Assassin’s Creed Shadows Hands-off Preview

Assassin’s Creed Shadows has some very big shoes to fill, owing simply to the fact that the fanbase has been looking for an Assassin’s Creed game set in Japan for the longest time. Now that it’s finally here, can it live up to expectations?

During the recently concluded Summer Game Fest, Ubisoft graciously let me sit in during a special Assassin’s Creed Shadows closed door presentation, showing off over 30 minutes of gameplay that demonstrated both protagonists and how different their playstyles are from each other.

If the demo was any indication, fans can be optimistic about this latest entry into the series, so as long as they can shake off some of the impending comparisons to another excellent samurai game that rhymes with Majima… or something like that.

Assassin’s Creed Shadows Hands-off Preview

That’s not to say that Assassin’s Creed Shadows isn’t excellent. At least from the demo, the gameplay looked exciting and full of flourishes that fans will love. Chief among all of this is the fact that the game will feature dual protagonists in Yasuke and Naoe.

Non-game related issues and concerns aside, Yasuke’s gameplay is that of a brutal powerhouse. There’s no semblance of “Assassin” here as Yasuke is anything but quiet. Yasuke can literally ram down doors and is unable to parkour due to his large Samurai frame, and it remains to be seen if he can actually scale walls, but what he lacks in discreteness, he makes up for in brutal power.

During the demo, we see both protagonists take on the same mission but with different approaches to highlight their differences in playstyles. Yasuke’s hulking frame makes it so that any opponent he faces turns into a gruesome showdown. Yasuke has long and winding strikes that need to be timed properly, and he also has skills where he can jump high and pound the ground, ensuing in an area of effect hit. His hits are brutal, and his finishing moves either pummel an opponent to the ground or even decapitate enemies despite the use of a blunt weapon.

assassin's creed shadows yasuke combat

Yasuke is the definition of a powerhouse, and it shows even as he walks around the town as the townsfolk look at him in awe because of his standing as a samurai. Yasuke can also use a sort of musket rifle for ranged enemies and can even wield a sword when needed due to his Samurai training.

Oh the other hand, Naoe is limber and stealthy, and her playstyle dictates that players must use every advantage they can get in terms of positioning and the element of surprise.

In the same mission that was shown, Naoe approached with caution, taking to the rooftops to find a stealthier approach rather than barging in the front door. She uses her Shinobi training to pick off enemies from afar and assassinate them, even raining death from above should she find the chance to jump in on an unsuspecting victim.

assassin's creed shadows naoe assassination

Additionally, Naoe can go prone and hide in the grass in Assassin’s Creed Shadows, giving her an advantage as she approaches guards and sentries on their patrols. Naoe can also go underwater to hide from enemies as she approaches them for the kill. Should she stay in the water longer than expeccted, she can automatically use a makeshift bamboo shoot of sorts to breathe from underwater, allowing her to stay there for a good while as she bides her time.

When faced with multiple enemies, Naoe can bring out her trusty Kusarigama, a sickle and ball-type weapon that is deadly in the right hands. Naoe can also create confusion among foes by putting out nearby light sources, using the shadows as a tool to hunt and assassinate with.

Naoe’s gameplay feels more natural and fitting for the game, but having Yasuke as an alternative gives players the choice on how to approach missions and just even gameplay in general. In fact, Naoe’s playstyle reminded me of Tenchu, as she glides through rooftops and jumps in on unsuspecting guards.

Gameplay aside, Assassin’s Creed Shadows looks fantastic, and considering that the game is leaving the PS4 and Xbox One behind, it’s nice to see Ubisoft trying to up its visual department to greater effect.

Animations also see a huge bump in Assassin’s Creed Shadows, as exhibited more by Naoe’s limber frame as she makes wall jumps before deploying a grappling hook to scale nearby houses. There’s a lot of little details here that really elevate the experience. Oh, and have we mentioned that you can pet the dog in Assassin’s Creed Shadows?

assassin's creed shadows nachi falls

Overall, the demo was very exciting to see as it seems that Ubisoft is cooking something special with Assassin’s Creed Shadows. This is quite literally a game that fans have wanted for the longest time, and now it’s finally coming soon. The demoist mentions that Assassin’s Creed Shadows is a game they’ve been wanting to make for a long time, and now, they finally have their shot at it.

Of course, it’s too early to tell how all of these things will come together, especially if the game can tell an interesting story considering the use of a historical figure in Yasuke. Whatever the case may be, Assassin’s Creed Shadows is a promising title to look forward to, and we can only hope that Ubisoft doesn’t buckle under the amount of pressure for finally being a series game headed to possibly the most requested setting for Assassin’s Creed.

assassin's creed shadows choice

Assassin’s Creed Shadows launches on November 15, 2024 on the PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.

Our Summer Game Fest 2024 coverage is powered by Lenovo Philippines and Lenovo Legion.

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