Assassin’s Creed Shadows – 16 Brand New Things You Need to Know

Here's everything you need to know about the next Assassin's Creed, which launches on November 15th for Xbox Series X/S, PS5 and PC.

Posted By | On 20th, May. 2024

Assassin’s Creed Shadows – 16 Brand New Things You Need to Know

Ubisoft has finally unveiled its next mainline Assassin’s Creed title, which recently received a new cinematic trailer – Assassin’s Creed Shadows, formerly known as Assassin’s Creed Codename Red. Launching on November 15th for Xbox Series X/S, PS5 and PC worldwide, it’s an open-world action RPG in the vein of Assassin’s Creed Origins, Odyssey and Valhalla. However, Shadows sets itself apart in several ways, including the setting of – at long last, after so many years and the success of Ghost of Tsushima – Feudal Japan.

Though it didn’t showcase any gameplay yet (Ubisoft Forward on June 10th seems likely for the same), the publisher revealed extensive new information. Here are 16 new things you need to know.

Story and Setting

Set in the late Sengoku era, late 16th century Japan is in a bit of an upheaval, with historical figures like Oda Nobunaga rising to power after the Warring States Period, extensive social reforms and the threat of the Black Ships that would play a role in the Bakumatsu. The protagonists are Naoe from Iga, the daughter (albeit fictional) of the legendary Fujibayashi Nagato, and Yasuke, the legendary samurai who arrived in Japan as a slave and would subsequently serve Nobuaga.

Their paths cross when Naoe’s province is attacked a second time by Nobunaga’s forces in 1581 and burned to the ground. Yasuke had a hand in that, but it’s unclear if he’s okay with his current path. Of course, we get our answer later when the two seemingly meet and agree to work together, becoming “shadows that serve the light.” Towards what purpose is ultimately unknown, but ushering in a “new era for Japan” and freeing it from oppression is a key part, especially when Naoe becomes a member of the Assassin Brotherhood.

Main Characters

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The backgrounds of Naoe and Yasuke are as different as their playstyles. Trained as a shinobi, Naoe is all about sneaking around, slinking in the shadows, using tools like shurikens and smoke bombs, and assassinating targets silently. She’s the only one with the Hidden Blade, which makes sense given her shinobi training, and she can slink in the rafters to set up assassinations. As for those who favor non-lethal means, they can unlock abilities to knock out their foes.

Personality-wise, Naoe is “determined but compassionate” – ruthless when assassinating targets yet sympathetic to those affected by the war.

Yasuke, on the other hand, is all about upfront brutality. He wields heavier weapons like Kanabo (the spiked club seen in the cinematic trailer) and naginata while also being proficient with a katana and bows. Blocking and parrying are also important, especially since the latter can break enemy armor (per IGN’s preview) and open up foes for more attacks. You can even execute deadly finishers, outright decapitating some foes.

Yasuke’s personality is shrouded in mystery, but his rise through the ranks of Nobunaga’s administration presents a unique tale. He also seems to have some link to the overarching lore of Assassin’s Creed, though that won’t be revealed anytime soon.

While Yasuke favors a more action-oriented approach, Naoe can defend herself with katana and even a kusarigama. It does sound like the former is more equipped for longer battles, while the latter favors more hit-and-run tactics and subterfuge.

Seamless Switching

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While it’s a given that you control both characters throughout the experience, Assassin’s Creed Shadows allows for seamlessly switching between them. Though you have to complete some of their personal quests, it’s mostly your choice which one to control, and producer Karl Onnée even confirmed that you can switch between them for different objectives. “That’s the beauty. Because during a quest, there are several steps, and you’re going to go from one place to another, you want to have this autonomy and agency to choose how you want to play the setup,” he told IGN.

It’s also worth noting that each character has unique skills, gears and progression independent of the other. As you progress, you earn Skill Points, though how these come into play compared to previous Assassin’s Creed titles is unknown. Hopefully, this doesn’t lead to cases where you play as Yasuke for an extended period and find yourself under-levelled when shifting back to Naoe.

Scale Similar to Origins

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If you’ve seen the map for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla or Odyssey, you’ll have noticed the overwhelming number of tasks to complete. While Shadows isn’t going to go as bonkers with its world, creative director Jonathan Dumont told IGN that it’s similar in scale to Assassin’s Creed Origins. He also noted that it’s a “much closer to real-life scale ratio. So because castles took a lot of space, and we really wanted the mountains to feel like mountains, [we’ve made] the environments feel wider in the game. But I would say around the same size as Origins.” Origins is still a pretty hefty experience, especially if you go for full completion, so how big the Shadows experience will be in comparison should be interesting.

Fully Dynamic Lighting System

Further emphasizing the stealth aspect, Ubisoft Quebec has implemented a fully dynamic lighting system. Considering different light sources, whether it’s the sun or lanterns when sneaking about is thus essential. Naoe can snuff out some sources, like lamps, to fade into the shadows and remain invisible, but it’s a detail that will make you consider how to go about your routes.

Parkour and Grappling Hook

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Another advantage that Naoe possesses is her agility, which allows for parkouring through environments. While the developer didn’t provide too many details on how it’s improved over previous entries – besides stating that it goes “hand-in-hand” with the stealth experience – Dumont did confirm a grappling hook. It’s also physics-based, which means “there’s a little bit of improbability sometimes when using it.” While it poses some risk, it’s also good for pulling off assassinations.

