Assassin’s Creed Shadows, between lights and shadows of the new Ubisoft game

Assassin's Creed Shadows between lights and shadows of the new Ubisoft game

Assassin’s Creed Shadows, between lights and shadows of the new Ubisoft game

During a press event, Ubisoft presented in depth the gameplay of Assassin’s Creed Shadows and the differences between the two protagonists.

As he enters the city of Fukuchiyama, samurai Yasuke makes it clear that he is not one to be trifled with: “I will fight as long as I have air in my lungs and a blade in my hand,” he says. As he passes, the inhabitants bow, partly out of respect for the armor that indicates their rank, and partly intimidated by the size of the foreign giant. During a presentation of Assassin’s Creed Shadows during the Summer Game Fest in Los Angeles , Ubisoft decided to start the demo by showing Yasuke, the first protagonist of the series to be based on a historical figure . A powerful and violent fighter, who overwhelms his enemies with blows and rifle shots. His advance is so unstoppable that one almost wonders: are we really looking at an episode of Assassin’s Creed? The answer, however, hides in the shadows, like a ninja ready to strike.

Journey to the East

Whether you look at the Athena of Odyssey or the London of Syndicate, the Parisian streets of Unity or the Caribbean islands of Black Flag, all the teams that have put their hands on the Assassin’s Creed series over the years have strived to create environments that are authentic and fascinating . Assassin’s Creed Shadows is no different, showcasing breathtaking landscapes, natural elements and structures typical of ancient Japan.

Assassin's Creed Shadows, between lights and shadows of the new Ubisoft game
Yasuke trains in front of a pagoda

At the beginning of the presentation we see Yasuke riding through a bamboo forest, a quiet place dotted with arrows stuck in the ground and abandoned carts, signs of a recent ambush. A few moments later the path opens onto the city of Fukuchiyama, among vast rice fields and farmers cultivating the land under the scorching sun, but lightning in the distance heralds an approaching storm. Moved by the wind, the cherry trees create a path that reaches the gates of the imposing daimyo’s castle. Panoramas like this always have a particular effect , but with so many video games released in recent years that are set in ancient Japan the feeling is that of being in front of rather familiar landscapes. “We started working on this project quite some time ago, and we certainly had no idea how things would go,” said Simon Lemay-Comtois, associate game director at Ubisoft Québec, candidly.

“At the same time we have our own formula. Shadows is an evolution of Assassin’s Creed and is very different from other games: we have a dual character, a dynamic weather system and a well-rooted plot from a historical point of view. I think we have the all that’s needed to offer an experience that’s different from the others, and that’s also new for Assassin’s Creed.” The presence of two protagonists – a samurai and a shinobi – and the possibility of impersonating one or the other, created an important anomaly in the Ubisoft series. Because if on the one hand Shadows is Assassin’s Creed in its purest state, on the other hand it is the furthest the series has seen to date.

The samurai

In the first minutes of the demo, Yasuke gives the impression of being a gentle giant : he stops to pet a dog and offers his help to an old lady, with the aim of freeing the villagers from the oppression of a corrupt lord . However, when the time comes to fight, things change and Yasuke transforms into a demon. The samurai can fight with his katana or shoot from afar with a very slow rifle, but it is when he holds the kanabou (a Japanese spiked club) that he becomes devastating.

Assassin's Creed Shadows, between lights and shadows of the new Ubisoft game
Yasuke slashes his way through his enemies

Alternating dodges, parries, attacks and powerful blows, the basis of the combat does not seem to differ much from the Valhalla system , but the clashes certainly now appear much more violent and brutal. Yasuke’s blows end up throwing enemies into the air, decapitating them and shattering them, with powerful and frequent splashes of blood inking every successful attack red. Unlike Naoe, Yasuke cannot climb roofs or use the classic eagle eye to perceive enemies, but on paper he could try to move silently in the grass and attempt a more stealthy approach. It could , because in reality it’s almost completely useless: “Yasuke makes a lot of noise because of the armor,” explains the developer. “When he crouches, his big helmet always sticks out. I mean, he can try, but he’s not cut out to do it.”

Assassin's Creed Shadows, between lights and shadows of the new Ubisoft game
The selection screen of the two protagonists

The demo showed it clearly: if you decide to face a mission as Yasuke, the only possible approach is to knock on the door… with a nailed club. To get to the heart of the castle, Yasuke travels along the main road, eliminating one guard after another with blows and shots, and breaking down every door and gate with his shoulder. Without too many problems he reaches the target and kills it with one shot, emphasized even more by black and white graphics in the typical style of sumi-e painting. This sensationally action approach is spectacular and violent, and undoubtedly winks at that segment of the public that is not interested in constantly hiding . Yet throughout this sequence starring Yasuke, it is clear that there is not even a shadow of the original soul of Assassin’s Creed. It’s a completely different matter if Naoe hides in the shadows.

The shinobi

If Yasuke takes to the extreme what is perhaps the most action-oriented derivative of the most recent episodes of Assassin’s Creed, Naoe completely embodies the stealth soul of the first chapters . “When you want to kill a snake, the best move is to cut off the head directly,” the kunoichi whispers as she climbs onto the castle rooftops and passes the guards at the entrance without being noticed.

Assassin's Creed Shadows, between lights and shadows of the new Ubisoft game
Naoe, the protagonist of Assassin’s Creed: Shadows

The parkour system doesn’t seem particularly more elaborate, but thanks to the harpoon you now have several more options in terms of mobility : Naoe uses it to quickly jump onto the ceiling of a room, to quickly scale a wall or to cling to tree branches trees, swing and take out an unsuspecting enemy from above. The harpoon can also be used directly against enemies to pull them towards you or for instant KOs. Its small size allows it to crawl in the grass, while the kunai can be thrown at the lanterns to turn them off and create shaded areas; If desired, it can also hide underwater and breathe using a bamboo rod, waiting for its prey. In a particularly scenic moment of the demo, a shadow passed in front of one of the sliding doors, allowing Naoe to pull out the blade and stab the victim on the other side.

Assassin's Creed Shadows, between lights and shadows of the new Ubisoft game
Only Naoe will be able to move stealthily

Dynamic weather was also seen in action , when the silence of the night was interrupted by a sudden storm. “Rain mainly affects the perception of enemies,” explains Lemay-Comtois. “A heavy thunderstorm can make it difficult to notice your steps, while a thick fog makes you practically invisible from a distance, making it easier to move stealthily.” The weather is often a help, yet it adds a degree of unpredictability: the rain could stop at any moment, the fog could lift, and a target that was previously out in the open could seek shelter elsewhere if a storm rolls in.

Assassin's Creed Shadows, between lights and shadows of the new Ubisoft game
In the game there is a scout system accessible from the map and which allows you to know the position of the objective

At the end of the presentation, the developers showed off some of Naoe’s abilities when it comes to melee combat. Like any self-respecting ninja, he can defend himself not only with rapid kicks and punches, but also with an arsenal of knives, blades and kusarigama, a chain that Naoe swings around himself to hit multiple enemies. However, if stealth is Yasuke’s Achilles heel, Lei naoe is much less effective in combat , inflicting little damage and being thrown away by large opponents

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