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What to Expect: ‘Assassin’s Creed: Shadows’

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Assassin’s Creed: Shadows is set to be a groundbreaking addition to the Assassin’s Creed series, diving into the rich and meaningful late Sengoku period of Japan. The game will introduce two main protagonists: Naoe, a skilled shinobi assassin, and Yasuke, the legendary first African samurai. 

It will be the first of four Assassin’s Creed: Codename games announced in 2022. They were Codename Red (now Assassin’s Creed: Shadows), Codename Hexe (Assassin’s Creed game set during witch hunts), Codename Jade (a mobile game), and Codename Infinity (a VR experience). We’re definitely in for a treat, just like with any Assassin’s Creed game, so let’s dive in, and check what Ubisoft prepared for us with the upcoming  Assassin’s Creed: Shadows.

[Warning: Spoilers from previous Assassin’s Creed projects are below!]

The two main characters of Assassin’s Creed: Shadows are quite mysterious

Fujibayashi Naoe is a female ninja who knows ninjutsu (also known as kunoichi), living in Japan’s province of Iga. Her father, Fujibayashi Nagato was a jōnin (a person of highest rank that represents the group of province’s people and hires out mercenaries). She was trained by her father to become a member of the Japanese Brotherhood of Assassins.  In the trailer, we see she has a strong connection with her dad, Fujibayashi Nagato, who was a real ninja from that time period.

Naoe lives by her family’s creed, lives in traditional ways, and wants to bring honor to her family and herself. When Naoe tries to help other villagers, she finds out that samurai warriors burned their homes and killed them. That’s a pivotal moment in her story that will have significant meaning to Naoe’s character.

In 1549, European Templars reached Japan, seeking to extend their influence. Their actions soon drew the attention of the Assassins, especially Xiao Hu from the Chinese Brotherhood under Shao Jun. Adopting his Japanese name, Kotetsu, he aspired to establish a Brotherhood in Japan to oppose the Templar threat.

The Assassins allied themselves with the Japanese ninja, from whom they learned new techniques. They engaged with the warlord Oda Nobunaga, who agreed to support them once he unified the nation. Additionally, they formed a covert alliance with Tokugawa Ieyasu, whose loyal vassal, Hattori Hanzō, had become a Master Assassin.

I think we’ll learn a lot about techniques, lessons, and the past of a co-op of Assassins and Ninjas from Naoe’s perspective. It will be a vital part of her journey throughout the game.

Naoe & Yasuke in 'Assassin's Creed: Shadows'
Naoe & Yasuke in Assassin’s Creed: Shadows (Ubisoft)

The second main character in the story of Assassin’s Creed: Shadows is Yasuke. Yasuke was a remarkable figure in 16th-century Japan, known for being the first foreign-born samurai and the first African samurai in Japanese history. His origins are not fully known, and somewhat shrouded in mystery. But it’s generally believed that he was born in Africa, possibly in what is now Mozambique or Sudan, around the 1550s.

Yasuke arrived in Japan in 1579 as an attendant to the Italian Jesuit missionary Alessandro Valignano. Yasuke’s towering stature and dark skin drew significant attention when he arrived in Japan. His presence intrigued Oda Nobunaga, a powerful daimyo who was instrumental in unifying Japan during the Sengoku period.

Nobunaga, impressed by Yasuke’s strength and charisma, took him into his service, granting him the name Yasuke and the status of a samurai. Yasuke was given a residence, a stipend, and a short sword, marking his official induction into the samurai class. He served Nobunaga loyally and was present during pivotal moments in Japanese history, including the infamous Honnō-ji Incident in 1582, where Nobunaga was betrayed by one of his generals, Akechi Mitsuhide. During this incident, Yasuke fought valiantly but was ultimately captured. Unlike many of Nobunaga’s retainers who were executed, Yasuke was spared and handed over to the Jesuits. 

Some parts of this game will likely explore his adventures and the cultural intersections of his life, blending historical facts with creative storytelling to introduce Yasuke to a new generation of gamers and history enthusiasts. Yasuke’s story is not just a fascinating historical account but also a testament to the diverse and interconnected world of the 16th century. His life as a samurai in Japan highlights the complex cultural exchanges that occurred during this period, making his tale both unique and universally appealing.

