I think it goes without saying that ninjas are some of the coolest characters in video games. Silent, mysterious assassins who dispatch their prey in the blink of an eye and leave no trace of their presence. But when discovered, they will slice and dice their aggressors until they are but bloodstains on the floor. The video games industry has a plethora of titles that allow players to experience the power fantasy of being a ninja, such as Ninja Gaiden, Tenchu, and Metal Gear Rising to name a few. And today we're going to preview a game that leans more toward the stealthier aspects of ninjas, Aragami 2.
Aragami 2 is a sequel to the 2016 sleeper hit, Aragami, developed and published by Lince Works. It is slated to release on Sept. 17, 2021, on PC (Steam), Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, and PlayStation systems. Plus, it will be added to Xbox Game Pass on the day the Xbox versions launch.
This game aims to improve upon the beloved stealth elements of the first game while introducing a new combat system so that players can now defend themselves if they are cornered. Plus the game will feature 3-player co-op support for the main campaign. Will these new gameplay additions enrich what made the original Aragami loved by critics and fans? Well, thanks to the fine folks at Lince Works, I have been provided with a preview of the first 12 missions of the PC version's single-player campaign so we can find out. Here is our preview of Aragami 2.
Aragami 2: What a terrible night to be cursed
Before we begin, I must confess that I never played the original Aragami, so I was worried I needed to play the first time to understand the plot of Aragami 2. Fortunately, the story takes place a hundred years after the first game and is a standalone adventure that doesn't require new players to do homework.
In the world of Aragami, there is a terrible curse called Shadow Essence that is ravaging the populace of the Rashoman Valley. It turns its victims into living shadow creatures, gradually robbing them of their physical features, memories, and sanity. Quite literally, it turns its victims into a shadow of their former selves. However, some cursed individuals manage to harness the Shadow Essence and use it to perform dark magic that allows them to blend into the night. These are the Aragami, and you are of them.
You play as Kurai (whose name you can change if you so desire), an Aragami ninja who is on a quest to free his cursed brethren from the tyrannical Akatsuchi Empire. With the help of your fellow Aragami of the Kurotsuba clan, you will learn to master your powers, fight the Akatsuchi Empire, and find a cure to your curse before your mind, body, and soul are lost forever.
Aragami 2: What must be done?
After doing the introductory tutorial mission, I was introduced to Kakurega Village. This place serves as the main hub where you can converse with the locals, buy upgrades for your gear and abilities, and sign up for missions. Aragami 2 follows a linear, mission-based structure where you will take on contracts to rescue hostages, steal information, or assassinate important targets, to name a few. Once you have chosen a mission, you will go through a portal to begin your mission.
Your missions occur in open areas filled with dozens of Akatsuchi soldiers, each with a unique ability and patrol pattern. You will need to get past these soldiers, complete the objectives and then make your way back to the portal to return home. How you accomplish the mission is up to you: You can use your Shadow Essence powers and support items to sneak past all the guards, or you can take them out to secure a safe escape route.
However, even the stealthiest ninjas get spotted eventually. You can find a place to hide and wait for enemies to lose interest in you, but if you get cornered, you will have no choice but to fight. In combat, you will need to wear down an enemy's stamina bar to break their guard and deal damage. This is done by attacking rapidly and parrying their attacks at the last second.
But this is easier said than done. Dodging and blocking attacks cost a lot of stamina, so you can't play defensively in perpetuity. Not to mention that your armor is about as durable as an origami crane, meaning you will die in one or two hits if you aren't paying attention. And if multiple enemies are attacking at once, you're better off making a tactical retreat lest you wish to be chopped to pieces.
Aragami 2: Learning to embrace the night
When I first started playing this game, I admit I struggled a lot at first. I'm not good at stealth games because I usually lack the patience to take out enemies one by one slowly. Which often caused me to make mistakes and alert the entire area of my presence. This was especially true during the beginning when I had no upgrades to work with.
However, as I progressed through the missions and learned how to use my new abilities and tools, I became better at the game. I discovered that my default dash ability could be used not just while walking, but also in mid-air and even while crouching. This allowed me to quickly close the gap between my target, take them out, then immediately dash towards a hiding spot or another enemy to eliminate. This one ability alone improved the pacing of my missions considerably, turning them into fun, rapid-fire killing sprees. And I haven't even touched upon the Shadow Essence powers yet.
My new Shadow Essence powers and support items opened all sorts of new and funs ways to execute my targets. I could lure enemies to the desired location using ghastly screams, then extinguish a nearby lantern to produce a giant smoke cloud to obscure their vision, subsequently eliminate them while they're not looking, and finally hide their bodies in a nearby bush to remove the evidence.
If I got into a fight, I would use my smoke bombs or Shadow Essence powers to turn invisible to make a quick getaway. And if there was no escape, I would use my poison needles to incapacitate them or use throwing stars to wear down their stamina and kill them while they're pressured. I went from being a bumbling fool who constantly got discovered to a rabid speed demon who murdered every enemy without being seen. Learning how to interweave Aragami 2's abilities rewards adaptive players, and I had a ton of fun unlocking Aragami 2's nuances.
Aragami 2: Sharpen your blades for the future
Aragami 2 is shaping up to be a great stealth-action game, and I'm looking forward to playing more of it. Since the single-player campaign was a fun ride, I can't wait to see how it plays during 3-player co-op. I would even go as far as to say that this game has the potential to become one of the best games on Xbox Game Pass in the future. If you're a fan of ninja games that favor stealth and tactics like the classic Tenchu series, I would recommend checking out Aragami 2 when it launches on Sept. 17, 2021.
Strike fast, escape unseen
Channel the power of Shadow Essence to save your people
The people of Rashoman Valley are suffering from a terrible curse and are being enslaved by the evil Akatsuchi Empire. But you have the power to control to this curse, for you are an Aragami, a master of the shadows. Utilize the power of Shadow Essence and the art of stealth to destroy Akatsuchi Empire and free the people Rashoman Valley from their curse.
Alexander Cope is a writer for Windows Central and iMore that has been gaming since the 16-bit era.
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