Assassin's Creed Shadows

Preview: Assassin’s Creed Shadows

At Ubisoft Forward, Console Creatures had the opportunity to experience a closed-door demo of Assassin’s Creed Shadows, showcasing nearly an hour of gameplay featuring the two protagonists, Yasuke and Naoe.

Although the demo represented only a tiny portion of the game, the stark contrast between these two characters and a captivating and visually stunning setting suggests that Shadows aims to innovate within the genre. Despite lingering concerns from Valhalla about the series’ tendency towards expansive open worlds that can lead to content bloat, Shadows appears to be moving in a promising direction.

Assassin’s Creed Shadows feels like it listened to feedback and dialled back a lot of the bloat

The press was not too different from the demo shown at Ubisoft Forward. While we saw Naoe take on the daimyo with stealth, the closed-door demos saw the same demo in three different scenarios.  The demo centred around a mission to assassinate a corrupt daimyo, Lord Hayashi, protected by equally corrupt samurai who oppress the local populace. Reaching the daimyo was no simple feat, as he was securely hidden within a nearby castle guarded by numerous soldiers.

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This is where Assassin’s Creed Shadows distinguishes itself with its unique protagonist system. Many missions, including this one, can be completed using Naoe or Yasuke, each offering drastically different gameplay styles. Yasuke embodies the heavy, hand-to-hand combat seen in recent games, whereas Naoe specializes in stealth, which appears significantly enhanced.

The demo presented three different playthroughs of the same mission, each varying dramatically based on the chosen character and approach. Yasuke, a formidable figure, uses sheer brute strength to overpower enemies. With a katana and a club-like weapon called a Tetsubo, Yasuke lacks Naoe’s agility and cannot climb due to his bulky armour, but he can smash through closed doors effortlessly.

Yasuke’s path involved a direct assault through the castle gates, brutally eliminating anyone in his way. The combat in Shadow is intriguing, blending classic Assassin’s Creed elements with the mechanics of the newer RPG entries in the series. This combination promises a fresh and engaging experience for players.

Later on, the press saw the same demo three ways, including the stealth route seen in the gameplay demo, which revealed how Naoe would handle rushing the castle, followed by Yasuke walking to the gates and leaving a devastating trail in his wake.

Naoe’s path in our demo was similar to the one shown in public but focused more on the tools she has in her arsenal as an Assassin. She’s clearly made for stealth and using the shadows, but she can weave through any situation in a pinch.

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Using Kunai and her chained sickle weapon, the Kusarigama, Naoe can engage enemies at close and long range, even using the chain to close the gap between her and enemies. What we saw looked incredibly satisfying to play, and I’m eager to get my hands on Shadows.

Kunai will be familiar to those who played Mirage last year. These versatile tools now help Naoe clear enemies or create shadows by snuffing out lights in the area. Additionally, the grappling hook is versatile, allowing her to climb walls or hide in the rafters while searching for her target.

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The demo we saw followed the same path as the gameplay demo made public, even mimicking the path Naoe follows through the pond and going completely prone before pulling out the reed tube to breathe underwater before closing the gap and killing her target and escaping via the rooftops.

Yasuke’s trip to the daimyo was much less stealthy as he marched to the front gate, where he fought a samurai before moving forward. Given his stature, Yasuke isn’t nimble and can’t climb buildings, so don’t expect him to jump across rooftops. Instead, he’s a hulking soldier capable of inflicting pain with tools like the Tetsubo and his katana.

In the second demo, Yasuke marches through the castle while making cannon fodder for the soldiers employed around the grounds. Most of these enemies are quickly eliminated and offer no challenge to the player, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a challenge, as there are stronger enemies who will step toe to toe with Yasuke and keep him on the offensive.

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In a hilarious twist, we see Yasuke charge through the castle, throwing his shoulder forward before bashing through several guards surrounding the daimyo. Not only is the environment damaged, but we see various pieces of armour shattered or broken under the strength of Yasuke, who charged right up to the corrupt official and killed him before fighting his way back to the entrance.

The third and final demo is of Naoe once again, but there is minimal stealth this time. Instead, you see how Naoe would handle enemies if she had to face them head to head. Her skill is apparent, but it isn’t the optimal way to play as the Assassin — every action, every strike takes far longer than it would as Yasuke, so it is recommended to use Naoe’s stealth and tools to complete tasks.

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After watching the closed-door demo, I’m interested more than I was previously in seeing how Assassin’s Creed Shadows turns out. The dual-protagonist system might be for everyone, but the way it is provided here in Shadows makes both characters important to the narrative while also handling wildly differently from the other characters in the series.

Ubisoft’s take on Feudal Japan also looks lovely so far, as I saw tons of minute details while watching the publisher play through the demo last week. Towns seem ripe with things to do, and many locals fill the streets while they go about their day.

Overall, I’m impressed by what I saw, and yes, I realize games like Ghost of Tsushima exist and the comparisons between the two series. However, I’m not concerned with that; instead, I’m eager to learn more about the open world and how Ubisoft plans to provide a space that isn’t filled with filler quests and enemies. Valhalla was a prime example of having more filler than necessary, which hurt the overall experience. Seeing the map in Shadows and that it doesn’t cover an entire country this time might alleviate my concerns, but when you add a checklist of activities to the map, it could very well turn south quickly.

Assassin’s Creed Shadows launches on November 12 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series, and PC.