I saw Assassin’s Creed Shadows played three ways, and I can’t be more excited about it

We all got to see the incredible gameplay walkthrough for Assassin’s Creed Shadows, but I got to see that same slice of content divvied up two more times. What I saw has me more excited than ever for this newest installment, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

First and foremost, for those who shouted “finally!” from the crowd, I get it – we’ve all been (im)patiently waiting for the series to head to Japan, and it’s finally here. I’m glad the team has waited this long, because it means we’ll finally sail for the Far East with the absolute best looking Assassin’s Creed game to date, and with mechanics that look to make it the best game in the entire series, somehow managing to appease fans of heavy action as well as serving us longtime stealthy types as well. Let’s get into the specifics, but first — load up the soundtrack for ambiance.  You’ll thank me.

Assassin’s Creed Shadows takes place in the Azuchi-momoyama period – the late 16th century. Oda Nobunaga, a young upstart Daimyo, is but one of many Daimyo rulers vying for control of the heart of Japan. Nobunaga, however, has figured out the key – trade with the Portuguese. Using their weapons such as muskets, cannons, ships, and immense wealth, Nobunaga mounts an unstoppable press on the nation, capturing large swathes of territory at once, and rising to power almost instantly. The game tells the story of two people caught up in the whirlwind of Nobunaga’s ambition – Naoe, a young ninja from the province of Iga, and Yasuke, the first real-world playable character from history.

Obviously we’ll dig deeper into what appears to be a tumultuous upbringing for Naoe, growing up in the rebellious province of Iga when we get our hands on the game, but let’s talk about Yasuke. Yasuke was a real slave brought to Japan by the Jesuit priests. A hulking behemoth of a man, he stood head and shoulders above everyone else – a truly imposing figure. Smart, he also learned the language and culture of Japan, catching the eye of Nobunaga. Nobunaga pulled him under his wing, trained him, and eventually promoted him to one of his most trusted Lieutenants and to the position of Samurai.

We don’t precisely know how Naoe and Yasuke end up aligned, but one thing was made abundantly clear – once they are allied, you can run any mission with either of them. Their playstyles couldn’t be more divergent, so it’ll be interesting to see all the permutations, but we got to see the public demo (Naoe at night using stealth, Yasuke in broad daylight) at the trailer below. Let’s get a refresh on that first:

Assassin's Creed Shadows: Extended Gameplay Walkthrough | Ubisoft Forward

At the private demo we got to see two more possible approaches – Yasuke storming the front gate, and Naoe doing the same in broad daylight.

While Yasuke is a beast, wielding his kanabo (Japanese war club) with ruthless efficiency, Naoe has to rely on speed and accuracy to achieve her objectives. That doesn’t mean she’s not able to go toe to toe, it just means she has to be smart about it. As an Iga ninja, she has access to a wealth of tricks and weapons that are unique to her. A Kusari-gama (the scythe on one end and aweighted ball on the other of a long chain) is her primary weapon, cutting when needed, or smashing into enemies to keep them brushed backwards. She also carries a shorter Wakizashi-style sword for when she needs to get close. Her best weapon, however, is being invisible. Throwing shuriken, she can knock out lanterns to distract or plunge guards into darkness long enough to silence them permanently. Leaping from above, she’s able to assassinate silently, going entirely prone in the tall grass to make her escape. She’s also able to swim, using a reed in the water to breathe when she needs to remain hidden for longer periods of time. She is the return to true stealth we’ve all been waiting for.

Yasuke, on the other hand, is whatever the opposite of stealth would be. He can’t grapple up, he doesn’t climb to rooftops, and he’s not using reeds in the lake to breathe. No, he’s the guy who walks up the main stair path, literally crushing the heads of anyone foolish enough to get in his way. When he strikes enemies with the kanabo, their armor literally breaks into pieces, flying every which way and staggering enemies. If they fall backwards into the environment, it sends fruit, cart contents, or other debris scattering in the environment. Enemies without armor are merely crushed by the intense attacks he can unleash. Unleashing his Katana, he can impale foes, strike with blinding speed, and overpower smaller enemies with his brute strength combined with the massive steel weapon. He can also swap out the kanabo for a musket. It’s slow loading, but deadly when aimed properly.

As I mentioned, you can switch between the dual protagonists at any point in the open world, though the game will present you with a choice between the two for story missions. One thing that might influence your choice, however, is the new dynamic weather and seasons system.

We’ve seen a full day and night cycle in Assassin’s Creed games before, but now we have a full dynamic weather system and all four seasons to contend with. The water approach you might have used in the spring may be closed off to you in the winter cold. Snow can give away your position, making the rooftops a far more viable option. Whether you approach in the morning, afternoon, dusk, or dead of night might also influence your choice. Seeing the progression of the wind as it slowly flicked the ribbons in the breeze, but beginning to whip violently as a storm approached was cool to see, and just speaks to the game’s attention to detail. All of these things are now procedural, meaning you might end up with a dynamic fog blanketing the castle town, obscuring enemy vision. Heavy rain might mask your footsteps. Snow might keep people huddled indoors. The might boggles at the possible combinations.

Another exciting change we saw during our demo is a change to the exploration loop. Mission structures are now more vague, providing guidance to the player, but not necessarily an outright solution. This means it might tell you that the Daimyo is hidden in the castle, but it might not state that he’s actually hanging out in the gardens or tucked away in the rookery. You might glean that information talking with townsfolk who are employed in the castle town. You might also bring up the minimap and deploy a spy network to scout the map, reveal portions of it, and try to find additional threads for you to investigate. Given that Naoe has full access to Eagle Sense, but Yasuke does not, this spy network might become very important.

When you do come face to face with your target, you’ll square off in an epic battle, complete with Kurasawa-style vignetting. Striking down your target whips the entire screen red with black painterly streaks. Frankly, it’s badass and I sincerely doubt that’s ever going to get old. And yes – if you want, there’s a full Japanese voice selection to complete the package.

What we saw just reinforced why this is the right time for Assassin’s Creed Shadows. The environments are beyond gorgeous, the attention to detail is beyond any expectation, and the team has clearly poured their heart and soul into making this the best Assassin’s Creed yet. Thankfully, the wait is almost over – Assassin’s Creed Shadows ships for Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5, and PC on November 15th, 2024.

Stay tuned at for more on this and many more exciting things we saw at Summer Games Fest 2024.


Executive Director and Editor-in-Chief | [email protected]

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming.

Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter.

Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 28 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes), and an Axolotl named Dagon!

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