Assassin’s Creed Shadows Preview – Katanas and Kunai

With your entire franchise revolving around sneaky assassins lurking in the shadows and running buildings, it’s no wonder fans of the series have been clamoring for a ninja-themed heroine for years. Assassin’s Creed Shadows is the answer to an oft-repeated request, but it’s more than that, thanks to the introduction of the second protagonist, Yasuke Samurai. He is a playable historical figure (a first for the series) and his approach varies wildly from that of Nao, the shinobi hero. We saw this first-hand during a behind-closed-door demo in Los Angeles.

It opens with Yasuke entering town, attracting everyone’s attention. As if his ornate armor wasn’t enough to set him apart, Yasuke is a large man, and people on the street stare at him as he walks. The developers explain that social stealth isn’t an option for him, and he can’t climb buildings the way Nao or other assassins can. He said he was far from powerless.

The woman pleads for Yasuke’s help in dispatching a local mob that heavily taxes the community, and he obliges without hesitation. Instead of giving the player an on-screen marker for where to go, a list of clues to the target location appears and Ya Suke calmly moves to the appropriate district. As soon as he spots the corrupt samurai nearby, a guard tells Yasuke to leave. Making no attempt to hide his intentions, Yasuke draws his kanabo, a massive spiked club, and enters the fray. His swings are brutal, beheading one enemy and killing another, with each foe dying in a few swings. Yasuke is so powerful, in fact, that our demo-player accidentally hit a civilian with wind for a more powerful attack. I make a mental note to pay attention to my surroundings as I perform this operation.

After switching to his katana and killing the samurai boss in a one-on-one duel, the developers present us with a choice. The daimyo, the officer who reports to this corrupt samurai, needs to be assassinated, but it’s up to the audience watching the presentation to vote on which character we want to see. Satisfied with our observation of Yasuke’s abilities, we unanimously vote for Naoe.

Naoe enters the castle grounds at night, covered by darkness and favorable rain. Her playstyle is very close to what we’ve come to expect from the series with parkour and stealth at her disposal. After using a grappling hook to hang from a tree branch, she immediately drops down to assassinate a guard, then crawls through some nearby grass. It was night time, but the area was well lit by some paper lanterns. Fortunately, Nao can use her kunai to extinguish the flames, distracting her target and making her way much easier. Throughout her run, many lanterns are extinguished – “Shadows” felt like a generic title in its first reveal, but after seeing how much the player interacts with the light sources, it’s quite fitting.

When Nao finally reaches the daimyo, she rolls into a shallow pool standing next to him. Falling on her stomach, she dives into the water, using it as cover. After waiting a few moments, we see her pull out a reed to use as a makeshift snorkel before continuing. The Daimyo doesn’t see her coming and is killed in a single blow from her blade.
The demo concludes with another run through the castle with each character, showing Yasuke’s direct route and Nao’s daylight route. There are new weapons (Yasuke has a rifle, Nao has a chain weapon called the Kusarigama), flashy weapon abilities, and lots of kills, all of which do a good job of emphasizing how different these two characters are. I’m excited to try them out for myself when the game launches later this year.

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