Assassin's Creed Shadows blesses its open world with weather and seasons

In addition to two new protagonists, Assassin's Creed Shadows is introducing some big firsts into the series.

Ubisoft
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Ubisoft Quebec is exploring two sides of feudal Japan with the upcoming Assassin's Creed Shadows. Players will experience a new story in a much-requested setting, featuring two distinct protagonists. Prior to Monday's Ubisoft Forward showcase, Shacknews had an opportunity to check out a hands-off demonstration of the next chapter of the Assassin's Creed saga. While the two main characters are an interesting piece of the formula, Ubisoft Quebec has even more in store for this specific entry in the franchise.

Assassin's Creed Shadows will take players into the Azuchi-Momoyama period of late 16th century Japan. They'll meet two different protagonists. Naoe is a shinobi from the Iga region, who watches the game's story unfold from the perspective of a native. She crosses paths with Yasuke, a samurai warrior from Africa who's based on an enigmatic historical figure. He'll experience the story from the perspective of an outsider. However the player chooses to experience Shadows' story, a majority of it can be experienced as either character. At various point, players will trigger missions that prompt the selection of one character or the other. It's here that the Shadows experience can differ depending on who the player takes into battle.

Naoe stands on the rooftops in Assassin's Creed Shadows

Source: Ubisoft

Ubisoft Quebec prepared a live demonstration of a mission from roughly the midway point of the game's story, where Naoe and Yasuke are already established as partners. First, Yasuke arrives into Fukuchiyama, tasked with hunting and dispatching a rogue samurai named Fujioka Jiro. Yasuke immediately stands out, towering over the townspeople and coming across as an imposing figure. He proceeds to plow through Jiro's forces with brute force, bludgeoning them with his Kanabo war club and occasionally finishing some enemies with a bone-crushing bear hug.

Once Jiro is killed, Yasuke learns of his master, a corrupt daimyo named Lord Hayashi. This is where Naoe makes her first appearance, as they learn that Hayashi is somehwere in Fukuchiyama Castle and agree on him as their next target. It's here where players are prompted to select either character for the next mission. Both of their play styles are nearly polar opposites of one another.

Naoe plays more like a traditional Assassin's Creed character. She's able to scale rooftops, hide in the shadows, and scout ahead with Eagle Vision. New to the series is a grappling hook, which allows Naoe to swing off branches and other objects. If Naoe is indoors and an enemy is approaching, she can use it to quickly grapple to the ceiling and hide until it's safe. The castle includes some shallow waters, which Naoe can also use as a hiding place, using a bamboo reed to breathe. The game's new lighting system allows for players to use Naoe's Kunai or Shuriken to eliminate light sources, which could expose her position. Sometimes, contact with others is unavoidable, but if Naoe comes across a civilian, she can take them off the board with a non-lethal knockout blow.

Yasuke cuts through enemies in Assassin's Creed Shadows

Source: Ubisoft

After moving through the castle grounds, Naoe finds her target. She's able to sneak past Lord Hayashi's guards and kill the daimyo where he stands with her Hidden Blade. The guards will close in quickly, so Naoe uses traditional Assassin's Creed parkour to make her escape.

Yasuke, by contrast, is entirely different. There's no stealth or finesse with him. He simply walks right through the front gates, going toe-to-toe with any enemy that stands before him. Those players who opt for Yasuke must be masters of Assassin's Creed combat, especially against larger foes, and utilize parries and strike when there's an opening. If Yasuke has a rifle handy, he can use the environment to his advantage by setting off nearby explosives and taking out multiple targets at once. Yasuke doesn't scale rooftops, but rather charges straight through most gates like he's the Juggernaut. In this demo, he eventually wipes out Lord Hayashi's forces one-by-one before casually killing the daimyo himself.

It should be noted that those who want to take the direct approach with Naoe can do so. She'll rely on her Kunai and Shuriken to strike from a distance. If she does fight guards directly, players can use her agility to dodge incoming blows before fighting with her various weapons, including her Kusarigama. The chain and blade of this weapon make it a potent offensive and defensive weapon.

What's most interesting about Assassin's Creed Shadows is that these missions took place at different times of the day. There's a day/night cycle in place in Shadows, but Ubisoft Quebec went a step further. The studio is implementing dynamic weather patterns, demonstrated by Yasuke storming the castle in broad daylight while Naoe waited for nightfall. At one point, Naoe stood atop a wall and the camera panned back to show storm clouds on the horizon and moving in closer, with rain about to break out at any time. Seasons will also be a feature in Shadows with players able to play the story out across any time of year, whether it's through the snow-covered rooftops, the rainy fall season, or through the picturesque cherry blossoms of spring.

Assassin's Creed Shadows is shaping up to be the most impressive installment of the series in years. The dual protagonist system seems more appealing and far more refined than it was in 2015's Assassin's Creed Syndicate. However, it's the implementation of systems like dynamic lighting (which feed into Naoe's use of shadows immensely), weather patterns, and season changes that make this game feel like a major leap forward. We're excited to see more of the game when it comes to PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X|S on November 15.


This preview is based on an early demo played live for the press prior to Ubisoft Forward 2024. The final product is subject to change.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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