The Assassin’s Creed Shadows reveal is saying all the right things to excite classic Assassin’s Creed fans

The last seven years of Assassin’s Creed games have turned me into the sort of fan I never wanted to become: a withered old grump who wishes things were the way they used to be. Nobody likes that guy—especially not the millions of people who became Assassin’s Creed fans through the immaculate worlds of Origins, Odyssey, and Valhalla.

I’ve gotten used to the idea that modern Assassin’s Creed is about stepping into the shoes of historical warrior archetypes like a playable episode of Deadliest Warrior and not, well, being an assassin. But Assassin’s Creed Shadows, the next mainline game set in feudal Japan, seemingly wants to do both.

Ubisoft is splitting Assassin’s Creed’s two disciplines into two protagonists: Naoe, an agile shinobi armed with a hidden blade, and Yasuke, the historical Black samurai who faces his enemies head-on. In an interview with IGN, Ubisoft said most missions can be tackled as either character (some are character-specific), leaving it up to the player to decide if they want to approach Shadows like an Odyssey-style action RPG or a traditional stealth game.

I’m resisting the urge to call ‘bull’ on Ubi’s suggestion that stealth and open combat will have an equal focus after how untrue that proved to be in Odyssey and Valhalla. Ubi has made a habit of assuring AC’s oldest fans that you can still play the new games like the old ones, just to disappoint in the follow-through. But there’s reason to believe Ubi is turning a new leaf. Assassin’s Creed Mirage made good on its promise as a stabby game first, which was personally encouraging, and Ubi also shared some specific details about stealth in Shadows that have me leaning in. A few highlights from the same IGN interview:

Sticking to shadows matters, and Naoe can snuff out light sources to create dark areas

There’s a Splinter Cell-like light meter(!)

Naoe can go prone, a first for the series and a rare treat in stealth games outside Metal Gear Solid

Naoe isn’t strong in an open fight, similar to Basim in Mirage

There’s a grapple hook (the swinging kind, not the zipline kind) that expands parkour

Guard patterns are influenced by the weather and seasons: guards will find shelter from rain, for example

If I only judge by what aspects of Shadows Ubisoft chose to focus on for its grand reveal, stealth even sounds like the star of the show. The studio talked about how passing seasons will affect guard patrols and sneaking options.

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

“As the months go by, the approaching winter kills off these natural hiding spots. Hanging icicles threaten to snap and fall, revealing your rooftop position,” IGN wrote. “But at the same time, the worsening weather limits the view of enemies. Howling winds obscure your footsteps. Guard patrols stick to areas of warmth, allowing you to take new, colder paths.”

Less was said about Yosuke’s combat-forward playstyle. He’ll be able to cut through just about anything in the world that’s not nailed down (neat), and he can parry/counterattack enemies for quick kills. Enemy armor can be worn down and broken by repeated strikes. I don’t have high hopes for Shadows’ swordplay if it’s gonna feel anything like Valhalla’s or Odyssey’s button-mashy brawls, especially after enjoying two playthroughs of the game that beat Ubi to the punch of “Assassin’s Creed in Japan,” Ghost of Tsushima.

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But that’s the rub of speculating about a game without the benefit of gameplay. This all sounds promising, but a 10-minute demo could change everything. We classic AC enjoyers are a persnickety bunch who know how little missteps can spoil the assassin fantasy—weak stealth kills, messy parkour, dumb-as-bricks NPCs. The Assassin’s Creed Shadows in my head is extremely promising. Fingers crossed the actual game will be similar.

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