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Assassin’s Creed Shadows is a game attempting to feed two fanbases at once

Ever since 2017, Assassin’s Creed has been a series split in two – with the older, classical entries making way for a new RPG-focused affair. If there’s just one takeaway I had from our hands-off gameplay demo, it feels like Ubisoft is attempting to straddle the line for both sides of the fanbase with Assassin’s Creed Shadows. Whether or not that will work out in the end is anyone’s guess for now, but at first glance it looks like the team might just be onto something.

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We can’t talk specifically about the RPG elements within Shadows just yet; we’re sure equipment and loadouts are just as important now as they were in Origins, Odyssey and Valhalla – but what Ubisoft opted to show this weekend was strictly focused on the dual protagonists, emphasizing their vastly different movesets – and how they allow you to tackle missions in completely unique ways.

Naoe and Yasuke exist in two extremes; Yasuke, a Samurai of Nobunaga emphasizes his giant stature and strength. Being a black man in warring states Japan, he stands out – and his status as a Samurai only exaggerates that. In a preamble before the meat of the presentation began, we were able to catch a glimpse to how the surrounding populace can react in something akin to a mixture of fear, amazement and respect. This bleeds through in his choice of weapons as showcased in the presentation; in addition to the obvious katana, Yasuke’s moveset heavily relied on his use of a spiked club.

While Yasuke’s segments mostly relied on his combat prowess, Naoe’s focused on her acrobatics. Instead of attacking enemies head-on, you can scale walls in traditional Assassin’s Creed fashion, while also making use of her equipment such as a grappling hook, kunai and more. Ubisoft wanted to bring special attention to how players can take advantage of the environment. During one moment of the presentation’s Naoe playthrough, an enemy’s silhouette could be spotted, highlighted against a shoji – with an option for players to stab them through the wall. Lanterns can be extinguished to create more darkness for Naoe to hide herself in. 

There’s a lot of character in Naoe’s actions; dive into a pond, and she’ll use a bamboo reed to keep her breath going while masking her presence underwater. If you hear a guard coming and don’t have any immediately obvious cover, you can cling to the ceiling for a brief period in a pinch. She’s the quintessential assassin, and understandably it seems that the team has had their fun with designing her.

Yasuke, for his part, can’t sneak very well – if at all. So where he excels is with his strength and using it to his advantage. One door that Naoe bypassed in her presentation, Yasuke charged right through instead. While we’ll have to see the broader game to know for sure, I’m interested to see some of the other enemy strongholds and how they’ve been designed to accomodate both characters and their movesets. 

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Visually, the game looks pretty stunning in its current state – there’s a dynamic weather system that can impact how missions progress, too. Our presentation took place in a theather it with a fairly impressive sound system, and hearing a storm begin to roll in before the rain started even pouring certainly sold it at its best. Like everything else, I’m definitely curious to see more – how it might impact gameplay, whether it could affect how well Naoe can hide her presence, and more.

There’s still a lot we have left to learn – but at least for now, Assassin’s Creed Shadows is looking promising. We’ll have to see how the full game turns out when it launches on November 15 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PC (on Ubisoft Connect and Epic Games Store) and Mac.



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