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Assassin's Creed: Shadows Opinions

Opinions 10 June 2024, 13:00

author: Mike Manka

Assassin’s Creed Shadows Is Most Brutal Game in the Series, Where Two Characters Make Sense

During a closed presentation, I had the opportunity to take a closer look at Assassin’s Creed Shadows and see the alternative gameplay options provided by the two protagonists. This could be the most brutal installment yet.

I didn't feel reassured when I found out that Ubisoft Quebec (which actually leads the production of several studios) is in charge of Assassin’s Creed Shadows. This team was responsible for Odyssey, which I really, really hate. Not wanting to prejudge, however, I approached the presentation with a cool head and certainly came out of it more interested than before. The two characters make sense, the game has become even more brutal, Naoe is the Sam Fisher of 16th century Japan, who can hang from the ceiling waiting for enemies, and even the destruction of the environment has improved. If anything from this seemed interesting to you, I encourage you to continue reading.

Country of manga and anime

The setting of Shadows is Japan in the late 16th century, during the period known as Azuchi-Momoyama. The story guides us through the first-ever process of unifying Japan's population in the face of increasing influences from newcomers from distant lands. We will learn about the unique stories of two characters here, whose fate (or rather - Ubisoft will make it happen) will bring them together with a shared purpose.

Naoe is a shinobi - a nimble woman who blends into the crowd, fights from hiding, sticks to the shadows, and resolves situations in a rather cautious way. When she needs to hide in the bushes or crawl through low grass (yes, the game will have a crawling option!), she can take out the sources of light from hiding, move to a more convenient position using a grappling hook, and if she wants to set a trap for an incoming opponent in a building, there is nothing to stop her from hanging from the ceiling out of sight using the same rope. Naoe also comes with a visibility bar that is constantly present during gameplay, leading me to think persistently that Naoe is essentially a Japanese version of Sam Fisher from the 16th century. Certainly, Sam Fisher didn't use bamboo for underwater breathing to avoid detection or fight with a kusarigama, but I can't seem to shake off the association between these characters - especially when the developers highlight that they have significantly expanded the impact of light on gameplay in this game, all to add more depth to playing as Naoe. And both series belong to Ubisoft.

Assassin's Creed: Shadows, Ubisoft, 2024

Next to this, we have Yasuke, a true-blooded samurai. I won't participate in the debate about whether a samurai of African origin is acceptable, but I can accept the explanation from the devs that I heard during the interview: Yasuke is a character that appears throughout this historical period, being significant enough in the chronicles to evoke certain associations, and at the same time being enough of a blank slate to be able to add his own characteristics that fit the needs of the game. That's why we receive a samurai outsider, who isn't viewed favorably by everyone, but at the same time, he earns respect with his status and immense size. In the game itself, the crowd disperses before us as we walk through the village streets. Yasuke is truly a tank, able to wield a katana in combat but causing the most havoc by sweeping enemies off the ground with a kanabo.

Both characters are meant to complement each other, and it's clear that this was perfectly evident during the gameplay showcase. Naoe climbs up the walls to get past the closed doors, but Yasuke isn't agile enough to demonstrate the same parkour skills (plus he's wearing heavy armor), so his solution is to run through these doors, smashing them into tiny pieces. Yasuke represents a highly straightforward approach to completing missions, simply charging forward and taking down all opponents. Naoe, on the other hand, is the more stealthy side of the coin, which, however, can also handle itself in a fight - after all, both characters have katanas at their disposal.

Assassin's Creed: Shadows, Ubisoft, 2024

Apart from the basic combat mechanics, something new appears that will somewhat remind you of Ghost of Tsushima. Our protagonists assume the proper position with a katana, freeze, and then deliver an incredibly destructive blow to the opponent. Although they can all perform the attack, only Yasuke, as a true samurai, is able to combine them into combos.

Most of the time, the devs aim to provide the player with freedom of choice, although there will be missions during the game that we will have to complete as a specific character (including the story prologues of Naoe and Yasuke). Of course, there will be occasions where playing as one of the protagonists will be more sensible, but there's nothing stopping you from going against the flow. Nevertheless, the weather can greatly influence our decisions.

