Assassin’s Creed Shadows Trailer Breakdown: Setting, Gameplay, Characters, & Release Date

Everything you need to know about the latest Assassin's Creed game

Fans have been asking for an Assassin’s Creed game in samurai-era Japan since the series began. Now, it seems Ubisoft has finally given in. Assassin’s Creed Shadows, the next entry in the long-running historical stealth-action game series, will take players back to Feudal Japan. Expect samurais, shinobis, shoguns, and lots of unassuming guards getting stabbed by katanas. It seems strange that it has taken Ubisoft this long to finally make an Assassin’s Creed game with a Japanese setting – the series has been going on for two decades now and we’ve been everywhere from the American colonies to ancient Egypt.

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When Is Assassin’s Creed Shadows Set?

In the announcement live stream, Ubisoft showed off a new cinematic trailer and afterward gave us another video where the developers went into more detail about the game’s two protagonists. On top of that, loads of information about the game’s combat, stealth, and exploration have been revealed.

As is usual with Assassin’s Creed announcements, the first trailer for Assassin’s Creed Shadows was a short CGI film that doesn’t give us much to go on gameplay-wise but gave us lots of info in the setting and story department.

The game is set in the late Sengoku period, a time in Japanese history when civil wars and social turmoil were common occurrences. It’s par for the course for an Assassin’s Creed game to be set in a time of civil strife: Unity had the French Revolution, Odyssey was set in the Peloponnesian War, and Valhalla took place during and after the Viking invasion of England. It makes sense; these sorts of settings are ripe for the picking when it comes to big climactic set pieces and an intriguing conspiracy for players to solve.

Being set in the late 1500s means the Assassin Brotherhood and the Templar Order should both be making an appearance. The most recent games in the series have instead had their precursors, the Hidden Ones and the Order of the Ancients.

Who Do You Play As in Assassin’s Creed Shadows?

This isn’t the first time that you’ve been able to play as two separate characters in an Assassin’s Creed game; Assassin’s Creed Syndicate allowed you to play as both Evie and Jacob Frye. Except for some minor differences in their skill trees, the twins played exactly the same. It seems with Shadows, Ubisoft wants its two protagonists to be near opposites of each other, in both gameplay and character.

Naoe is a female shinobi from the Iga province able to wield the Assassin’s hidden blade. In the trailer, she is seen using a katana. The Ubisoft website says that she can use kunai – basically a small dagger – and shuriken to distract enemies. It also says she can make use of a grappling hook to help infiltrate bases and stay unseen. She’s described as having an “intensity” and “wearing her heart on her sleeve.”

As an Assassin’s Creed nerd (and adamant Assasson’s Creed 3 defender), I do feel the need to point out that the hidden blade we see Naoe using in the trailer is very similar to the detachable dagger blade that Conner used in the third game.

For those with a less stealthy temperament, you’ll be able to play as Yasuke, a samurai of African origin. Yasuke is based on a real historical figure, making him a first for the series. Up until now, every playable character has been completely fictional. In the trailer, we see him engage in combat quite aggressively, using a kanabo to smash through enemies. Along with the kanabo, we know that Yasuke can use katana, bows, naginata, and arquebus, which is a very primitive firearm. Yasuke is said to be “thoughtful” and “level-headed” compared to Naoe’s fiery personality.

The decision to have two characters feels like a response to accusations by some fans that recent Assassin’s Creed games have been taken over by RPG elements, and have forgotten what made the earlier, stealth-focused games so good in the first place. Some saw the recent spin-off title, Assassin’s Creed Mirage, as a step in the right direction. It returned to the stealth assassination gameplay of the original Assassin’s Creed and the Ezio trilogy.

With Shadows, it seems Ubisoft is trying to please both sides of the aisle. Naoe is for stealthy players, and Yasuke for fans of the more action-oriented, hack-and-slash gameplay of Odyssey and Valhalla. The developers have also said this gives players a chance to experience both a shinobi and samurai view of events.

What Do We Know About Assassin’s Creed Shadows’ Gameplay?

Characters fighting in Assassin's Creed Shadows.
Image Source: Ubisoft

While we haven’t seen how Assassin’s Creed Shadows plays yet, Ubisoft has gifted us with lots of information and details on what we can expect. Seeing as the Assassin’s Creed formula hasn’t really changed much since 2007, you can assume that there will be lots of running, climbing, sneaking, stabbing, and synchronization points. That’s a whole lot of open-world activity to distract you from actually completing the game. There’s a reason Odyssey took me 250 hours to finish!

For stealthy players, Assassin’s Creed Shadows contains a new global illumination system. This creates dynamic lighting and shadows that can be used for stealth. It sounds a lot like the system that was in Splinter Cell Conviction and Blacklist, letting players creep around in the dark undetected. There’s a new prone function, which is only a little thing but it seems strange that a game series so focused on stealth is only just adding the ability to prone. Also, you can no longer use a bird as a drone to tag enemies as you could in Origins, Odyssey, and Valhalla.

Ubisoft has also given us some details on the new combat mechanics in Assassin’s Creed Shadows. There are no shields in the game. Instead, players have to rely on dodging and parrying like a true samurai. Every weapon in the game has its own skill tree, so putting time into a specific weapon will improve efficiency with it; you can also craft personalized katana. Enemy armor has durability and can be broken in combat. I’m assuming this means that enemies don’t have much health and aren’t damage sponges like they’ve been in recent entries, but you’ll have to break their armor to reach their weak spots.

The game is running on a new version of the Anvil engine, which allows for dynamic weather and seasons. For example, rivers and ponds can now freeze over in winter. The campaign is non-linear and is based on assassinating targets. Most quests can be completed by either Yasuke or Naoe, but there are certain quests that are tied to each character. Players will also be able to build a spy network, which I’m imagining will be similar to Assassin recruits in the Ezio trilogy.

When Does Assassin’s Creed Shadows Release?

Fortunately, Assassin’s Creed Shadows isn’t too far off, with a release date set for November 15, 2024. It’ll be available on Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5, and PC.

That’s all we know so far about Assassin’s Creed Shadows! For more like this, check out our reviews of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door and Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II.

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Eddie Bumby
Eddie is a freelance writer from Manchester. He's a massive fan of survival horror games and Soulslikes, and is always on the lookout for underrated indie titles. When he's not playing games, he loves reading horror and sci-fi, and dissecting the films of David Lynch.