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Saturday, June 15, 2024

The Assassin’s Creed Shadows reveal hits all the right notes to thrill long-time fans of the classic Assassin’s Creed series.

Over the past seven years, my journey with Assassin’s Creed has transformed me into a character I never envisioned: a grizzled cynic longing for the bygone days. It’s a persona nobody desires to embody, especially not the legions of fans who were captivated by the rich tapestries of Origins, Odyssey, and Valhalla.

I’ve come to accept that contemporary Assassin’s Creed revolves around embodying historical warrior archetypes akin to a playable rendition of Deadliest Warrior, rather than embodying the essence of an assassin. Yet, Assassin’s Creed Shadows, the forthcoming mainline installment set in feudal Japan, appears poised to reconcile these divergent paths.

Ubisoft proposes to divide Assassin’s Creed’s dual disciplines between two protagonists: Naoe, a nimble shinobi wielding a concealed blade, and Yasuke, the famed Black samurai confronting adversaries head-on. In discussions with IGN, Ubisoft mentioned that while most missions accommodate both characters (albeit with some character-specific exceptions), the player retains agency in determining whether to approach Shadows akin to an action-packed RPG akin to Odyssey or as a conventional stealth experience.

I’m hesitant to fully embrace Ubisoft’s assertion that stealth and direct combat will receive equal emphasis, given the disparity between promise and reality experienced in Odyssey and Valhalla. Ubisoft has frequently reassured the franchise’s steadfast adherents that the new installments remain faithful to their roots, only to dash hopes upon delivery. Nonetheless, signs indicate a potential paradigm shift. Assassin’s Creed Mirage delivered on its pledge as a stealth-oriented adventure, which personally instilled a glimmer of hope. Additionally, Ubisoft divulged specific details regarding stealth mechanics in Shadows that pique my interest. Here are a few notable highlights gleaned from the 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

Based on Ubisoft’s emphasis during the grand reveal of Shadows, stealth appears to take center stage. The studio highlighted how changing seasons will influence guard patrols and stealth tactics.

IGN noted, “As months pass, the encroaching winter eliminates natural hiding spots. Melting icicles threaten to expose your rooftop perch.” They added, “However, worsening weather obstructs enemy sightlines. Howling winds mask your footsteps. Guards congregate in warm areas, opening up new, colder pathways.”

In comparison, less attention was given to Yosuke’s combat-oriented approach. He boasts the ability to slice through most objects in the environment and execute swift kills through parries and counterattacks. Enemy armor can also be worn down with repeated strikes. Given the concern that Shadows’ combat might resemble the button-mashing combat of Valhalla and Odyssey, particularly after experiencing Ghost of Tsushima, a game that explored similar themes, expectations for Shadows’ swordplay remain guarded.

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