When the first Aragami debuted in 2016, it was an ambitious if slightly undercooked attempt at bringing new life to the long-dormant genre of third-person stealth adventures. The game rocked a striking art style and had plenty of solid ideas on paper, but some clunky gameplay issues and a so-so storyline left it feeling a little flaccid. Lince Works is taking a second stab at things with Aragami 2, and my time with the preview build of this upcoming stealth-action sequel made it clear that the team is heading in a different direction that, ultimately, helps the ninja action gameplay shine even brighter.
Aragami 2 takes place 100 years after the first game, but story knowledge isn’t required at all. The confusing lore-filled opening moments of the sequel are mostly there to guide you to the hub world of of the game, a village full of shadow entities nestled in a quiet corner of Rashamon Valley. The protagonist, Kurai, is one of these shadow-infused Aragami, inflicted with a curse that trades his humanity for mastery over the shadows. The leader of the village isn’t just giving you a home, though. You’re given the task of being the village warrior and setting out on missions to help the peaceful shadow-afflicted citizens survive.
Where the original game was a relatively straightforward action adventure, Aragami 2 shifts to an open-ended gameplay loop that follows in the footsteps of Monster Hunter. You take on missions from a mission board in the village hub, gear up with support items, and then set out on the quest. Successful missions earn you experience and coin, which you then use at the hub before grabbing a new mission and starting the cycle over. The renewed mission structure suits the sequel’s increased focus on customisation – you can use coin to craft cosmetic armor pieces and stat modifying ruins, and the dense skill tree lets you invest points into a wide variety of abilities that feed into stealth, combat, or both.
There’s also a much bigger focus on co-op this time around, a feature that was somewhat sloppily implemented into the first game after launch. I wasn’t able to test the multiplayer, but the idea is that a team of three can take on missions together. I’m curious to see how this plays out, mostly because it still doesn’t feel like Aragami 2 is designed with co-operative play in mind.
A lot of your abilities are focused on benefiting yourself, and only runes equipped to your head gear affect the entire party. More importantly, the map designs and enemy AI behaviours feel naturally suited to a solo approach. You aren’t sneaking and slicing through open worlds or even bustling Hitman-style open environments; these are relatively enclosed singular levels that, with three people running around in them, feel like they’ll either become too claustrophobic or too easy to complete.
Thankfully, playing solo presents plenty of fun. Movement and assassinations are satisfying, and leaping across rooftops never gets old. There are a few elements that can still be tightened up – Triggering mid-air assassinations feels a bit sloppy, and it’s almost embarrassingly easy to run away and hide when you alert enemies to your presence and trigger combat – the hours melted away when I was playing Aragami 2.
With a month before launch, Aragami 2 doesn’t feel like an intricate and living world of stealth assassination, but it’s pulpy and rewarding in a way that made me want to keep coming back to it. Rough edges and some glitches aside, this is definitely a game to keep your eyes on if you’re itching for some stealth-fuelled adventures.