Assassin's Creed Shadows has two major features that made me fall in love with Syndicate, and nothing could excite me more

Assassin's Creed Shadows
(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Ever since Ubisoft revealed we would be heading to Japan in the next flagship adventure - previously known as Assassin's Creed Codename Red - I've been dying to catch a glimpse. And by the hidden blade did the Assassin's Creed Shadows trailer more than deliver; far exceeding any sort of expectations I might have had. In fact, it's fair to say that I haven't been this excited for a new Assassin's Creed entry in a very long time. Not only will it be taking us to a fascinating point in history, it will also be doing so through the lens of dual protagonists. With Yasuke, Japan's first Black samurai, and Naoe, who's said to come from the "birthplace of Shinobi" in the province of Iga, both characters promise to give us contrasting perspectives and offer up different playstyles that lean into action and stealth respectively. 

The more I learn about Shadows, the more I think back to one of my favorite AC experiences, which is only making my sense of excitement and anticipation intensify. As a longtime fan of the series who's played just about every entry going, I have a lot of love for many of the best Assassin's Creed games, but Syndicate will always take a top spot for me. While that's partly down to its Victorian era setting, it's mostly thanks to two major features that Shadows looks to bring back in a bigger, fresher way, and I couldn't be more on board with the concept. 

 "Contrasting perspectives"  

Assassin's Creed Syndicate

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

My excitement about the similarities makes sense when you note that Ubisoft Quebec developed both Syndicate and Shadows. When Assassin's Creed Syndicate released in 2015, the idea of playing as two different assassin's within the same story was one of the game's biggest appeals for me. As Frye twins Jacob and Evie, you could switch between brother and sister in the open-world setting, and be locked into either character at certain key points during the main story missions. As the first female lead in the mainline series, the chance to play as Evie - albeit not all the time - felt like a small but important step forward for the series, but both characters also offered unique perspectives on Victorian society. Likewise Shadows will put us in altering roles, with Yasuke and Naoe promising to let us fulfill "two fantasies", as explained by game director Charles Benoit in a character deep dive video

"With our dual protagonists, we have two fantasies: the samurai and the shinobi. We want the player to experience both," Benoit said, "and we cannot squeeze both fantasies into one character because the samurai and shinobi come from different social classes. They have different lives, so we cannot really mix them together." 

Assassin's Creed Shadows cinematic screenshot

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

It's beyond exciting to play as Yasuke, a storied figure from history, alongside the fictional female shinobi Naoe. In terms of the story and setting, both characters will offer, as narrative director Brooke Davies put it, "very contrasting perspectives that really expose different sides and facets of the era", and as a foreigner, Benoit says Yasuke will be "discovering Japan as you are discovering Japan" which will hopefully help pull us right into the world setting. 

Stealth series

An assassin on the roof of Assassin's Creed Codename Red

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Here are all of the upcoming Assassin's Creed games we have to look forward to.

The more games I play with dual protagonists, the more I fall in love with the way it lets you immerse yourself in the story and gain a deeper understanding of the setting you're in. Alan Wake 2, for example, nailed the format with two characters who were intrinsically linked through their own shifting realities and unique case boards. As you swap between Alan and Saga, their stories intertwine and weave together, but their experiences feel unique to them. Likewise, God of War Ragnarok's story was all the more impactful because you could also play as Atreus at certain points, giving you a better understanding of his point of view as well as Kratos'. 

Hidden blades and swords   

Assassin's Creed Shadows

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Outside of the unique perspectives they promise to offer, Yasuke and Naoe also boast their own set of skills, which will give us the chance to try out different fighting styles and approaches - with either character having their own clear advantages in stealth of combat. While they can do a bit of both, Yasuke's stature gives him an edge in combat, with Benoit pointing out that he can break enemies' armor, while Naoe excels in stealth. It's really neat to see the fighting styles we've seen in previous games – such as Assassin's Creed Valhalla's action, and Assassin's Creed Mirage's return to the series' roots with stealth and parkour – combine together through Yasuke and Naoe's different strengths. 

In fact, it sounds as though Shadows is also dialing into the emphasis on stealth even more than Mirage, which harked back to the earlier games in the series. As revealed in an interview with IGN, you'll actually have to consider lighting as you try to sneak past enemies. And rather excitingly, another feature Naoe has is a grappling hook, which brings back fond memories of my time spent zipping up to rooftops in Syndicate. The grappling hook is said to be physics-based this time around, so there's an "improbability to it" - meaning it might not always be safe to use in certain situations. I'm already intrigued to see Shadows' own spin on this feature, and how it may change up traversal as we try to stealth our way past enemies. 

And with the option to switch between characters at any point, I can't wait to get to know the world and explore the story through the eyes of Yasuke and Naoe. While I was already excited about Assassin's Creed Shadows, the first official reveal has cemented its place among my most anticipated games of the year. I'm so ready to take a leap of faith on this one. 

The Assassin's Creed Shadows open-world map is about the same size as Origin's Egypt, but exists on a more realistic scale because Ubisoft "really wanted the mountains to feel like mountains".

Heather Wald
Senior staff writer

I started out writing for the games section of a student-run website as an undergrad, and continued to write about games in my free time during retail and temp jobs for a number of years. Eventually, I earned an MA in magazine journalism at Cardiff University, and soon after got my first official role in the industry as a content editor for Stuff magazine. After writing about all things tech and games-related, I then did a brief stint as a freelancer before I landed my role as a staff writer here at GamesRadar+. Now I get to write features, previews, and reviews, and when I'm not doing that, you can usually find me lost in any one of the Dragon Age or Mass Effect games, tucking into another delightful indie, or drinking far too much tea for my own good.