Wind's howling

During the presentation, we saw the solution to the same mission in three ways: as Naoe in an absolutely stealthy way at night, as Yasuke in the middle of the day, and then again in Naoe's shoes during an approaching storm - and here our shinobi was no longer hiding in the shadows. The weather conditions are supposed to be completely random and not assigned to a specific mission, which I can believe in most cases - I am convinced that some of the quests will require unique weather for the appropriate effect. Dynamically changing conditions are only half of this gimmick, because alongside this we have changing seasons. Typically, when games provide this feature, it indicates a change in the season as the story progresses, ensuring everything is meticulously prepared. However, in response to the question asked, the co-director of the game, Simon Lemay-Comtois, answered that the solution they applied to the seasons is twofold. In the game, there will be events where the seasons are precisely planned out. Apart from that, once players are introduced to the game, there are several ways to progress through the seasons, including fast travel. The changes should initially be subtle, hardly noticeable, but when enough of these actions accumulate, we can transition into the next season.

Assassin's Creed: Shadows, Ubisoft, 2024

While I haven't witnessed those few seasons in action, I did have the chance to observe different weather conditions, and it seems to work quite well. Puddles left by the rain create a beautiful reflection of the world, the thunder of an approaching storm can cause a slight shiver, and sometimes the middle of the day looks so hot that it's difficult to imagine how Yasuke managed in that armor without air conditioning.

By the way, seeing the opening sequence of the show, when we enter the Tanba province, made quite a good impression on me. It may be a matter of the setting, but it seemed from the start as if the developers had fine-tuned the Anvil engine once again, and now the world looks somewhat more realistic than before. While the realism does diminish a bit when NPCs appear close to us on the screen, it's still worthwhile to admire the surroundings, especially as a truly beautiful expanse of terrain unfolds before us in the land of cherry blossoms.

Japanese brutes

I have already mentioned some things about the fight, but its brutality deserves a separate discussion. Sure, if you recall Valhalla, you will remember some exceptionally powerful finishers. Here, however, it has been tightened up even more, and the ragdoll of the opponent swept away by Yasuke is bordering on exaggeration. When we faced an enemy samurai at one point, the duel ended with a very clear decapitation, which the camera didn't even attempt to hide.

Assassin's Creed: Shadows, Ubisoft, 2024

Weapons also have a fairly significant impact on the environment. Whether it's Yasuke's long-range kanabo or a naturally ranged kusarigama, the surrounding environmental elements can scatter much more than before. There are also plenty of incredibly clichéd moves taken straight from movies. We sneak along the wall of the building made of traditional washi and see the shadow of an enemy standing on the other side? So nothing is standing in the way of performing an assassination, which we have seen many times on the big screen. To fulfill the fantasy of being a true ninja, Naoe has her kunai to cause devastation from a distance. However, to ensure Yasuke isn't defenseless from afar, the samurai has been equipped with an arquebus.

The next step in Assassin's Creed's evolution

The devs claim that Shadows is the next step in the evolution of this series. Just as Origins was a step forward after Syndicate and as Valhalla expanded on the solutions from Odyssey, the latest installment is supposed to be another milestone, thanks to which millions of players will buy this title. There are still many unknowns - while we know about the existence of our own hideout, which we will manage and customize, the developers weren't too keen on sharing information on this topic. The game map is expected to be of a similar size to what we know from Origins, but I've also heard that while it's currently the only map in the game, it may not necessarily be the only map in the future. Which of course suggests additional content introducing new regions, which is nothing new in the series. And it costs extra few bucks.

Assassin's Creed: Shadows, Ubisoft, 2024

On one hand, I am a bit more interested in the game than I was before because what I saw doesn't look as bad as I imagined. On the other side, there are solutions that I don't like - such as the superpowers of our characters giving them superhuman abilities to eliminate enemies. After Odyssey, I have some reservations about Ubisoft Quebec, but after this presentation, I am temporarily giving them the benefit of the doubt. Although the Japanese setting doesn't particularly appeal to me, it's undeniable that Ubisoft is now doing what fans have been longing for, which also means huge expectations for the quality of the game itself. In November, we will find out whether the studio managed to bear the burden of expectations, or maybe players can skip this installment and wait for Hexe.

Mike Manka

Mike Manka

He started his adventure with GRYOnline.pl in April 2015 by responding to emails and preparing reports in Excel. Later, he worked on the Gameplay.pl service, the Editorials at Gamepressure.com and its YouTube channel, in the meantime developing his skills at tvgry.pl. Since 2019, he has been responsible for creating and developing the tvfilmy channel, and since 2022 he has been the editor in charge of the video department, which currently includes tvgry, tvgry+, tvfilmy and tvtech. He owes his employment at GRYOnline.pl partially thanks to English philology. Even though he is currently working on many things, gaming still remains closest to his heart. In his free time, he reads books, watches series, and plays several instruments. He has been dreaming of owning a Mustang for years.


Assassin's Creed: Shadows

Assassin's Creed: Shadows

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