Assassin’s Creed Shadows’ Gameplay Will Be Wildly Different Based On Which Protagonist You’re Playing

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One of the main attractions during the June 10 Ubisoft Forward was a proper look at Assassin’s Creed Shadows gameplay. After a couple of story trailers earlier this year, we got a deep dive into how the game, set in feudal Japan, will play (we also got a chance to this gameplay in-person at Summer Game Fest). It was an interesting look at the dual protagonists players will control: shinobi Naoe and samurai Yasuke.

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Throughout the game, players will be able to switch between Yasuke and Naoe at-will. Ubisoft notes that while in the midst of missions, you won’t be able to switch between the two, though I’m still hoping a late-game set piece will require playing through an assassination as both. The gameplay trailer shows how killing the same assassination target can be approached from entirely different ways by the two, as each offer a unique style of play: Yasuke is a hulking, strong warrior and Naoe is a stealthy ninja.

The gameplay trailer begins with Yasuke wandering the countryside and happening upon a village. Immediately inhabitants of the village take notice of him due to his samurai status and his hulking figure—and the fact that he’s Black. Yasuke is a historical figure, the first Ubisoft has made a main protagonist in the series’ 17-year history, and he’s basically a celebrity in this land. NPCs bow as Yasuke walks by and it serves as an interesting twist on how past games have typically forced protagonists into the seedier corners of society.

Yasuke’s combat style feels like the RPG-heavy entries in the Assassin’s Creed series—think along the lines of Odyssey and Valhalla. We see Yasuke enter combat with skills available on the right trigger in tandem with face buttons. Yasuke can wield multiple weapons that players can swap between using the d-pad. During the trailer we see a polearm and a katana do some serious damage.

Yasuke is all impressive force and intense brutalities: his kanabō can remove enemies’ heads from their bodies, his strength allows him to impale them with his sword and lift them high up into the air. He can break down doors or thin walls by running through them. He’s a tank. 

Naoe, however, plays like a mix of an original, stealthier Assassin’s Creed experience and a proper shinobi: she can use a grappling hook to reach faraway spots or to assassinate a mark, is more lithe and sneaky so that she can blend into the shadows, and has a few kunai she can throw from the safety of a high-up perch. Whereas Yasuke stormed through the front entrance of a castle and killed everyone in sight within minutes, Naoe gets in undiscovered, and silently assassin’s the men guarding her mark who is sulking in a beautiful courtyard. She uses a discarded reed to breath underwater, her entire body submerged just feet away from the target. 

During the preview, Naoe and Yasuke both successfully assassinate the corrupt village leader in wildly different ways, but both times we’re treated to a Kurosawa-esque assassination animation—color saps away until the scene is entirely in black and white, save for the bright red blood splatters that spurt off of his body. The first time the crowd sees this animation, a hum of awe rumbles through the room.

Other announcements during the gameplay reveal included the introduction of a year-long season cycle. That means the game’s expansive map (which will be big but not as big as Valhalla) will change between winter, spring, summer, and fall. Each season will reveal new secrets and opportunities for gameplay, such as storms covering Naoe’s tracks and sound with thunder and rain. Sometimes seasons may impede players, such as water being frozen. Also, you can pet the dog. Assassin’s Creed Shadows releases on November 15 for PC, Xbox Series X/S, and PS5.

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