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Assassin's Creed Shadows Is Taking Inspiration From the Series Most Underrated Game

A breathe of fresh air.

For nearly two decades, fans have been begging Ubisoft to take its historical action series to Japan, and that dream is finally happening with Assassin’s Creed Shadows. The volatile Sengoku period along with samurai and shinobi seems like a match made in heaven with Assassin’s Creed, and now we finally have our very first look at how Shadows will tackle the Feudal era. But even past that first look, Shadows is taking some heavy inspiration from one of the series’ most overlooked entries. For the first time since Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Shadows will feature dual protagonists, and it already seems like the perfect idea to give the franchise a shot in the arm.

Assassin’s Creed Shadows will revolve around two different protagonists, a samurai named Yasuke and a shinobi named Naoe. Yasuke is actually based on a real-life samurai of African origin, who served as a retainer for the daimyo Nobunaga Oda. There will obviously be a lot of creative liberties taken, as not a lot is actually known about Yasuke beyond tales. Naoe, on the other hand, comes from Iga province, a mountainous region known for its fiercely independent people. Both characters are playable in Shadows, with stories that weave together. The game at large takes place in the Azuchi-Momoyama era, the last era of the Sengoku period that lasted from 1568-1600.

Having dual protagonists is an utterly brilliant approach here, not only because of how it could enrich the storytelling but because of how it allows Shadows to confront the two disparate branches the franchise has developed. On one side you have the action-heavy RPG games like Origins, Odyssey, and Valhalla. On the other side, you have the more traditional stealth-action experiences of the past, like Black Flag, Revelations, and most recently Mirage.

Two main characters allow Shadows to lean into both of these aspects, emphasizing action and stealth in different ways. Syndicate already did this to a degree with the Frye twins, Jacob and Evie. Jacob was more about knock-out brawls and taking down enemy strongholds, while Evie focused more on taking down targets and sneaking. If anything, though, Syndicate’s biggest downfall is that it didn’t lean hard enough into differentiating the two characters.

Now, however, it looks like Shadows might rectify that, with an incredible setting that can perfectly accentuate two already fascinating heroes. The cinematic trailer alone shows that Yasuke will focus on pure brawn, with deadly sword skills that allow him to take enemies head-on. Naoe is more about silent assassination and sticking to the shadows.

A press release from Ubisoft confirms that the studio has really leaned into making these characters two different experiences, saying, “As Naoe and Yasuke, players can master two complementary playstyles, with each character featuring their own progression paths, skills, weapon options, and stats.”

Shadows is an exciting proposition, but the real key here is if the game can avoid the open world bloat that’s plagued the last few games, especially Valhalla. Having two wildly different protagonists is a phenomenal idea, especially if the story and mission design can really explore those differences in detail. The key is making sure these two characters don’t end up doing the same generic open world checklist.

Past that, having Yasuke who’s entirely unfamiliar with Japan versus Naoe could work wonders in creating a narrative dichotomy, and the trailer suggests the two will band together to try and create meaningful change for the country. Ubisoft Quebec has created some of the most memorable experiences in the Assassin’s Creed series: Syndicate was packed with fascinating gameplay ideas, and Odyssey features one of the richest settings and stories. It already looks like Shadows is taking the best lessons from both those games, and if it can stick the landing, we may have to take a hard look at which Assassin’s Creed game is the all-time best when Shadows launches.

Assassin’s Creed Shadows launches on November 15 for PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PC, and Mac.

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