The dual protagonist system is back in Assassin’s Creed: Shadows

In Assassin’s Creed: Shadows we see the return of the dual protagonist system, first introduced in Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate. It allowed us to choose which character we wanted to play on different missions. In that case, it was either Eve or Jacob, now that will be Naoe and Yasuke. This dual protagonist system allows players to experience the narrative from two distinct perspectives, allowing us to blend traditional stealth mechanics with more action-oriented gameplay.

Additionally, it can let us finish various missions in different ways, by using the unique abilities of each character. What’s most important is that each character will have their own advantages and disadvantages in gameplay.

Naoe will emphasize more classic stealth gameplay, known from older games, that will make us feel like a ninja Assassin. It just goes back to the roots of the franchise, which is what a lot of players wanted to experience again. We can expect Naoe’s gameplay to focus on advanced stealth mechanics, such as the ability to destroy light sources to create hiding spots, use the returning Hidden Blade, and even go prone to avoid detection. 

Assassin's Creed: Shadows' Collector's Edition
Assassin’s Creed: Shadows Collector’s Edition (Ubisoft)

What is also remarkable is that we will be able to fight using the hidden blade as a weapon, not just a stealth kill tool. It’s nice to see it being brought back after almost a decade of absence. Naoe’s approach is less about direct confrontation and more about utilizing the environment and strategic planning to outmaneuver enemies. She is just a Ninja who is the exact equivalent of a Japanese Assassin from before the RPG era. 

On the other hand, we have Yasuke. The first African samurai, whose history is one of the most interesting in the subject matter of samurai’s legacy. The gameplay that he offers contrasts with Naoe, because of the playstyle focused on direct combat. To explain it in simpler gaming terms, Yasuke uses heavy and powerful attacks, while Naoe uses light and quick attacks. His abilities include powerful melee attacks, capable of breaking enemy armor, and quick parry/counterattack moves. He will be a “heavy” character to play, and we’ll have to have perfect timing and choose when to attack or to parry. This duality in gameplay ensures that players can choose their preferred style or switch between the two based on the mission requirements to finish them in the best way possible.

New game, same old conflicts between Assassins and Templars, or rather their counterparts

Assassins and Templars in the Assassin’s Creed Universe are in a conflict that has lasted several centuries. Starting with Kassandra, Bayek and others, following up to modern times. Each new game has its own interpretation of the conflict, keeping an original idea of the conflict and matching it with the history of the time. Now it looks like the conflict will look the same, but in a more traditional and culturally fitting way.

My guess is that we’ll see Rōnins, Shōguns, and many more iconic characters connected to Japanese culture. Maybe they’ll even be explained as a part of Assassin’s or Templar’s ideology (in the game’s lore). That way we’d get another incredible example of mixing real-life historical events with fiction, something Assassin’s Creed games have been doing perfectly for a long time.

Ubisoft’s approach to Shadows suggests a commitment to pleasing long-time fans, newcomers, and history buffs. The balance between Naoe’s stealth-focused missions and Yasuke’s combat-heavy encounters are designed to offer a mixed gameplay experience that changes to fit player’s preferences. 

Furthermore, we’ll possibly get to see how this game is connected to the modern day. We don’t know if we’ll be able to see modern times like in previous Assassin’s Creed games. Nor do we know if we avoid that aspect for the 99% of the game, like in Assassin’s Creed: Mirage.

Assassin’s Creed: Shadows looks like another fantastic game that I’ll play as soon as possible. I love this universe so much that whenever they drop any news about upcoming projects, I’m always excited.  Assassin’s Creed: Shadows will be released on November 12th, 2024 on PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X/S. 

Have you played through any of the Assassin’s Creed games? Are you excited for Assassin’s Creed Shadows? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or check out our official Discord server where we have a channel for gaming and much more!

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Wiktor Reinfuss

Big fan of all sorts of pop culture stuff. I also enjoy ambitious cinema. Games, music and graphics are all within my interests. I have a great fondness for the Arrowverse series, especially The Flash.

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