Duels and Destruction

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Stop us if you’ve heard this before – encounters with a “mini-boss type of fighter” as Benoit describes it that “feel like a duel” as you exchange blocks, parries, dodges and whatnot. It sounds vaguely Ghost of Tsushima-esque, particularly with the boss-style enemies, but we’ll reserve judgment for now. However, there is an emphasis on environmental destruction in Shadows, with the developer making many objects “destroyable or sliceable.” Depending on the weapon used, the damage inflicted differs. This could have some interesting implications, especially since Naoe can assassinate targets through paper doors. Maybe Yasuke can do something similar with wooden doors, like in the cinematic trailer – breaking them and knocking down any enemies lurking behind or shooting through thinner material with arrows.

Seasons

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Seasons are another big aspect to consider in missions. As the campaign progresses, the season will shift to Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. This can influence your infiltration opportunities – if it’s Spring, there’s tall grass and heavy bushes to hide in. Summer allows for diving into a lake and traversing beneath its surface. However, those won’t be available in Winter, and there are other risks like icicles falling, exposing your location to nearby enemies. It isn’t to say that the season has no advantages – the visibility is lower (likely due to fog) and enemies prefer to stay near warmer areas, leaving the colder ones relatively safe to travel through.

Interestingly, it does seem like you can play open-world quests in different seasons. Art director Thierry Dansereau told IGN, “It might happen that you will play a quest in Autumn and I will play the same quest, and I’m going to be in Summer. So, that’s up to the system and the way you play your game.” Certain quests may persist throughout the campaign, even as the season changes. Depending on the objectives, some side quests may be easier to complete in specific seasons than others. Time will tell, though.

Assassinating Targets

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There is a campaign with its own objectives to complete, but Shadows seems to offer a more free form structure to its core gameplay, which revolves around assassinating different targets. Quests will provide hints about their location, but they can be assassinated in the order you choose. Benoit even teases that players may encounter some targets “without really knowing about them before.” Dumont also believes players will enjoy “some of the variety that we try to put in our targets” and how there are “options to be able to take them down, and having some negatives and sometimes some surprises.”

Exploration

There’s still a lot unknown about the areas players will traverse, from the different mission objectives to the nature of the targets they’re hunting. However, one interesting change is how synchronization points will function. Instead of showcasing several new markers denoting new points of interest, they’ll instead highlight locations worth investigating. As such, they serve less as a means for populating your map with icons and more like vantage points to scope your environment. Of course, while there don’t seem to be towers, you climb up to these vantage points to synchronize, as usual.

Another intriguing aspect about venturing through the world is how each character’s status plays a part. Naoe can either stay out of sight or disguise herself like a peasant, which attracts different reactions. Since Yasuke is a samurai, passersby will bow and show their respect. Depending on who you play, some characters will have different “expectations.”

Relationships

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Some characters may favor speaking to Naoe over Yasuke and vice versa, but each can establish unique relationships. As Ubisoft explains, “They don’t always feel the same way about people, nor do people always feel the same way about them.” While it also teased romances, players can expect a “multitude of relationships” throughout the game. It’s also pretty heavily implied that the characters will grow older throughout the story, which could mean experiencing different historical events. Our money is on the Bakumatsu because it makes too much sense given the years.

Spy Network

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Though part of the Brotherhood, Naoe and Yasuke can cultivate a spy network that provides information on their targets. Recruiting allies is also possible as they can assist in missions with their “unique abilities.” It doesn’t sound as fleshed out as Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood’s system. However, it should still offer a worthwhile side activity as you interact with different characters, discover their abilities and prepare to hunt down your targets.

Hideout

Akin to the Settlement system in Valhalla, players get their own customizable hideout. It houses one’s shinobi league and can be used to train “the crew” (likely referring to the allies recruited). You can also change its layout, decorate and accessorize, or simply interact with other characters and craft gear. How vital it will be to the experience and what role it plays in the story remains to be seen, but if Valhalla is any indication, it could be a means to add post-launch limited-time events and new activities.

Dungeons

Dungeons are a thing in Assassin’s Creed Shadows, and the historical castles will be the “centerpiece” for them. Game director Charles Benoit says, “The way they were built, it’s a level designed by itself. It’s so big, it’s like an adventure each time you go in the castle.” Of course, the word “centerpiece” seemingly implies that there will be optional dungeons that players can explore as well. They might be entirely different from said styles and offer a unique experience. Maybe it’s just conjecture, but it’s an exciting possibility.

Online Required for Installation

Fortunately, the title is not online-only and you can play it offline. Considering online was optional for both Assassin’s Creed Mirage and Valhalla, it’s good to see Ubisoft sticking to this, despite the game’s PlayStation Store listing indicating otherwise. However, as discovered by Wario64 on Twitter, physical copies state loud and clear on the front that internet connectivity is required to install the game and Ubisoft has confirmed this is the case. What happens if you don’t have a connection or, even worse, when servers go down for whatever reason? Your guess is as good as ours, but given the company’s shifty behavior with delisting and outright deactivating The Crew, it’s something to be cautious about.

Photo Mode

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Briefly mentioned, but still worth noting, is the confirmation of Photo Mode, which is seemingly available at launch. Ubisoft hasn’t offered any details on this outside of having different filters. Nevertheless, considering the sights and how picturesque Japan can be, it makes sense to have it ready out of the box.


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