area and will be alerted if some start to get killed. Staying alert of enemy types is key to success in this stealth game. The second major piece of knowledge is the range they have when patrolling. They all seem to have the same range of spotting enemies. So once you manage to experiment with alerting enemies and getting comfortable with how close you can go to them, they become a lot easier to knock out. I really enjoyed unlocking more items and skills, but the leveling system encourages to continue to play newer levels as there is a reduced number of rewards for finishing a previous mission. The number of levels in the game are equal to that of the original, but there is an added twist of reusing these areas to pad the amount of content in the game. Most of the missions will be unique and require you to explore and use Shadow Reveal (LT) to look around for nearby enemies or objectives. The length of each level is roughly 20 minutes per level if playing alone, but if playing in coop then it will significantly decrease in time required to finish. To earn all achievements the completion time is roughly near 30 hours for solo players.
The audio for Aragami 2 is a bit lacking for the length of the game. There is a short OST for the game which includes soft sounds from Asia and the hub world that has all of the shops and reuses the same song every time you return. Hearing this song repeatedly can become annoying, but most of the time will be spent in levels sneaking around with minimal music playing. The game does utilize music as a pacing mechanism and alerts the player of “aggroed” enemies. For the most part, the audio won’t be distracting or a main takeaway for the player and is understood since it’s a stealth game.
The visuals were improved upon in comparison to the first Aragami. The level design is rather simplistic and the game could have benefited from an additional polishing phase play testing levels and medals. There were, as I already stated, floating items which didn’t belong, the standard hole in maps near the rock walls. The game is colorful, but lacks the fine detail other major titles have. The visuals have definitely improved since the first title though. The use of the story explains why no one has facial features and all wear masks, but that takes away from the quality. Every character is supposedly losing their humanity as time passes on while they are in this realm. Losing their humanity also affects their faces on top of memories. This allows some players to be very sporadic in their dialogue and seems like they are speaking gibberish at times. The story isn’t something I took away from the first game either, so I’m judging this title more on the enjoyment from gameplay with general life quality improvements. This game is intended to be a quick suited stealth game where players can move around quickly with practice. The game was buggy at launch with particular levels not allowing to hop through windows lunging players back, this may be due to general lag with the servers and being forced to be online, but I have faith that there will be general updates to help fix small issues like this. Lag is something that was an issue with the first game, and the lag in both games cause assassinations to sometimes not register. I played online with strangers a few times and one person in particular couldn’t kill anyone no matter how hard they tried and ended up using the team’s lives before failing.
The longevity for Aragami 2 is significantly higher than the original game considering there are roughly 50+ missions with an average of 6 per each chapter. The story is delivered in brief cutscenes that play out at the end of each chapter. The dialogue doesn’t include narration except for cutscenes and are delivered in text style if not. The story delivery is very similar to the original and little has changed. This particular game does avoid using the word ninja and sticks with warriors for the “Aragami Clan.” This might be due to the new sword combat introduced, the abundance of missions can feel overwhelming at first, but as I replayed levels, they became more suited to my preferred pace having memorized the map. None of the enemies change their patterns for a level, and restarting a level resets their walking paths. After anyone in the lobby dies you will have a limited amount of respawns (essentially one) and if exceeded the mission will fail automatically. This can discourage coop play with cross platform players considering different varying skill levels, but there are D-pad emotes to help communicate for those brave enough. I would highly recommend to form a squad of friends (3 total) to get through the core of the game so you can grind XP for skills and gold endgame. Playing this game entirely alone makes it feel like a monotonous job, but gameplay will improve with the help of others.
In hindsight, Aragami 2 is a wonderfully challenging stealth game that requires patience or help from friends. Being introduced onto Game Pass day one, I would highly encourage trying the game out with a couple friends. It is, without question, an amazing coop game with friends that also allow cross play between different platforms. I wouldn’t recommend playing with strangers online since you may not know their general placement in the story and you may end up being restricted to a limited number of levels they have unlocked. The game is a little buggy and can feel rushed at times, but the new combat mechanics is enough of an excuse for fans to return to experience these changes. I do miss being able to cast shadows like in the first game which made general movement easier teleporting around, but the new simplified version is designed to increase the speed of gameplay. The game can feel like a chore if tackling the beginning alone, but it does become more bearable with new abilities. The visuals are lacking in general detail, but were updated and are noticeably different. Ignoring minor bugs with visuals, lag, no singleplayer choice, there is a quality game here that adds to the ever-changing library of Game Pass. Give it a go!Become a Patron!
This game was reviewed based on Xbox One review code, using an Xbox Series S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.