Aragami 2 Review - Same Slice of Stealth, Different Style
The sequel may not be for everyone, but the score surely is.
Lince Works, Yooreka Studio
Review copy provided by the publisher
For Assassin’s Creed fans pleading with Ubisoft to make the next installment eastern-based, Aragami 2 may be able to give you a taste of that action. Lince Works has returned shadow spirit Aragami to the shade for another bout of torii-hopping, clad in their signature, red hooded cloak. It’s been five years since the first installment released, and while Shadow Essence makes a comeback, its striking, visual design does not.
The fact that I have a weakness for Japanese culture, aesthetic, and mythology often blinds any objectivity. For people with a similar incline, Aragami 2 will play with your weeb strings and charm you with enchanting settings and constantly remind you of how badass Aragami looks with a ninja’s apparel and glowing cat’s eyes. Once you break free from the spell, however, what’s left is a game that’s lost its sense of direction and a vial of its magic with it.
Note: This review is spoiler-free, however, themes and characters are briefly discussed.
- Aragami 2: Xbox Game Pass Availability
As the Aragami series advanced into next-generation technology, it chose to abandon its artistic style for a more 3D overcast. Our first escapade with the undead assassin carried a distinct, comic-book quality to its line work and colors weren’t afraid to pop. Its bold stamp was a sublime marriage with the cultural setting and continued to fanfare in its Nintendo Switch display too. Understandably, Aragami 2 took a step towards realism to charge it up for newer systems. However, I would have been happy to sacrifice realism for the franchise’s vibrant aesthetic to continue. The result of this creative choice caused the sequel to be caught in a washed-out purgatory, which is an inevitable assessment when comparing the successor to its vivid introduction.
Another disappointing aspect was the sequel’s urgency to race through Aragami’s reason for becoming part of the Kurotsuba Clan – a supernatural band of skilled warriors. The character’s origin may be based on the first title, but the sequel’s introduction can leave newcomers feeling disconnected when your warrior’s purpose is undermined by an eagerness to throw you onto the battlefield. The dialogue and mythology of Aragami is fascinating, but it could have been a little richer, with the opportunity to expand in this second part.
Players who are not accustomed to mission-based games may be over the moon to gain some personal XP in that genre. Others may be suffering from mission exhaustion and will get disinterested fairly easily.
Moving on to Aragami’s missions, which is where its comparison to Assassin’s Creed lies. At times, the sequel feels like playing one of Ubisoft’s titles with only the side quests to follow and no main narrative to indulge in. Lince Works’ title certainly has the advantage of unique shadow-controlled abilities, but the missions’ blueprint of sneak-steal-assassinate, becomes monotonous rather quickly. The only component to keep you wide awake, before you go on autopilot, is the heart-stopping sound effect that shrieks wherever you commit an assassination.
Your experience with the sequel will be entirely subjective, perhaps reflecting your level of video game experience. Players who are not accustomed to mission-based games may be over the moon to gain some personal XP in that genre. Others may be suffering from mission exhaustion and will get disinterested fairly easily. Similarly, some gamers may be comfortable following a similar pattern, while others will crave more diversity. It’s a tricky one to pigeonhole, but my experience with the game’s fixed mission formula acted as a relaxant. The sequel’s change of style will also come down to personal preference, but for me, it was a bit of a letdown.
The produced score for both titles used a variety of instruments, including violins, percussion, flutes, female vocals, and a hyōshigi, which are delicately used to transport you to an eastern, fantasy realm.
The missions themselves are undoubtedly fluid, enhanced by good button placement that makes dashing and the use of shadow vision seamless when sneaking around vigilant Kaiho enemies. The whisper mechanic, gained as a new ability, attracts the attention of a nearby enemy who comes over to survey your location. If you are wanting to perform an assassination in this situation, it’s normal to wait until the enemy turns to head back to his post before striking. However, as soon as an enemy turns his back, after being lured in by your whisper, he sprints back to position, making it rather awkward to perform an assassination using this ability.
An entire section of this review has to be dedicated to Aragami’s score, including both titles, which is by far the game’s trump card. The score, sound effects, and voice overs are courtesy of composers Elvira Björkman and Nicklas Hjertberg, who make up the musical duo, Two Feathers. The produced score for both titles used a variety of instruments, including violins, percussion, flutes, female vocals, and a hyōshigi, which are delicately used to transport you to an eastern, fantasy realm.
I’m not ashamed to say that I stayed on the title screen for around 20 minutes just listening to the opening theme of Aragami 2. The score’s tone changed frequently depending on the mission, with more dramatic melodies sounding like something from Requiem for a Dream – a film I strongly disliked but remained unfazed by the score’s likeness to Clint Mansell’s creation.
At the end of the day, Aragami 2 is a bit of a disappointment. Yes, it supplies some decent thrills if you fancy conquering a mission or two, but you can’t help but daydream about better games that provide similar mechanics and use Japanese culture to heighten its creativity instead of saving it. The appealing character designs and settings, carried over from its predecessor, have lost stylistic flare alongside repetitive missions. However, Two Feathers’ score, pretty backgrounds, and smooth sneaking are the sequel’s saving grace.