Back in 2016, developer Lince Works launched Aragami, a stealth action game that put players in the shoes of an assassin with the power to control and manipulate the shadows. It debuted to a great reception and led to Lince Works producing a sequel, which launched a few days ago. I've spent a bunch of time with Aragami 2, checking out what this anticipated sequel has to offer, and despite having some exciting highs, there are a few areas that left me feeling disappointed.
The story of Aragami 2 takes place after the original and follows the shrouded assassin as they face an invading army that is threatening the livelihood of the local people. Designed as a standalone adventure, you don't need to have played the original or even understand the storyline to be able to dive into Aragami 2, which is of course handy for those new to the series. But, there's a catch as Aragami 2 has a bit of an issue with its narrative in that it struggles to convey and tell its story in an interesting way.
The core design of Aragami 2 sees you head out to a bunch of sandbox style locations to complete a variety of objectives, be it to take out a certain enemy, collect some intel, or rescue a character. These objectives are about as direct as they seem, you're literally sent to a location to do what they say on the tin, and then leave, there's really nothing else to it. Because of this, missions don't feel memorable or unique, and you can complete them in minutes, and they also barely push the narrative forward. That's instead left to the conversations and sparse cutscenes found once you return from a mission, so needless to say, despite having a storyline, Aragami 2 doesn't really do anything to make you interested in it.
To make up for this, Lince Works has once again served up an engaging and exciting stealth system that allows you to approach each level in a variety of methods. The controls (seemingly designed with a controller in mind) feel fluid, even if the stamina system can be a little jarring and annoying toward the earlier portions of the game. But the abilities and many different traversal methods do offer a plethora of ways to tackle the game. You can choose to favour complete stealth, only killing when absolutely necessary, or rather being a silent killer, taking out any enemy that steps in your way.
As for the abilities, Aragami 2 has a broad skill tree you can explore, which will equip your assassin with a range of skills and abilities. This could be a passive skill such as movement taking up less stamina, or even an actual ability, such as being able to whistle to call foes toward you. They add that little more to the gameplay and give you a few more options, which is always a welcome addition.
The gameplay for Aragami 2 is a highlight. It genuinely feels fun and engaging to play and despite the mission objectives being dull, you never get bored of the action. I will say that the melee combat is a little rough around the edges, asking you to perfectly time blocks to be able to parry and strike a foe, and in fact can be so challenging to master that I often prioritised fleeing when discovered rather than actually fighting it out. It's a system that's present, but implemented in such a way that you can see it's a last resort, as you can be killed in two-to-three strikes, so perfection when swordfighting is a requirement.
Despite the combat and movement feeling great, I will say that the enemies often felt a little underwhelming. If you're fast and careful, you'll find it difficult to fail a mission as enemies will pretty much never get a hand on you, and considering you can instantly kill any regular foe by assassinating them, there's really no danger in killing every enemy that comes in your way. Granted, there are a few different enemy types that will require a new approach to conquer, such as ranged foes or enemies that can sense when another enemy has been slain, but the stealth is so strong in-game that you'll struggle to ever be detected and discovered if you play with a little bit of patience.
But aside from killing and killing and killing, what else does Aragami 2 have for you to do? Well... very little. You can gather gold in each level to buy new cosmetics (including headpieces, swords, clothing dyes for example) for your assassin, replay levels to get a better score (which is determined by how effective and fast you are), and even scour the place for a few collectibles, but nothing to really harp on about.
And this is my biggest issue with Aragami 2. Sure it handles and looks great, but there's not really a lot of unique gameplay to be found within. By the time you pass the 20th of the 50+ missions, you'll come to realise that the game is rather repetitive and lacks the content to make you want to play for hours upon hours at a time. There is multiplayer functionality that allows you to play through the story with up to two friends, but that hardly makes a difference when you're completing the same mundane objectives time and time again.
I don't dislike Aragami 2 at all, in fact I still believe that it's a generally fun and well made game. But there's no denying that it has issues. Lince Works has made a considerable step forward in terms of the visuals (and Aragami 2 does look great) but that's about all that seems to be a step forward in comparison to the original, which is why I can't help but feel like Aragami 2 is anything but a little disappointing when looking at it as a whole.