Assassin’s Creed Shadows Preview – Katanas And Kunai

Estimated read time 4 min read

When your entire franchise revolves around sneaky assassins lurking in the shadows and running up buildings, it’s no surprise fans of the series have been clamoring for a ninja-themed protagonist for years. Assassin’s Creed Shadows is the answer to that oft-repeated request, but it’s far more than that, thanks to the introduction of a second protagonist, Yasuke the samurai. He’s a playable historical figure (a first for the series) and his approach varies wildly from the shinobi protagonist, Naoe. We got a first-hand look at this during a behind-closed-doors demo in Los Angeles.

It opens with Yasuke entering a town, drawing everyone’s attention. As if his ornate armor wasn’t enough to set him apart, Yasuke is a huge person, and people in the street stare as he walks by. The developers explain that social stealth just isn’t an option for him, and he can’t climb buildings the way Naoe or other assassins can. That said, he is far from powerless.

A woman pleads for Yasuke’s help in dispatching a local group that heavily taxes the community, and he obliges without hesitation. Instead of giving a marker on the screen for where the player should go, a list of clues to the target’s location appears, and Yasuke calmly walks to the appropriate district. As soon as he spots the corrupt Samurai nearby, a guard tells Yasuke to leave. Making no attempt to disguise his intentions, Yasuke draws his kanabō, a massive spiked club, and enters combat. His swings are brutal, decapitating one enemy and crushing another to death, each foe dying in just a few swings. Yasuke is so powerful, in fact, that our demo-player accidentally strikes a civilian with the wind-up to a more powerful attack. I make a mental note to pay attention to my surroundings when I do this mission.

After switching to his katana and killing the samurai boss in a one-on-one duel, the developers present us with a choice. The daimyo, an official this corrupt samurai reported to, needs to be assassinated as well, but it’s up to the crowd watching the presentation to vote on which character we’d like to see. Satisfied with our viewing of Yasuke’s abilities, we unanimously vote for Naoe.


Naoe enters the castle grounds at night, cloaked by darkness and a convenient rainfall. Her playstyle is a lot closer to what we’ve come to expect from the series, with parkour and stealth at her disposal. After using a grappling hook to swing from a tree branch, she immediately drops down to assassinate a guard, then goes prone to crawl through some nearby grass. It’s nighttime, but the area is well-illuminated by some paper lanterns. Luckily, Naoe can use her kunai to put the flames out, distracting her target and making her approach that much easier. Throughout her run, many lanterns are extinguished – “Shadows” felt like a generic title on its first reveal, but after seeing how much the player interacts with sources of light, it’s quite fitting.

When Naoe finally reaches the daimyo, she loops around to a shallow pool he stands beside. Dropping to her stomach, she submerges herself in the water, using it as cover. After waiting a few moments, we see her pull out a reed to use as a makeshift snorkel before continuing. The daimyo never sees her coming, and he’s dead in a single thrust of her blade.

The demo concludes with one more run through the castle with each character, showing Yasuke’s straightforward approach and a daytime route for Naoe. There are new weapons (Yasuke has a rifle, Naoe has a chain weapon called a kusarigama), flashy weapon abilities, and plenty of assassinations, all of which do a great job of emphasizing just how different these two characters are. I’m excited to try them each out for myself when the game launches later this year.

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